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Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Award Finalist #1 – Beverly, Right Here

Introduced by HM Committee Member Rachel Wadham

DiCamillo introduced a trio of precocious young ladies in Raymie Nightingale, with Raymie’s and Louisiana’s stories told now it is Beverly’s turn to take the spotlight.    

As a previous Newbery winner there is little doubt that DiCamillo produces excellence and Beverly, Right Here is no exception. One of DiCamillo’s greatest talents is her ability to delineate characters. Reading this book feels like you’ve just shown up at a family party with all of your crazy aunts, uncles, and cousins in attendance.  Everybody there is just the perfect bit of eccentric and even though they don’t feel like they should fit together, they do because they are family.  DiCamillo has the distinct ability to create perfect characters that fit into her seamless plot.  Although Beverly is right at the center of the story, the rest of the characters provide the perfect ensemble cast to support her development.  In this book there really are no minor characters; each person that appears has their own unique personality and plays an important role in the story.  Even Iola’s snooping neighbor and the religious zealot at the convenience store who play only very small roles are well drawn and feel as if they were perfectly placed.  To have no one character be underdeveloped or unnecessary is an amazing accomplishment that few authors are really able to achieve.  Additionally, with each of her characters, DiCamillo achieves a clarity of organization that allows Beverly to develop from a lost, untrusting young woman into someone who is able to find hope in being with other people.  This sharp emotional pacing also shows DiCamillo’s eminence as it is often challenging to make a character’s development feel authentically real in such a way that the reader cares about the character from beginning to end.   

Another mark of DiCamillo’s excellence is her style.  DiCamillo’s style is distinct: crisp and economical while at the same time not downplaying the expression of expansive feelings, appropriate to this story she is telling.  With only 241 pages with large margins and spacing the text is overall very short, but DiCamillo takes advantage of every sentence. . For example, 

“The sky was turning some kind of ominous pink.  But then, pink always looked ominous to Beverly. It made her think of princesses and beauty contests and her mother and lies. (p. 125)”  

She also uses delightful figurative language in her descriptions: 

Personification: “She stood and stared at the big indifferent ocean.  It sparkled as if nothing at all were wrong. (p. 140).” 

Simile: “The cars roaring past them sounded like the ocean, or the ocean sounded like the cars.  It was hard to tell the difference. (p. 158).  

Each literary device she picks adds a poetic element to her text but she expertly makes them perfectly accessible to her intended audience embracing an excellence of presentation for a child audience.

She also uses allusions to art and poetry to add punch and also to further develop Beverly’s character. 

So, for me her delineation of characters and her distinguished style make it clear that DiCamillo has added another masterful tale to her canon that shows she is worthy of being a three-time Newbery honoree.

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Roxanne Hsu Feldman About Roxanne Hsu Feldman

Roxanne Hsu Feldman is the Middle School (4th to 8th grade) Librarian at the Dalton School in New York City. She served on the 2002 and 2013 Newbery Committees. Roxanne was also a member of 2008-2009 Notable Books for Children, 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and the 2017 Odyssey Award Committees. In 2016 Roxanne was one of the three judges for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. You can reach her at at roxannefeldman@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. samuel leopold says:

    Rachel does a wonderful job of introducing us to this novel.
    I give a thumbs up to each positive point she has made.

    I particularly am impressed by how Dicamillo uses the figurative language, not just to make the writing sound graceful and smooth—which it does—– but she strategically places these sentences in parts of the book where a character is thinking through and/or experiencing a real turning point inside. The language connects with the feelings being experienced by the characters at that moment. The examples Rachel gives on pages 140 and 158 are perfect examples of that happening.

    It takes a skillful writer to pull that off without it seeming forced. And THE AUTHOR DOES THAT–AND MUCH MORE—-with the skill and grace of writer who has again given us a distinguished work in children’s literature.

    • Annisha Jeffries Annisha Jeffries says:

      Kate DiCamillo an exceptional storyteller, and this story highlights the significance of recognizing the good in others. Though complex at times, I agree of how language connects the feelings being experienced by the characters.
      .

