I have been falling in love with Kate DiCamillo ever since I read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane a few years ago, but now, with my most recent read, she has firmly settled on my Favorite Authors Shelf. I just finished The Tiger Rising, which is just as amazing as its title, a novel that fully delivers on the wonder of its first line in only a bit over one hundred pages. And when that first sentence reads, “That morning, after he discovered the tiger, Rob went and stood under the Kentucky Star Motel sign and waited for the school bus just like it was any other day,” meeting that promise is no small feat. The Tiger Rising centers on two sixth graders: Rob, who’s filled with a sadness he keeps locked in a mental suitcase; and Sistine, who’s so full of anger she gets in fights nearly every day, tearing her pretty dresses (which she hates) to shreds. It’s got a motel maid (or, perhaps, a prophetess) named Willie May, a father with his own locked suitcase, and a tiger in a cage in the woods. Kate DiCamillo’s writing sings, but it’s never pretentious; her stories don’t hide away from the tragedies of life, but they embrace the moments of brightness and humor too. I read this book in one day, but it will make me smile for a long, long time.
(Also, if you’re interested, there’s a great little essay about writing on DiCamillo’s website here.)