The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo & Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

I read two books in two days, and at first I was planning to write two separate posts about them. As I finished the second book, I started thinking how nicely they fit together thematically, and then I realized I could bundle them together even though the subject matters are totally different.  So, let’s try it!

thetigerrisingFirst up is The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. Rob, our main character, lives at the Kentucky Star motel, which is actually in Florida, with his father. They are a depressed pair, and you can tell that things were much different when Rob’s mother was still alive. Rob and his father don’t talk much, even though Rob is dealing with bullies at school and is under so much stress that he is breaking out in an itchy rash. One day a new girl arrives at school. Her name is Sistene and she is fierce and scrappy, getting into fights every day. They are kindred spirits, both struggling with loss, but they each deal with their problems in different ways. They also share a secret– a tiger, in a cage, in the woods behind the motel. This tiger in a cage becomes a great metaphor for the emotions that Rob and Sistene are trying to manage. Some things just can’t be kept locked up for very long, nor should they be. This book packed a powerful punch for being so small, and it caught me by surprise. The imagery and symbolism would make for great discussion as a classroom read-aloud.

mr.teruptThe second book is Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea. I thought this book was very new, but it turns out to have been published in 2010! Grownup readers will note that the blurb on the cover and the introduction is written by John Irving. How’s that for an endorsement? Mr. Terupt is the new fifth grade teacher at school, and the story is told by seven different students in his class. They all give their version of the same school year, dealing with family stuff and bullies and mean girls, and this teacher who is not quite like any they’ve had before so far. He’s good. He’s really good, but makes a few rookie mistakes. An accident happens, which leaves the classmates hurt and confused. Will they stand together or fall apart completely?

Both of these books struck me right in the gut, which I was not anticipating. Emotions, forgiveness, empathy, and friendship are the Big Ideas for these books. I might have shed a tear or two while reading. Okay, I did. You got me. Read either of these if you like realistic fiction and you are okay with the happy/sad roller coaster ride that they both provide. The more I think about these books, the more pleased I am that I happened to read them back-to-back this week.

The Tiger Rising has an AR level of 4.9 and is worth 3 points.

Because of Mr. Terupt has an AR level of 3.7 and is worth 5 points. I love that this book was written by a teacher! Congratulations to Mr. Buyea on his first book. I’m adding his next book to my TBR list!

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