Book cover
Beverly, Right Here
Kate DiCamillo

This, the third book in a series, was the first I read. I didn’t even know it was part of a series at first. I was at the Changing Hands bookstore in uptown Phoenix picking up a gift for a friend several years ago when the cover caught my eye. It’s a beautiful, evocative cover, but also Beverly in this picture looks so much like my wife did when she was fourteen. When I first met her. She had the same sad and expressive eyes. I knew and admired Kate DiCamillo from Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux, so I bought the book.

I’m not sure what I expected, but what I found is one of my favorite works of children’s literature. Beverly, Right Here is a remarkable book. Beverly is a remarkable character. She is tough, courageous, and hurting. She’s sometimes badly behaved, and she sometimes feels an urge to run, to steal, to abandon. Her pain is real and understandable. She spends the story trying to make sense of it. Trying desperately to untangle obligation, connection, and vulnerability. In the New York Times review, Kimberly Bradley says, Beverly is driven by loss, not adventure. Connection, not authority, brings her home.

Near the end, a character aggressively asks Beverly who she thinks she is. She doesn’t answer him, but she tells us:

Who was she?

She was someone who used to have a dog. She was someone whose father had held her hand. She was someone who had held Elmer’s hand and danced with him. She was someone who was friends with Raymie. And Louisiana — still — even though she was far away. She was someone who had written I am properly sorry five hundred times, and didn’t mean it once. She was someone who had written Iola’s name eighty-two times, and meant it every time. She was someone who had dug a hole and buried someone she loved. She was someone who knew what lapis lazuli was, and that you could grind it up and turn it into wings.

She was someone who wanted things to be different from how they were.

She was someone who wanted things to change.

You could accuse the story of being too tidy, but that criticism ignores the fact that this is book targeted at ten-year-olds. And you’d be forgiven for forgetting that since the writing is so thoughtful, the themes so mature. DiCamillo trusts her protagonist, and she trusts her readers. This makes even the tidy ending deeply satisfying.

I love this book with all my heart. I love Beverly with all my heart. And I love what DiCamillo reveals to me – and in me – in this her masterpiece.