Suggest a Correction
“It is written in the Chronicles of Sorrowing
that one day there will come a child
who will unseat a king.
The prophecy states that this child will be a girl.
Because of this,
the prophecy has long been ignored.”
— From “The Beatryce Prophecy”
Kate DiCamillo had only three words in her mind when she began her luminous new novel — monk, moon and goat. Where would she go from there?
“How those three words led to ‘The Beatryce Prophecy,’ I have no idea,” DiCamillo said with a laugh during a phone conversation from her Minneapolis home. “The story is smarter than I am. It’s about getting out of my own way and following these characters I care about.”
Those characters, who live in medieval times, include a girl who breaks the law by knowing how to read, a timid monk, and a loyal but fierce goat, one of DiCamllo’s most endearing characters.
DiCamillo, who is always fun to talk with, is one of the nation’s most popular children’s writers (although she insists her books are for all ages) with a total of 37 million copies in print worldwide. “The Beatryce Prophecy” aimed at middle-grade readers, is her 10th novel. She’s also written 13 chapter books, including the Bink & Gollie series with Alison McGhee, another about toast-loving pig Mercy Watson, and Tales From Deckawoo Drive.
Honored with two prestigious American Library Association Newbery Medals (for “The Tale of Despereaux” and “Flora and Ulysses”), she is former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
DiCamillo is 57, barely over 5 feet tall, and could pass for one of her young fans. She grew up in Florida and followed a friend to Minnesota, hoping her boyfriend would propose marriage. He didn’t and she stayed, even though she arrived — without socks — during one of this state’s coldest winters. She worked at a variety of jobs, including order fulfillment at the Bookmen distributorship in Minneapolis.
By the mid-1990s, DiCamillo was discouraged about being a writer. She was poor, her legs hurt from standing on concrete floors at the Bookmen, and she was accumulating more and more rejection slips. Thanks to the encouragement of author Jane Resh Thomas, she kept going, and in 1998 she won a Minnesota McKnight Artist Fellowship. Two years later, “Because of Winn-Dixie,” the story of a girl and her dog, was accepted for publication and became a bestseller.
Now, two decades after her debut, DiCamillo is having a big year. Besides the new book, there are paperback film tie-in editions of “Flora & Ulysses” and “The Tiger Rising.”
“The Beatryce Prophecy” centers on Beatryce, found by Brother Edik curled up in the barn of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing. She’s bloody and dirty, hanging onto the ear of Answelica, the monastery’s ill-tempered goat. With a hard head and yellow eyes, Answelica is introduced in the book’s first three pages, the funniest DiCamillo has written:
“Answelica was a goat with teeth that were the mirror of her soul — large, sharp, and uncompromising.”
“I am so glad you thought those first pages were funny,” DiCamillo says, adding she wanted her readers to laugh. It’s this ability to turn a goat into an unlikely memorable character that makes DiCamillo’s fans love her.
Brother Edik is worried because years earlier he had prophesied — it’s written in the Chronicles of Sorrowing — that a girl would unseat a king. Now that girl has arrived, and he doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t remember how she got to the monastery or anything about herself, including her name. But to the monks’ astonishment, she can read and write, talents unheard of in girls because they are forbidden to be literate.
The king, who knows about the prophecy, is looking for this girl who wants to kick him off his throne. So Brother Edik keeps her safe by cutting her hair to the scalp and dressing her like a monk. But she cannot stay in the monastery and so the girl, the goat and the monk set out to see the king, along with cheerful Jack, whom Beatryce is teaching to read.
Slowly, the girl’s memory returns and she knows she is Beatryce, daughter of a noble family. Meanwhile, the motley crew is being chased by the king’s men.
If you ask DeCaillo what the book is about, she’ll tell you she is the worst person to answer that question. Writing it, she says, was like trying to recapture the fragments of a dream.
“You can kind of remember, but it’s just out of your reach,” she says of this dream-like state. “It’s not anything to look at too directly or control too much. I don’t outline, so I never know what’s going to happen or how the story is going to unfold. Then a character like Answelica shows up and it’s a gift. I thought, ‘Boy, oh boy. This goat is stronger and smarter than me. I hope she doesn’t run away with the whole story.’ But she led us through it and kept us safe”
Then there’s Brother Edik, who sees beauty in the world. Edik has one wandering eye, which rolls around while the other eye looks straight ahead.
“I don’t know why he has this kind of eye,” DiCamillo says. “I kind of see the characters and that is what I saw. I really feel him and his ability to see beauty and life everywhere. Everybody, every goat, every tree, contains surprises and singularity for him. If you see the world that way, it’s easier to love it.”
It isn’t unusual for an author to abandon a book when it isn’t working for some reason. That’s what happened to DiCamillo with “The Beatryce Prophecy.”
“I had started this book in 2009, worked on it a very short time, then put it aside and forgot about it entirely. I don’t remember why,” DeCamillo recalled. “Maybe it was just too emotionally close to my mother’s death that year. I wanted to write something funny and started working on ‘Flora & Ulysses,’ about a squirrel who gets sucked into a vacuum cleaner.”
That story was inspired by the vacuum cleaner belonging to her mother, Betty Gouff DiCamillo, to whom she dedicated the new book.
