This week, I’ll be posting a lot about children’s books. It’s summer time, and if your kids are home from school you might be looking for something to keep them entertained. On a rainy day like today, there’s nothing better than curling up with a good book. My goal for the next few posts is to share with you some quality children’s literature that you can bring home for your young readers. And who knows–you might enjoy it as well!
Today, the focus is on author Kate DiCamillo, a two-time Newbery Medal winner. My favorite thing about DiCamillo’s work is that her children’s stories are full of grown-up emotions and lessons, plus the writing is just beautiful. Today I’ll share with you the five DiCamillo books I have read and why I have loved all five of them. Her books are probably best for kids aged 7-10, depending on their reading level, but I’ll be honest–I only read one of her books as a kid, the rest have all been purchased and read during my adult years.
1. The Tale of Despereaux
About the Book: The Tale of Despereaux is probably one of DiCamillo’s best-known works. This book is the story of a tiny mouse named Despereaux, who has unusually large ears. Despereaux sets off on a quest to save the princess of the castle, Princess Pea.
Why I Love It: This book is told in a beautiful fairy-tale way, and Despereaux is truly an unlikely hero. There is so much in this book about love and sadness that it will captivate even grown-up readers. The book also deals with the power of storytelling, which is something I love!
“There is nothing sweeter in this sad world than the sound of someone you love calling your name.”
“‘Once upon a time,’ he said out loud to the darkness. He said these words because they were the best, the most powerful words that he knew and just the saying of them comforted him.”
“Say it, reader. Say the word ‘quest’ out loud. It is an extraordinary word, isn’t it? So small and yet so full of wonder, so full of hope.”
2. Because of Winn-Dixie
About the Book: This book is the story of a young girl named India Opal Buloni, who moves into a trailer park in Florida with her father, a preacher. Opal finds a stray dog wrecking a Winn-Dixie store, and she claims the dog as her own.
Why I Love It: DiCamillo is really adept at creating real life characters and situations that are full of genuine emotions. A lot of times I think children’s books can feel overly sappy or even too happy-go-lucky. Her books have just the right mix of happy and sad, and I think they show young readers that it’s okay to experience different emotions. More on this later when we get to another of her books.
“It’s hard not to immediately fall in love with a dog who has a good sense of humor.”
3. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
About the Book: Edward Tulane is a selfish china rabbit. He is separated from his owner, and in order to find her again he goes on a miraculous journey. Along the way, he meets a unique group of people, each of them teaching him a different aspect of how to love.
Why I Love It: This is my favorite DiCamillo book. They’re all lovely and special in their own ways, but this book is so unique and so beautifully written. Edward’s journey is all about learning how to love, and, again DiCamillo is able to emphasize the importance of storytelling and the importance of opening your heart up to different emotions.
“Open your heart. Someone will come. Someone will come for you. But first you must open your heart.”
“Edward knew what it was like to say over and over again the names of those you had left behind. He knew what it was like to miss someone. And so he listened. And in his listening, his heart opened wide and then wider still.”
“Perhaps,” said the man, “you would like to be lost with us. I have found it much more agreeable to be lost in the company of others.”
*Side Note: Before I started Book Fifty, one of my previous blog attempts was called “In the Company of Others,” based on this quote!
4. The Tiger Rising
About the Book: The Tiger Rising is about a boy named Rob Horton who knows where there is a tiger. Together with his friend Sistine, Rob learns what it means to be free and to feel again after the death of his mother.
Why I Love It: This book has so much symbolism and lovely imagery. The characters are real and full of genuine emotion. Do I sound like a broken record yet? DiCamillo is able to paint characters who are full of the depth of human emotions–like Rob, who has to learn how to experience sorrow before he can be truly free.
“Her words sounded the way all those things made him feel, as if the world, the real world, had been punched through, so that he could see something wonderful and dazzling on the other side of it.”
5. Raymie Nightingale
About the Book: Raymie Nightingale is about a young girl named Raymie and her adventures with two new friends: Beverly and Louisiana. Each of the girls has a different struggle, and together they become the Three Rancheros.
Why I Love It: This is DiCamillo’s most recent book, and it’s also the most autobiographical. I really loved the three unique little girls and the strong bond of friendship that they form even in the face of three unique struggles.
“It occurred to her that nobody really knew what anybody else was upset about, and that seemed like a terrible thing.”
“The world went on. People left and people died and people went to memorial services and put orange blocks of cheese into their purses. People confessed to you that they were hungry all the time. And then you got up in the morning and pretended that none of it had happened.”
So there you have it! Five different DiCamillo books for your young readers. These books would be great to read aloud to younger children, or perfect for older kids to read for themselves. Have you read any of her books? What other children’s authors do you love? Check back on Thursday for my top ten books for young readers!
Rabbit Room: “The Joys of Sad Stories”
Rabbit Room: “Edward Tulane and the Soft, Sharp Heart of Love”
NPR Author Interview with Kate DiCamillo
Kate DiCamillo’s Website