Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Review: The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo


by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Candlewick Press
Middle Grade Fantasy
256 pages
ages 8 to 12


From two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo and two-time Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall comes a fantastical meditation on fate, love, and the power of words to spell the world.

We shall all, in the end, be led to where we belong. We shall all, in the end, find our way home.

In a time of war, a mysterious child appears at the monastery of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing. Gentle Brother Edik finds the girl, Beatryce, curled in a stall, wracked with fever, coated in dirt and blood, and holding fast to the ear of Answelica the goat. As the monk nurses Beatryce to health, he uncovers her dangerous secret, one that imperils them all--for the king of the land seeks just such a girl, and Brother Edik, who penned the prophecy himself, knows why.

And so it is that a girl with a head full of stories--powerful tales-within-the-tale of queens and kings, mermaids and wolves--ventures into a dark wood in search of the castle of one who wishes her dead. But Beatryce knows that, should she lose her way, those who love her--a wild-eyed monk, a man who had once been king, a boy with a terrible sword, and a goat with a head as hard as stone--will never give up searching for her, and to know this is to know everything. With its timeless themes, unforgettable cast, and magical medieval setting, Kate DiCamillo's lyrical tale, paired with resonant black-and-white illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall, is a true collaboration between masters.



Every page draws in with a wonderful mix of tension, high-stakes, and humor to create a read, which is truly to get lost in and not want to leave.

It starts with a goat; a mean goat who loves to torment the monks. When one monk finds an injured girl curled up with the goat, he's sure strange things are afoot...and he has no idea how much so. The monk himself wrote a prophecy, and the girl he finds is its fulfiller. But she's lost her memory, and worse yet, is being hunted by the most powerful man around.

I knew little about this book when I got it, but I had a sneaking suspicion that it was going to be good. And I was not mistaken. This is adventure pure, which keeps the stakes high, personalities well woven, plot quick paced, and dashes in just enough humor to keep it fun even when horrible things happen. There's never, ever a boring moment as Beatryce tries to find herself in a world she's forgotten, all the while heading down fate's path. As anyone who deals with prophecies might know, they are tricky things in so many ways, too. Which means this tale is definitely unpredictable, too.

The author weaves in so much in so few words. By that, I don't mean the word count (which at around 250 pages is an usual length for this genre), but rather how the words are chosen so that each sentence does it's job without running into wordiness or side-tracking. It's perfect for fourth to seventh graders and will expand their vocabulary without ever becoming difficult or heavy. I just thought while reading it, 'how well written this is.' 

The adventure never talks down to the reader, has delightful characters, and does pack a little punch. There is death and illness. Beatryce is up against an evil force, and the world is not roses and sunshine only. But these are presented in a way which fits the story without hitting overly violent or gruesome either. Plus, the friendship in this one is not only unexpected but golden. 

In other words, I highly recommend this one to adventure fans (and there isn't any magic), who love high-stakes and yet, quirky characters and humor.

1 comment:

Natalie Aguirre said...

This sounds like the kind of fantasy that I'd like. And as a writer, I'd be curious how Kate packs so much in with fewer words. I'll keep my eye out for it.