In 2017, DiCamillo was cleaning out her office closet and found the draft of the first part of a story about a girl named Beatryce. She sat down on the floor and read it as though it had been written by someone else.
“I thought, ‘This goat! This girl! I have to tell this story,’ ” she recalls. “I started writing two days later, following the characters through their world. I realized they learned how precious, important and powerful reading and writing can be. Maybe I knew in an emotional way it was about my mother and my own struggles learning to read.”
As a child, DiCamillo was desperate to read but she couldn’t do it.
“In those days, they taught reading with phonics that made no sense to me,” she recalls. (Phonics correlates an individual sound with its corresponding letter or letter group.)
“I was almost hysterical. I came home from school wailing to my mother. She said, ‘For Pete’s sake, calm down. You are smart. You can memorize the words.’ She made a heap of flashcards and after school we worked on memorizing. It worked, and what a gift from her. It was like, ‘Everybody get out of my way now.’ I wasn’t fully myself until I could read. That runs through all of ‘Beatryce,’ the importance or being able to read and write. My mother always saw me as a reader and that’s the first way I identify myself today.”
“I never fully understand a book until I stand in front of a kid and talk about it,” DiCamillo says.
She discovered the importance of her young readers’ input way back when she stood in front of a class for the first time to talk about “Because of Winn-Dixie.”
“The teacher said, ‘We are going to talk about the book’s themes,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘We are?’ I literally started sweating. I had no idea about themes. The class discussed it and the teacher put themes up on the blackboard. When I got to my car I wrote them down so I’d have an answer for the next class.”
This personal connection with her fans when she’s signing books is what she missed during the months of COVID isolation when she couldn’t make personal appearances.
“Almost invariably there’s a kid in line telling me something he liked about one of my books and and I think, ‘This is why I came.’ Sometimes they say things to me they don’t want to say in front of anybody else,” she says. “It’s that intimacy that’s lost when you do it virtually.”
DiCamillo spent the lockdown months at home with Ramona, her mischievous, 5-year-old miniature Goldendoodle, named for Beverly Cleary’s popular novels.
“We walked and walked and walked,” DiCamillo recalls of their outings. “We walked so much one of my friends asked if Ramona was getting enough protein because she looked a little skinny.”
When they weren’t walking, DiCamillo was working.
“I started writing fairytales,” she says. “It’s three novellas that will be published separately. Writing kept me calm and grounded.”
While she was walking and working, she was also anticipating publication Sept. 28 of “The Beatryce Prophecy,”
She needn’t have worried about how the book would fare, since it received starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, which called the novel “A book with an angelic soul.”
And now we’re back to the beginning of this story. What is “The Beatryce Prophecy” about? Putting together everything DiCamillo said, it’s about love of reading and writing, the wonder of the natural world, the power of a girl with words, the loyalty of a goat and friendship.
This is what Beatryce thinks as she holds onto the ear of Answelica the goat:
” I am Beatryce.I have friends in the world.
I no longer have hair. But I have friends.”
LEBANON, Ill. – The Lebanon CUSD has canceled class Monday due to damage surrounding the school.
Lebanon CUSD said in a Facebook post that they “have power lines down and a dangerous situation on campus.”
Ameren told the school district that the situation should be cleaned up by mid-day or late afternoon. The school day will be made up at the end of the year.
A tornado Sunday night caused damaged from Farmington, Missouri to Chester, Illinois.
CHESTER, Ill. – Sunday night’s tornado hopped from Missouri right over into Illinois.
FOX 2’s Meteorologist Jaime Travers was in the Woods Basement System Storm Runner Monday morning taking a look at the damage in Chester, Illinois.
Travers said residents were properly warned about all of the storms across the area. The tornado started in Fredericktown, Missouri and then moved to Farmington, then to St. Mary and then to Chester, Illinois.
Travers found a barn leveled by the tornado in Chester. Trees were also mangled and power lines are down. The roof of a nursing home on Palestine Road was also torn off.
ST. MARY, Mo. – The town of St. Mary, Missouri is about 80 miles south of St. Louis and it was hit hard by Sunday night’s tornado.
7th Street in St. Mary is the epicenter of the tornado damage there. Debris is scattered everywhere along the street. St. Mary’s antique mall suffered extensive damage.
Several homes along 7th street are also severely damaged or even destroyed.
The storm hit St. Mary at approximately 8 p.m. Sunday.
“There was not a whole lot of sounds and then everything just went still. I do remember everything going still,” St. Mary resident Nick Grogg said. “I was on the phone with dad. He said something bad is about to happen. That’s when I went downstairs. I didn’t think it was going to be anything like this.”
There were no serious injuries in the area due to the tornado.
Fully vaccinated bodybuilder George Peterson, 37, found dead in hotel room
Brian Laundrie may be using adapted canoe as ‘posts hold clues to hideout’
Rihanna Makes Political Statement About Vaccine Mandates (Video)
NY Governor Calls in National Guard to Replace 72,000 Unvaccinated healthcare Workers
Major Dogecoin Twitter User Posts “Dogecoin Community Will Support Musk”
COVID-19 vaccine exemptions: Where do different religions stand on vaccinations?
Shiba Inu (SHIB) Surpassed All Other Non-Stablecoin Token
IoTeX (IOTX) Price Surges, Trading Volume Rose Over 900% in Last 24-Hours