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The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo is a beautifully written novel about a sixth grader, Rob Horton, who finds a tiger in the woods behind the motel, which has become his home.

Rob and his father recently moved to drizzly Florida after Rob’s mom died of cancer.  His father works as an underpaid maintenance man at the motel.  Rob has no friends at school, except Sistine. Sistine’s mom makes her wear frilly party dresses to school, which causes her to get teased. She is unlike Rob, who stuffs his feelings inside him, like clothes forced into a small suitcase.

The moment Rob discovered the tiger locked in its cage, it permeates all of the boy’s thoughts.  The motel owner, Beauchamp, owned the Tiger, and he ordered Rob to feed the tiger in secret.  Rob and Sistine conspire to free the big cat because something that beautiful and bright should not be kept in a cage.

If you knew something that as locked up in a cage, something big and beautiful that was locked away unfairly, for no good reason, and you had the keys to the cage, would you let it go?

The ending is satisfying even though it is sad.  The tiger symbolizes Rob’s feelings of loss after his mother’s death, and upon freeing it, the boy opens himself up to a new relationship with his father and the friends around him.

Amazon says this book is for 10 and up.  I bought it because well . . . it’s got “Tiger” in its title.  The cover art is also kinda neat.  Young readers may not immediately get the symbolism, but it is still a lovely little novel that I would recommend.