Kate DiCamillo was born in Philadelphia and moved with her family to Florida when she was five years old. In her twenties, Kate DiCamillo moved to Minnesota. It was this dislocation from her home that inspired Kate to write her first novel, "Because of Winn-Dixie". An immediate commercial and critical success, "Because of Winn-Dixie" went on to become a Newbery Honour Book in 2001 and was subsequently made into a film that was released in 2005. But that wasn't enough for Kate, and she went on to win the Newbery Medal in 2004 for her book "The Tale of Despereaux", a story about an unlikely hero. This was followed by another unusual tale with "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane", a story about a china rabbit who learns about love. Kate has also written a series of early chapter-book readers about a lovable pig named Mercy Watson and her fun adventures. Kate lives in Minneapolis, where she faithfully writes two pages a day, five days a week.
Gr 4-6-Kate DiCamillo's novel (Candlewick, 2001) is about the distances between people, and the giant leaps of faith that are sometimes needed to bridge those distances. Rife with symbolism, this story focuses on Rob's lossesAnot just of his mother who died of cancer, but his loss of his father, who is struggling with his own grief. Rob has two talents: keeping his emotions under cover, and carving wood into beautiful shapes. Life at the Kentucky Star Motel in rural Florida, where Rob's father works as a handyman, is lonely and bleak until a caged tiger appears in the woods and a new friend helps to open Rob's heart. Sistine, the new girl at school, also suffers, but she is alive with raw emotions and spunk. She and Rob form a friendship, and together they set out to free the tiger whose caged existence represents their own limited horizons. Film and Broadway actor Dylan Baker reads with a gentle drawl, changing his voice just enough to breath life into the characters. Even so, the characters remain rather contrived. In particular, the figure of the tiger is not vividly portrayed, partly because it carries more symbolic weight than the story can plausibly sustain. DiCamillo's somewhat heavy-handed symbolism leads to an inconclusive climax that ends with Rob's father shooting the tiger after Rob and Sistine release it. The sacrifice of the tiger as a condition for Rob's bonding with his father and his emergence as a character is not an ending that will appeal to animal lovers.-Emily Herman, Hutchinson Elementary School, Atlanta, GA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
"* "A memorable, lyrical narrative, rich in emotional insight." The Times Educational Supplement * "A lyrical and almost magical story... powerful, full of empathy and a gripping read." The Bookseller
DiCamillo's second novel may not be as humorous as her debut, Because of Winn-Dixie, but it is just as carefully structured, and her ear is just as finely tuned to her characters. In the first chapter, readers learn that Rob lost his mother six months ago; his father has uprooted their lives from Jacksonville to Lister, Fla.; the boy hates school; and his father's boss, Beauchamp, is keeping a caged wild tiger at Beauchamp's abandoned gas station. The author characterizes Rob by what he does not do ("Rob had a way of not-thinking about things"; "He was a pro at not-crying"), and the imprisoned tiger becomes a metaphor for the thoughts and feelings he keeps trapped inside. Two other characters, together with the tiger, act as catalyst for Rob's change: a new classmate, Sistine ("like the chapel"), who believes that her father will rescue her someday and take her back to Pennsylvania, and Willie May, a wise and compassionate woman who works as a chambermaid at Beauchamp's hotel. The author delves deeply into the psyches of her cast with carefully choreographed scenes, opting for the economy of poetry over elaborate prose. The climax is sudden and brief, mimicking the surge of emotion that overtakes Rob, who can finally embrace life rather than negate it. DiCamillo demonstrates her versatility by treating themes similar to those of her first novel with a completely different approach. Readers will eagerly anticipate her next work. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.