by Kate DiCamillo
published: Candlewick Press, 2001
Rob and his dad move to a small rural town in Florida after his mom dies to start over. The only problem is that he doesn't like school and nobody particularly likes him. However, things begin to change when he finds a tiger and meets a girl named Sistine, like the chapel.
Rob and Sistine are complete opposites and it plays incredibly well in the story. Rob likes to keep everything bottled up and put away and Sistine wears her emotions on the brightly colored sleeves of her dress, sometimes they're carried on her fists too. They help each other figure out how to handle their own personal situations without ever really talking about how it affects them. I love that they become friends. Their friendship is humorous and heartfelt.
This book is overflowing with symbolic meaning, some of it you don't consciously catch. The tiger in the cage, the name of the hotel, the weather, Sistine and Rob's relationship, Rob's hobby - all of these things have a little bit of symbolic meaning that makes this short story so powerful, so palpable.
This story was a very short quick read, but it was incredibly well told and bittersweet. Kate DiCamillo has such a way with words. Everything she writes sounds little bit musical, and a lot like poetry. She is able to tackle hard topics, such as a death of a parent, in a way that kids can understand and relate. It's amazing to me how much I can feel for these characters even though I only get to know them for 128 pages.
"Kate DiCamilo's sentences waste not a single word: they spin out, with the Florida mist rising off them."
"A poignant story of loss and redemption"
A 2015 Full House Reading Challenge book