MARILYN: As soon as I finished this book, I eagerly read it again. With the first reading, I found the plot most engaging. On the second reading, I admired the author’s craft. The story takes place in the Middle Ages during a time of war. Five characters carry the story. First, the reader meets a monk, Brother Edik, who has written a prophecy about a girl who will unseat a king. Next, we are introduced to a cranky and fearsome goat, Answelica, who has a major role in the story as a protector of Beatryce, a young girl that Brother Edik finds ill, wounded and bloody curled up next to that goat, fast asleep. It turns out that the child has experienced a horrific trauma that has left her without any memory except that her name is Beatryce. As Brother Edik comes to know her he discovers that she can read and write which is dangerous because there is a law that says that no girls or women can read or write. Brother Edik shaves her head and disguises her as a young monk.
Meanwhile, Beatryce’s life is threaten by an evil counselor to the King and the King himself. Beatryce, the goat and Brother Edik are befriended by a boy, an ex-king and a bee. They all join forces to go to see the King. Beatryce says, “I want only to find my mother and look the king in the eye and hear him say what he has done.” And she thinks that “…If the prophecy was about her, she must face it.” Along the way, Beatryce regains her memory and begins to tell a story about a mermaid that engages the other characters. The thrilling adventures of the six travelers is a middle grade novel with black and white illustrations by Blackall that perfectly compliment the plot and extend the characterizations.
As a follow-up to reading this book aloud, guide children in doing an author study of other books by DiCamillo and an illustrator study of books illustrated by Blackall. Long after reading this story I will remember the last words – “What does then, change the world?…” if you were to ask Beatryce… She… would answer “Love.” Love, and also stories.”
KATHY: I marveled at DiCamillo’s crafting. She took so many different threads, some that seemed irrelevant, and kept pulling them through at different times in the book. She connected threads that I did not expect and also left a great deal up to the reader, hinting at connections but not making them explicit. The reader has to actively connect those threads, metaphors and allusions. DiCamillo trusts her readers. I loved how she wove Beatryce’s tale about a mermaid throughout the plot. Although DiCamillo uses a fairy tale format, she subverted that genre throughout. The ending works out for the characters, but is not a typical fairy tale ending of the bliss of happily ever after. A traditional tale would end with Beatryce and Jack on the throne, ruling happily ever after. But, it’s not Beatryce and Jack who rule. Instead, they take on the work of spreading literacy throughout the kingdom; the former king listens and laughs but does not rule; Beatryce’s mother is the one who rules; and Brother Edik does not return to his abbey, he writes the story of the mermaid to make a book. They all take on work, tasks to do that make a difference for their world. The ending is not about prophecies but about love and how stories change the world. I marvel at the author’s ability to take such complexity and tell that story in less than 247 pages (with large print and illustrations).
It is a book that engaged me fully as a reader, and I found my attention moving between the story and the author’s craft, between aesthetic and efferent stances and with trying to figure out how some new element or story connected with the larger story DiCamillo was telling. Don’t miss Imagination Friday on Nov. 12, 2021 @ 1:00 pm- 1:40 pm, when both Kate DiCamillo & Sophie Blackall will be interviewed on WOW. –Recommended by Kathy G. Short, Professor, Teaching, Learning and Sociocultural Studies, Director, Worlds of Words, University of Arizona, Founder’s Endowed Chair, Global Children’s and Adolescent Literature, and Marilyn Carpenter, Professor Emeritus Eastern Washington University.
Title: The Beatryce Prophecy
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Sophie Blackall.
Publisher: Candlewick Press
PubDate: September 28, 2021
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