Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist: THE BEATRYCE PROPHECY by Kate DiCamillo
THE BEATRYCE PROPHECY
Introduction by Heavy Medal Award Committee member Aryssa Damron
THE BEATRYCE PROPHECY charms readers with its illustrated manuscript style, a mysterious young protagonist, and an ornery goat, and feels almost grown in a lab to be another Newbery contender for two-time Medalist Kate DiCamillo.
Beatryce, our titular character driving this novel set in the medieval period, is found sick and dirty by Brother Erik, who quickly takes to the young girl. So too does the ornery, aggressive goat Answelica, which is a good thing for Beatryce, who must be hidden at the monastery during her recovery, for she is hunted by the king. As Erik works on his own illustrated manuscript, Beatryce begins to tell stories of her own, stories that reveal a fate greater than either of them ever could have expected when she was found snuggling with a goat.
This story-loving story feels familiar in a warm, inviting way. It will remind long-time Newbery winners of THE MIDWIFE’S APPRENTICE by Karen Cushman and CRISPIN: CROSS OF LEAD by Avi, but of course has DiCamillo’s signature wit, humor, and a protagonist you’ll root for. By the end of the tale, readers will be tearing up at the power of words and reminded of why DiCamillo already has two Newbery Medals.
Sophie Blackall’s illustrations do an excellent job of supporting the tone of the novel—bringing the illustrated manuscript style into the 21st century with care and impressive detail, but without making it untenable to young readers. Coupled together, this book feels like a gift, something to be treasured and re-read, even more so than DiCamillo’s other books. The writing is a sort of rhythmic meditation that feels rooted in its time period and almost mesmerizing to the modern reader.
In the dim barn, it was hard to gauge subtleties of emotion, particularly in the eyes of a being who had seldom before evidenced subtleties of any sort, but Brother Edik thought he recognized the flicker in the goat’s eye.p 15
Beatryce, caught in her fever, captured by her dream, turned from side to side, working to escape.p 20
While this title is an obvious contender–based on the overall themes and DiCamillo’s background–it might be hard to convince a committee of broad readers to give her a third Medal. If so, she would be the first person in the century of Newbery medalists to be a three-time winner. Even so, the book seems perfectly situated for its audience–not too complicated, but interwoven enough to intrigue the older end of the Newbery spectrum. DiCamillo weaves a strong moment in history with almost magical moments and stories within stories.
This is a book that will continue to resonate with readers for years to come, and provide great conversation to librarians and readers alike.
Heavy Medal Award Committee members and others are now invited to discuss this book further in the Comments section below. Please start with positive observations first; stick to positives until at least three comments have been posted or we reach 1:00 pm EST. Let the Mock Newbery discussion begin!:
About Steven Engelfried
Steven Engelfried was the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon until he retired after 35 years as a full-time librarian. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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