Monday, January 3, 2022

Middle Grade Monday: The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 256 p. Candlewick Press, September, 2021. 9781
536213616. (Review of arc courtesy of publisher.)

Happy Monday! I hope you had a healthy and restful holiday filled with a lot of great books. Today was my first day back from break and it was quite interesting. Lots of kids on the quarantine list due to either testing positive or exposure to Covid, or travelled and are unvaccinated. I'm in a 5 - 8 middle school and until recently, fifth graders were too young for vaccination. There were a few staff members out as well. Taking attendance was a bit more involved and then there were the late-comers on Zoom. Sigh. It's good to be back though. 

Middle Grade Monday features the very last book I read in 2021, The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Sadly, I'm woefully behind in all my reading and it took me forever to get to this gem. I must say though, reading it as my last book of 2021 was lovely.

Brother Edik illuminates manuscripts in a monastery while he awaits visions, which he reports to the his superior, who then writes them down in The Chronicles of Sorrows. His other job is caring for Answelica the goat, a being so ornery that she strikes fear in everyone. Imagine his surprise then, when Brother Edik discovers a little girl, curled up, asleep in Answelica's stall holding the goat's ear! The girl is dirty, bloody, and running a high fever. She remembers nothing about how she got to the monastery. She only remembers her name, Beatryce.

Gentle Brother Edik convinces the monks to nurse the child back to health. As he cares for Beatryce, he uncovers a secret. The girl knows how to read and write! It is forbidden for girls and women to read and write in the kingdom! As Brother Edik ponders the danger of this, he remembers one of his earlier prophecies, "There will one day come a girl who will unseat a king..." Could Beatryce be this girl?

This book is getting a lot of Newbery buzz. Ms. DiCamillo builds a dangerous world, unfolding it slowly in spare and concise language. Readers will instantly care for Brother Edik, Beatryce and later, Jack Dory, all three are so pure and vulnerable in this harsh world. It is a rare thing to possess a true moral compass. 

Answelica's antics lend humor and her devotion to Beatryce is endearing. The author packs a lot of adventure and suspense in this rather short book. The black and white illustrations are well-placed and lovely.

Fans of Kate DiCamillo will not be disappointed. Fans of Adam Gidwitz's The Inquisitor's Tale will likely enjoy The Beatryce Prophecy, though there's no magic here, just the magic of the powers of friendship, love, courage and storytelling.

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