Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Award Finalist #1 – Beverly, Right Here
Introduced by HM Committee Member Rachel Wadham
DiCamillo introduced a trio of precocious young ladies in Raymie Nightingale, with Raymie’s and Louisiana’s stories told now it is Beverly’s turn to take the spotlight.
As a previous Newbery winner there is little doubt that DiCamillo produces excellence and Beverly, Right Here is no exception. One of DiCamillo’s greatest talents is her ability to delineate characters. Reading this book feels like you’ve just shown up at a family party with all of your crazy aunts, uncles, and cousins in attendance. Everybody there is just the perfect bit of eccentric and even though they don’t feel like they should fit together, they do because they are family. DiCamillo has the distinct ability to create perfect characters that fit into her seamless plot. Although Beverly is right at the center of the story, the rest of the characters provide the perfect ensemble cast to support her development. In this book there really are no minor characters; each person that appears has their own unique personality and plays an important role in the story. Even Iola’s snooping neighbor and the religious zealot at the convenience store who play only very small roles are well drawn and feel as if they were perfectly placed. To have no one character be underdeveloped or unnecessary is an amazing accomplishment that few authors are really able to achieve. Additionally, with each of her characters, DiCamillo achieves a clarity of organization that allows Beverly to develop from a lost, untrusting young woman into someone who is able to find hope in being with other people. This sharp emotional pacing also shows DiCamillo’s eminence as it is often challenging to make a character’s development feel authentically real in such a way that the reader cares about the character from beginning to end.
Another mark of DiCamillo’s excellence is her style. DiCamillo’s style is distinct: crisp and economical while at the same time not downplaying the expression of expansive feelings, appropriate to this story she is telling. With only 241 pages with large margins and spacing the text is overall very short, but DiCamillo takes advantage of every sentence. . For example,
“The sky was turning some kind of ominous pink. But then, pink always looked ominous to Beverly. It made her think of princesses and beauty contests and her mother and lies. (p. 125)”
She also uses delightful figurative language in her descriptions:
Personification: “She stood and stared at the big indifferent ocean. It sparkled as if nothing at all were wrong. (p. 140).”
Simile: “The cars roaring past them sounded like the ocean, or the ocean sounded like the cars. It was hard to tell the difference. (p. 158).
Each literary device she picks adds a poetic element to her text but she expertly makes them perfectly accessible to her intended audience embracing an excellence of presentation for a child audience.
She also uses allusions to art and poetry to add punch and also to further develop Beverly’s character.
So, for me her delineation of characters and her distinguished style make it clear that DiCamillo has added another masterful tale to her canon that shows she is worthy of being a three-time Newbery honoree.
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Roxanne Hsu Feldman
Roxanne Hsu Feldman is the Middle School (4th to 8th grade) Librarian at the Dalton School in New York City. She served on the 2002 and 2013 Newbery Committees. Roxanne was also a member of 2008-2009 Notable Books for Children, 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and the 2017 Odyssey Award Committees. In 2016 Roxanne was one of the three judges for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. You can reach her at at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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