The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Sophie Blackall. Candlewick Press, 2021. 9781536213614
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
Genre: Historical fiction
What did you like about the book? A soothing parable about the power of love and of reading and stories, The Beatryce Prophecy is the tale of an unlikely group of friends brought together by a curious prophecy that a girl will one day unseat the King and change everything. Brother Edik is a monk and a member of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing. His responsibilities include illuminating manuscripts and tending to Answelica, a (quite literally) headstrong goat. Edik finds a young girl asleep in the goat’s pen, clutching the unpleasant animal’s ear; the girl cannot remember anything other than her own name – Beatryce. When he finds out that she can both read and write, Edik suspects that Beatryce may be the girl that is being sought by the King’s soldiers, and both monk and goat assume a very protective stance regarding Beatryce’s safety. The other monks are more concerned for their own safety for harboring the girl, and urge Edik to find Beatryce a new home.
In the nearby village, an orphan named Jack Dory is often called upon to run errands. One day he is sent to the monastery in search of someone to record a dying soldier’s last words. This seems a perfect solution for Beatryce, who is now disguised as a monk. When Beatryce attends the dying soldier, she begins to remember who she is and what happened to her. That revelation sends her off on a quest to find her mother and meet the king, attended by the goat, the boy, the monk, and a wise forest dweller with an incredible secret of his own.
There is so much beauty in this book (although one would expect nothing less from a book by a two-time Newbery winner illustrated by a two-time Caldecott winner). DiCamillo’s flair for descriptive language is a tour de force; the depiction of Answelica will have readers laughing from the first page, while also feeling empathy for Jack Dory’s sad childhood and worry for the travelers’ plight. Beatryce uses her skill as a storyteller to soothe her friends, appease her enemy, and solve the mystery of her own identity to bring about a satisfying and clever resolution. Blackall’s black and white illustrations practically glow, portraying poignant and important moments in the plot and illuminating the book as if Brother Edik himself had done it.
Anything you did not like about the book? As much as I loved it, and as many glowing reviews as it has racked up, I’m not sure The Beatryce Prophecy will have as much widespread appeal among young readers as some of DiCamillo’s other books. I hope I am wrong.
To whom would you recommend this book? Students in grade 3 and up who have enjoyed previous titles by Kate DiCamillo, and teachers who have had success reading her books aloud, will definitely want to check it out. Kids who enjoy medieval tales like The Inquisitor’s Tale or The Mad Wolf’s Daughter and some historical fiction by Avi or Karen Cushman will love it.
Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries
Where would you shelve it? Fiction
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.
Date of review: October 13, 2021