Death, betrayal, grief, defeat, and ill-advised choices vie with life-changing friendship and moments of beauty in Kate DiCamillo's tale of a captive tiger and tweens who want to free him. A good deal darker than the author's previous book, Because of Winn-Dixie, The Tiger Rising features complex, troubled characters such as protagonist Rob's dad, who cares tenderly for his son's medical issues but kills a bird just because he can, over his wife's protests and his boy's tears.
"'You think I can hit it?' his father said. 'You think I can hit that itty-bitty bird?'
"'Robert,' his mother said, 'what do you want to shoot that bird for?'
"'To prove I can,' said his father.
"There was a single crack and the bird was suspended in midair, pinned for a moment to the sky with his father's bullet. Then it fell.
"'Oh, Robert,' his mother said....
"Rob thought about the bird and how when he had finally found its small still warm body, he had started to cry.
"His father told him not to.
"'It ain't nothing to cry over,' he said. 'It's just a bird.'"