The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo Summary & Activities

After the death of his mother, twelve year old Rob and his father move to Lister, Florida, where Rob’s father works as a maintenance man at the Kentucky Star Motel where they live. Lonely, sad, and the target of two bullies, Rob packs his feelings away in a metaphorical suitcase and locks them up. Rob’s life begins to change when he finds a large tiger caged up in the woods behind the motel, and meets the new girl, Sistine Bailey. As Rob’s emotional shell begins to crack, he learns the value of friendship and dealing with his feelings, along with the challenge of making a difficult decision. The Tiger Rising is a wonderful tale about loss, friendship, and healing powers of relationships.

Student Activities for The Tiger Rising

Essential Questions for The Tiger Rising

  1. What does the tiger represent?
  2. How does Rob change throughout the story?
  3. Why did the author choose The Tiger Rising as the title?
  4. How do Rob and Sistine help each other overcome their sadness?

The Tiger Rising Summary

Rob and his mother had a special bond. She was kind and loving, and when she died of cancer when Rob was only twelve, his life was turned upside down. At his mother’s funeral, Rob’s father made it clear that crying was not an option, so Rob learned to bury his feelings deep inside, packing them away in a “suitcase” along with his belongings when they moved. To get away from the painful memories, Rob’s father moves them to a new town in Florida and gets a job as a maintenance worker at the motel where they live.

One day, while walking in the woods behind the motel, Rob sees a real tiger locked up in a cage. He cannot believe his eyes, and assumes it belongs to the motel’s owner, Beauchamp. When he gets on the bus to school that day, he is greeted by the mean and nasty Threemonger brothers, Norton and Billy. The boys make fun of the rash on Rob’s legs, and call him names. As usual, Rob ignores the boys, and when a new girl named Sistine Bailey gets on the bus, Rob can’t help but notice that she belongs there even less than he does. Sistine is angry and tough, and makes it known to all that she does not plan to stay in Lister with her mother; her father will be back to get her any day now.

Rob is called down to Principal Phelmer’s office, and the two discuss the rash on Rob’s legs. While Rob knows it will not go away and isn’t contagious, Mr. Phelmer is worried that it will spread. He asks Rob to stay home until it clears up, and Rob could not be happier. While he is home, Rob helps his father with work around the motel, and befriends Willie May, the motel’s housekeeper. When Rob asks her if she thinks animals should be caged, Willie May shares her story of her old bird, Cricket, whom she let free and worried about his survival on his own. When Rob tells Sistine about the tiger, she insists that they let it go.

When Beauchamp tells Rob about the tiger and offers to pay him to feed it, Rob cannot believe that he now has the keys to let the tiger loose. After much thought, Rob and Sistine do just that, and as the tiger is running away, they hear a gunshot in the distance. When Rob learns that his father has shot and killed the tiger, he gets angry and then begins to sob. Both he and his father cry for the tiger, for Rob’s mother, and for all of the pain that they have packed away in a suitcase for so long. Although he is sad for the tiger, Rob feels better after releasing his feelings, and has hope for the future for the first time in a long time.

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