  2. Cherylynn says:

    Beverly Right Here also does a great job in delineation of setting. On page 6-7 she describes an RV court where she will be spending a lot of time in the book. The pink trailer with sad flowers in front of it was very well described in only a few words. When Beverly goes into the restaurant toward the beginning of the book the author writes about the smells as well as the sights (p. 11). I could picture in my head very well where we were and what it was really like.

  3. Amanda Bishop says:

    I agree with Rachel in how masterfully Kate DiCamillo crafts the prose of this novel. She does an amazing job creating rich text and developing a story in such a short amount of time. I also love the way DiCamillo creates the tension of memory for Beverly and how her past influences how she reacts to the events of the present. The horse ride outside of the convenience store is an anchor to the hurt and pain Beverly experienced as a child. “And then she’d realized that she wasn’t going anywhere- that the horse was always going to stay in the same place, no matter how much money you fed it”. What a way to construct the anxiety young Beverly felt about her relationship with her mother. While Beverly seems to struggle with her vulnerability she must embrace it to build the relationships with Iola and Elmer.

  4. Courtney Hague says:

    Rachel delineated very well the strengths of this novel. I think the character development is spot on and I like how Rachel pointed out even the minor side characters are effortlessly well-rounded.

    I just love how much DiCamillo tells you about her characters without ever having to actually tell you. For example on pages 84-85, the scene where we first meet Elmer. You see Elmer’s personality (he noticed the child and mother arguing over the horse outside the store and he was kind enough to bring a dime out to help the child) and you see how affected Beverly is by the way in which the mother treats her child. Beverly clearly had not been treated well as a child but still sees the injustice of this situation and despite her hard shell she feels for this child and helps her.

  5. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    Rachel’s intro and the comments so far do a great job of highlighting the author’s technique. These really demonstrate that important shift of moving from a reader’s response (“I liked this character”) to a critic’s view (“this is what the author did to convey this character”). And this is a book where that approach is ripe with examples, because the author is somehow deliberate with what she does and subtle at the same time. Great start to the discussion!

  6. Molly Sloan says:

    I agree that the development of eccentric yet believable characters is this novel’s greatest strength. It is remarkable that DiCamillo is able to create such memorable characters in such a short span of time–both in terms of page length and the time frame of the novel. I agree with Rachel that even the minor characters like Jerome (Freddie’s boyfriend), and Mr. Denby (Beverly’s boss) feel authentic. Even though I’ve never been to Tamaray Beach, I could swear I’ve met people just like these. Restaurant owner Mr. Denby has his own sad back story (that DiCamillo only suggests obliquely) and Jerome is an archetypal bully. The central characters Iona, Elmer and Beverly are as dear to me as family members. I love Iona and her tuna melts, bingo, and smashed-up Pontiac. I love Elmer and his passion for art history and poetry, even though he plans to study engineering. Beverly and Elmer’s friendship grows gradually and believably. They recognize a spark in each other and in turn they help each other recognize the spark within themselves. DiCamillo gives them passages of poetry like “slipping the surly bonds” and lines from Wynken, Blynken and Nod that form the connections that bond them. Beverly’s attraction to the incredible blue of the Lapis Lazuli angel wings mirrors her attraction to Elmer. Her relationship with both Elmer and Iona are incremental. DiCamillo forges the bonds between the characters so subtly you don’t even realize they are forming.
    I also think the delineation of the setting of Tamaray Beach is distinguished. I loved the way Beverly returned repeatedly to the phone booth to visit the words etched there: A crooked little house by a crooked little sea. It’s as though she is trying to prove those words true in this small, seaside town. Iona and her little trailer with the wicker porch furniture is her crooked little house. Maybe Tamaray Beach with its religious zealot, tourists that come and go, Mr. Larksong, Zoom City, Mr. C’s, Doris the striking cook, and the VFW with it’s Christmas in July/August make a crooked little town. So maybe what she finds is a crooked little house in a crooked little town that is by the sea. And perhaps that is close enough to poetry coming true for Beverly. She finds her place to belong which is what she was really searching for all along.

