Meet the Author of The Tiger Rising
by Alana Pedalino and Tatiana Florival
Read this Scholastic Book Clubs–exclusive interview with Newbery Award–winning author Kate DiCamillo to get the inside scoop on The Tiger Rising.
Have you ever wondered what went into writing one of your favorite novels?
We did—and so we reached out to kid-favorite author Kate DiCamillo to find out what inspired her to write the Book of the Week, The Tiger Rising! Check out this exclusive interview with your students to discover:
• How she gets in her characters’ headspace
• The inspiration behind The Tiger Rising
• Whether she would ever continue Sistine and Rob’s story
What were some considerations you had when shaping Rob as the protagonist/main character? Can you describe your process in developing and fleshing out characters?
Rob showed up first as a secondary character in a short story I wrote called “The Kentucky Star.” I finished that story, and Rob kept hanging around. I couldn’t get him out of my mind. And then one day, my mother called and told me a tiger had escaped from the zoo somewhere in Florida, and I knew what Rob wanted, what he was waiting for—a tiger.
I truly don’t know how to develop characters, or how to flesh them out. To me, they are real people, and my job is just to quietly follow them and pay attention.
One of the themes in the book seems to be the debate between animals being caged versus animals not being caged. What inspired you to write a book that discusses that as one of its core themes?
Yikes. I never think in terms of “themes” either. So I didn’t really realize that was a theme. I can say this though: it troubles me a great deal to see animals in cages. There’s some Sistine in me there, I guess.
What type of research, if any, did you have to do to write this book?
I read a lot about tigers. I wanted to make sure that tiger was as real as real could be.
The setting in the book is Lister, Florida. How did you choose that as the setting, and do you have any personal connection to that place?
Lister (as far as I know) only exists in my mind. Florida haunts me. It’s where I grew up. Telling stories of childhood there always makes emotional sense to me.
A lot of your books feature animals—dogs, rabbits, pigs. Why do you include animals in your books?
I know. Dogs, rabbits, pigs, mice, tigers, monkeys, fish, cats, squirrels…the list goes on and on. I love animals. That’s one reason, I suppose. The other is maybe that when we read, we tend to let [our] guard down more easily for animal characters. They are a shortcut to the heart.
Do you have a favorite part of The Tiger Rising?
Yes. It’s when Rob tells Sistine about the tiger. It’s two people trusting each other against their better instincts.
Would you ever want to revisit the characters in The Tiger Rising in the future?
I wonder what Rob would be like as an adult. And I wonder if he and Sistine stayed friends. But I don’t think that I’ll write another book about them.
How do you get yourself in the headspace of a kid when you’re writing their thoughts and dialogue?
Oh, the eight-year-old I was is still right here, front and center. That kid, that eight-year-old me, is never far away. She is part of the reason I tell the stories.
Kate DiCamillo has written other modern classics such as Because of Winn-Dixie, Flora & Ulysses, and The Tale of Despereaux. Which one is a favorite in your classroom? Please share with us on social media using the hashtag #ScholasticBookClubs.
Kate DiCamillo is one of America’s most beloved storytellers. She is the former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, a two-time winner of the Newbery Medal—for The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses—and a Newbery Honor recipient for Because of Winn-Dixie. Born in Philadelphia, she grew up in Florida and now lives in Minneapolis, where she faithfully writes two pages a day.
Photo Credit: © Catherine Smith photography
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs