REVIEW: The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
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.
Dear Ms. DiCamillo,
I have heard your name before but up until now, I’d not read one of your books. This is, I think, a good one to start with in that it’s not bad and it’s not the best. I feel that there are probably other of your books I’d enjoy more and that makes me happy as it makes me feel I have much to look forward to. The power of love shines here along with the encouragement to do the right thing.
This is a book I feel ought to be read aloud. It would be better appreciated that way. It is also a book that despite a lovely beginning, I felt fell a bit flat at the end. There is a fair bit of repetition as well. A lot of the time this felt as if A Message was being rammed home so I’d remember it. The messages also tended to feel a bit preachy. I wonder if middle school (or younger) children would feel condescended to.
The feel of the book is fairy tale-ish though there aren’t any cut and dried fantasy/magical elements. It’s more that things are hinted at such as Jack Dory “understanding” what Answelica the Goat was trying to convey to him or that the elderly woman who took him in as an orphan had been reincarnated as the bee that buzzed around. But Answelica never actually talks and the bee never actually spells out any messages.
As in many fairy tales, there is a degree of violence here. Parents and siblings are killed off but not graphically. A character is revealed to be a former ruler who just … walked off the job because he felt happier after he did. Perhaps this is meant to convey that we all need to find our bliss and a place in life where we’re more relaxed but I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, “You have an inherited role in this kingdom. You just ghosted everyone. You didn’t care who would rule next and if that someone would treat your subjects well. Asshole.”
The found family is strong here which, I believe, is the main message to take away from the book. Find your friends, forge a relationship, and when you’re in trouble, your true friends will track you down and help you. They will assist you in discovering how you are to live in a world that has changed. They will help you find your way. But the message is conveyed in a very simplified manner except where it isn’t. I was getting the message, it was making sense and then Beatryce started telling someone a story that … just wandered and suddenly ended. My feeling was – what? If I was bewildered about it, I wonder how an older elementary age child (and I feel that is the grade level for this book) would take it.
There’s some sweetness about how everyone should know how to read, how words can spell out the world, that girls have every right to be taught and learn as boys – and I feel these are important concepts for children to understand. But the sum of the book was not equal to the parts. The prophecy that Beatryce is supposed to fulfill occurred in a rather ho-hum, low key way. I guess I wanted more flash, more pizazz. Some people also needed justice served up to them that I didn’t really feel was done. But the quiet among us can also be the ones who gently sow the seeds of long term change so yeah, I guess that’s what happens here plus it’s got a great goat. C+