The Tiger Rising: The book I couldn't stand. Really.

That's right.  I couldn't stand a book--and that's rare for me!  Several years ago, my team wanted us all to read "The Tiger Rising" to go with our realistic fiction unit, so I read it.  Then I read it again.  And again.  Each time I disliked it more.  I told them that I just couldn't do it--I couldn't invest that much in a book I didn't enjoy myself.  They were fine with I went on a quest for a new book to use.
novel study Tiger Rising

Here's the deal--the more I thought about it, the more I felt I should do what my team was doing so we could have quality discussions about how we were using the text and so on.  Our unit was a new one, and I felt it would be odd to be the lone defector.  Besides, I reminded myself, it isn't about ME, right?  So I made the commitment to read the book with my class.
novel study Kate di Camillo

So I took it on and we dug in--despite my misgivings.


Seriously...each day as we read my students got deeper and deeper into it and we had some of the BEST discussions I have ever had with fourth graders.  From my top readers to my strugglers, everyone found a way to connect to this text.  We talked about bullying.  We talked about characters.  We talked about death.  We talked about animal cruelty.  But most of all...we talked about how powerful books can stay with you forever.  Another amazing thing happened--students all began to understand that they could HANDLE these very "grown up" texts.

Making books like "The Tiger Rising" matter

So often we break reading up into its small components like fluency and context clues--especially for our lower readers--and we don't give them enough time to just immerse themselves in wonderful stories.  I've always said, if a child is reading at a "Henry and Mudge" level, they still MUST be exposed to rich, sophisticated literature or they will never learn how to read it and think about it.  Our read aloud texts are the perfect way to do this.

I am getting ready for my fifth year of reading this book with my students, and I can't wait to see what elements this group relates to the most.  Each year we seem to take a slightly different spin on it, but the effect is the same--books can make us FEEL, and when we can learn to do that with a read aloud, we can learn to do it when we read on our own.  So this fall as we begin our study of this masterpiece, I am reminded that teaching isn't about's about my learners and the interactions and experiences I provide for them.  I can't wait--and a good reminder that we don't have to LIKE something...we just have to be open to learning how to love it!
Kate di Camillo novel study
I even invested in a set of 25 so we could use the text later in the year to "dig deeper" and go hunt for evidence!  We ended up talking about this book and the characters ALL year.
To help me and other teachers really dig into this book, I have also created a novel study to go along with it.  I hope you find it helpful.  Use it to help guide your discussions or to provide occasional writing reflection opportunities. It helps me make sure to maximize the content of the book without having to take copious notes.  See what you think.
novel study

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The Tiger Rising, novel study, teaching character, read aloud, book clubs, literature circles, Kate DiCamillo, reader's notebook, reader's response, response to reading


  1. Books like this really do make us feel. You must be so glad you went with this one!

    The Math Maniac

    1. Definitely! I think it really moved my fourth graders from only liking to hear funny books to enjoying the deep thought and discussions. It really set us up to read some even deeper texts like Wonder and Out of My Mind later in the year.

  2. I read this several years ago and wasn't excited. Now I want to take a second look.
    Artistry of Education

    1. See what you think! It truly was NOT something I was looking forward to but it was VERY impactful!

  3. Although I haven't read this book yet, I am intrigued by your experiences. I find that often (not always, but often) I have better responses and discussions when I read a new book for the first time with the students as a read-aloud (as opposed to reading it in advance.) Do you think this book should be read this way or would you recommend that I read it myself prior to reading it with the students? Thank you for any suggestions!

  4. I love Kate Dicamillo's books but was very disappointed when I read this one. After reading your post, I feel like I need to give it another chance!


  5. I have to say that I didn't get into Tiger Rising, either, but will definitely give it a second look...thanks. :) I have had a similar experience to what you had with Tiger Rising. We always do My Side of the Mountain as a whole class read. At first, I was the same way as you...just couldn't see the value of it, and actually thought how boring it was. I just couldn't get past my parent point of view. After all, what parent would let a 12 year old boy go off to spend a year in the mountains with just basically the clothes on his back, and what 12 year old could possibly have that much nature knowledge and be that self-sufficient?! But my kids, every year, loved it. Slowly, I began to really watch their reactions and listen to their insights, and began to see the book through their eyes. It opened that book up to me on a whole different level. :) My students continue to amaze me and teach me so much! Thanks for sharing your experience with us!! :)

  6. I didn't like this one either! I have a set sitting on my shelf that I haven't used. Mostly because I've told myself most of the kids probably read it in fourth grade, but I've never really asked them or the fourth grade teachers if they use it. I guess maybe I should follow your example and at least start by asking if students have used it in fourth grade. ;) Thanks so much for linking up!

  7. You just described my feelings for the book Hatchet:-) We are currently reading Tuesdays at the Castle. My class is about 50/50 on the love it/leave it scale.
    Chickadee Jubilee

  8. This is how I feel about Hatchet. That book makes me want to bang my head, but the kids LOVE it. I am going to have to see what level Tiger Rising is. I haven't read it, but kids love that author.

    1. I remember loving the book Hatchet when we read it in class while I was in elementary school. I plan to read it with my 3rd graders next year! :)