Kate DiCamillo's new novel, about a girl who would be king

THE PROPHECY OF BEATRYCE By Kate DiCamillo Illustrated by Sophie Blackall I first met Kate DiCamillo in the pages of one of Chapter Boo...


THE PROPHECY OF BEATRYCE
By Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

I first met Kate DiCamillo in the pages of one of Chapter Books by Mercy Watson when he came home from the school library with my daughter many years ago. Answelica, the wild goat from “The Beatryce Prophecy”, is far less in a good mood than Mercy, the beaming pig, but then lives in the harsher (and in this case medieval) world of mid-level fiction, where a a goat should be careful of herself and the injured child in her care, and her best tool in judging the character of those around her is to test their reaction to being violently bumped. It’s no surprise that the same monks who later deliberately wash their hands of Beatryce’s troublesome problem have failed this test and fear her as something possessed by demons. For them, it is.

But while this novel is full of people so ordinarily selfish and cruel – which might explain the temper of Answelica – there are some brilliant exceptions, and Beatryce, a young girl hunted down by the king because of a prophecy that ‘she will overthrow him, becomes the needle and the thread that brings them together: from Brother Edik, the shy monk who finds her in the monastery barn covered in blood and filth, to the orphan Jack Dory and the mysterious bearded man who she meets in the woods, at her missing mother.

“The Beatryce Prophecy” never tells the lie that nothing bad can happen – death and tragedy have their due – but the story, along with Sophie Blackall’s brilliant pencil illustrations, lingers in the bright places of work and discovery, of enlightenment and beauty and, above all, love, which in these pages can mend all things, even the broken past, not by restoring them as if by magic, but by existing and being true.

The omnipresent power of love is a theme in DiCamillo’s work – de “Because of Winn-Dixie” to his two Newbery medal winners, “The Legend of Despereaux” and “Flora and Ulysses” – just like the investment of animals and children with agency and personality. Love here is built on the deceptively simple belief that other beings in the world are fully our equals, sharing the same inherent worth, with equal entitlement to life and joy – and with sadness some outcome for us. all. “Beatryce,” like many of DiCamillo’s other books, builds on this underlying bitterness, as love gains its power by being the one and only thing that can fix it.

The characters are made heroic not by their ability to force change but by their ability to love. Jack Dory’s sword is the opposite of Chekhov’s weapon: it appears for the purpose of not used. Brother Edik has no weapons and no plan; he doesn’t imagine he will be able to save Beatryce from imprisonment. He has a small goal that he is willing to risk his life for: “I want her to know that we have come for her.”

DiCamillo’s novels often consist of separate scenes that are loosely related; in his best work, like “The miraculous journey of Edward Tulane”, they are individual pieces of jewelry on a single gold chain, harking back to the beginning with the perfect satisfaction of a clasp clasp.

“The Beatryce Prophecy” does not quite reach these heights. There are a few too many ideas – a tangled loop in the chain. The plot of Beatryce having learned to read in a realm where it is illegal for girls does not seem fully worked out: is reading the problem, or storytelling, or respect? But ultimately what matters most is the power to love and to be loved. And Beatryce, both the character and the book, are easy to like.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Kate DiCamillo's new novel, about a girl who would be king
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