fantasy, middle grade

Middle Grade Must-Read – The Beatryce Prophecy

The Beatryce Prophecy (Candlewick)
Written by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrations by Sophie Blackall

Kate DiCamillo published her first book in 2000 when I was out of the intended age range. This was the first of her books I’ve ever read, and I was profoundly impressed. DiCamillo’s name had come across my radar for the last twenty years through her breakout hit Because of Winn-Dixie and later The Tale of Despereaux. Despite seeing her name and these titles so often, I never thought to pick them up and give them a read. I think this mainly because the students I was around didn’t really gravitate towards her work unprompted. My reticence to read her work was also due to the adage of judging a book by its cover. The covers didn’t appeal to my personal tastes, so I passed them by. Wow, I was missing a great writer!

The Beatryce Prophecy is an amazingly complex and surprisingly short read about some tremendous ideas. In an unnamed medieval kingdom, a mysterious child shows up at a monastery belonging to the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing during a time of war. She’s found in the stables by Brother Edik and protected by the monastery’s willful goat Answelica. Edik begins to realize he wrote about this girl in a prophecy, the one who is destined to upend the king and establish a new order. Beatryce finds she has stories swirling in her mind, and these stories inform her decisions and open the minds of the people she meets. DiCamillo presents a stunning allegory about how power seeks to suppress stories and imagination because they know it will bring them down. However, for people to imagine a world they are told is impossible is a powerful thing; to stretch beyond the boundaries of the mundane can begin to create a new world.

Despite being about such big, complex ideas, DiCamillo’s language is sparse and straightforward. The combination feels like reading something much more than your average middle-grade novel. This is something speaking to people on a deeper level. The book wants us to really look at the world we exist in and decide how we will choose to live within it. Do we live accepting the many flaws and injustices, or do we attempt to transform the world into where we know it should be? When the world is under some of the most significant stresses and tests to justice in our lifetimes, a book like The Beatryce Prophecy is here to remind us that change is made through the individual actions of people working collectively. Beatryce and her friends may be separated by circumstance along the way, but their solidarity is unwavering. 

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