Review of “The Beatryce Prophecy” by Kate DiCamillo

What can change the world? The author poses this question at the end of this enchanting fable. The answer she offers is twofold: love, and stories, and she provides plenty of heartwarming examples of each, interspersed with occasional black-and-white illustrations by the incomparable Sophie Blackall.

The author spins a story that takes place in that medieval world of fairy tales – familiar and yet ahistorical – in which there are princesses and kings and evil beings out to destroy any goodness in the world.

It begins with a goat, Answelica, who lives at a monastery called the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing. Brother Edik, scorned for his one wandering eye, is astounded one day to find the usually ornery Answelica in the barn cuddled up with a sick little girl. The girl has lost her memory; she only remembers that she is called Beatryce. Edik marvels that the ill-tempered Answelica is doting and caring where Beatryce is concerned, and Edik soon becomes devoted to her as well.

In alternate fonts, we learn that the King and his scheming counselor are looking for Beatryce, because she is spoken of in the prophecies. Specifically, it is foretold: “There will one day come a girl child who will unseat a king and bring about a great change.”

Back at the monastery, Brother Edik discovered that Beatryce could read and write – skills forbidden to females! The first thing she wrote for the monks was “We shall all, in the end, be led to where we belong. We shall all, in the end, find our way home.” Father Caddis, fearing the King’s wrath, told Brother Edik that Beatryce must leave as soon as she is healthy enough to do so. Because both Answelica and Edik loved Beatryce deeply, they would not let her leave alone, and went after her.

We then meet Jack Dory, an orphan whose parents were murdered by a robber in the woods. He was brought up for a while by a stranger, Granny Bibspeak, who came to love Jack with all her heart. After only four years, however, she died, when Jack was twelve. But by then Jack had learned how to take care of himself, and most importantly, that there could be love even after one thought all love was gone.

Jack met Beatryce on a day when “bees hummed. The grass was high and the sky was very blue, blue enough to break your heart in two.” Jack recognized that color as “the blue of unexpected happenings.” Jack asked Beatryce to teach him to read and write. As he watched her write letters, “he felt as if each letter were a door pushed open inside of him, a door that led to a lighted room.”

The group of Beatryce, Jack, Brother Edik, and Answelica then encountered an old man named Cannoc, who joined them. Beatryce eventually remembered what happened to her, and announced she had to go confront the King. All of the group insisted on accompanying her on the journey. As Brother Edik recorded, Beatryce was “a girl who can read and write, a child who has caused me (and also a goat named Answelica) to believe in love and tenderness and some greater good.”

One night Beatryce was captured by a henchman of the King, and she was imprisoned at the castle. The group went after her with the hope of rescuing her. Beatryce knew she was beloved by them, and took solace from the certainty that they would find her: “What is it to know that people will come searching for you? Everything. We shall all, in the end, be led to where we belong. We shall all, in the end, find our way home.”

Evaluation: This magical lyrical story will capture the hearts of all who read it, whether the middle grade audience for whom it is intended, or the adults who come upon it and will cherish it as well. Like The Little Prince, this is a book that has multiple layers of appeal along with timeless and ageless themes. This will make a great gift for someone you love. Highly recommended!

Rating: 5/5

Published by Candlewick Press, 2021

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