  7. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    At this point it’s fine to add questions and concerns about BEVERLY, RIGHT HERE. Are there ways in which this book was not successful? Examples of elements that were not as strong as they might have been? Positive comments, of course, are still welcome….and everything in between.

  8. I agree with everyone about the characters and the literary merit of the story. DiCamillo is a master wordsmith. But I feel like BEVERLY, RIGHT HERE doesn’t always measure up in terms of the development of the plot and excellence of presentation for a child audience.

    I will admit the the Raymie trilogy have been my least favorite of DiCamillo’s books. Raymie felt like a re-tread of Because of Winn-Dixie, and Louisiana felt like a white-wash of child neglect and abandonment.

    Beverly, while set in 1979, feels like it is set on another planet entirely. Maybe I have just read a few too many MG/YA contemporary realistic fiction books, but it feels like writers are doing so much more now to open kids’ eyes to the realities (and real dangers) of the world around them. In that sense, BEVERLY, RIGHT HERE seems like escapist fantasy.

    We are meant to believe that a 14-year-old girl with no plans can run away from home and find herself encountering only helpful, well-intentioned (even if cranky) people? That there are no real dangers and everything will be just fine? Personally I found this aspect of the book rather troubling, and my inability to suspend disbelief made it hard for me to commit to caring about the story and the characters.

    • I will also just note that as a teacher of both fifth and seventh grade during the publication of the trilogy, I have yet to come across a student who was drawn to these books, so I do wonder about their overall reception with the intended audience.

      • Courtney Hague says:

        I see your concerns here and they are valid. I like to think of the Three Rancheros books as more fairy tale or hyper-reality than true realistic fiction. All of DiCamillo’s choices are very deliberate and more for literary effect over the course of the novel than for realism when it comes to plot.

        I also think it’s important to keep in mind from the Newbery criteria that we aren’t looking for popularity in these works but for literary merit. Here’s the quote from the Newbery criteria “The committee should keep in mind that the award is for literary quality and quality presentation for children. The award is not for didactic content or popularity.” I don’t think that not having found the right reader for a book means that they are not suitable for the intended audience.

    • Rachel Wadham says:

      I agree with Katie @ The Logonauts there is an element her of fantasy that breaks into the realism that DiCamillo is trying to build that are disconcerting. Even in 1979 it seems to push the bounds of realism that a 14 year old could just leave and land in such a great situation with relatively little hardship. I do think that is one of the negatives, but at the same time a positive. DiCamillo plays this boundary so well that is gives the book a basic sense of magical realism that is pitch perfect for the tone and style in which DiCamillo writes all her books. I’d say in some senses she is an author of fantasy no matter what genre she writes.

      • I’m not sure that the book qualifies as “magical realism” by the definition of the genre. It’s quirky, and definitely feels “weirder than life” (though I think there must be many real life stories that echo Beverly’s.) The characters seem to be all so damaged — from her mother, to herself, to all those who Beverly encounters.

        The general atmosphere in this book is an oppressive heaviness, even though handled with beautiful prose.

  9. Leonard Kim says:

    Sorry this is super long. Maybe it’s a reflection of just how deep and rich I find BEVERLY RIGHT HERE.

    I want to spotlight one of my favorite scenes of any 2019 book. Beverly’s dream on pages 220-221. I think it shows the strengths others have already mentioned: how even very small roles are necessary, how DiCamillo’s style is both deliberate and subtle and efficient and oh-so-masterly, her beautiful treatment of setting and pacing and character that, in the end, serves a deeply felt but perhaps inexpressible theme.

    Beverly’s dream is foreshadowed, but it’s not hit-you-over-the-head foreshadowing one might find in lesser books. It’s so subtle it might not even be foreshadowing – a reader doesn’t necessarily see the dream coming – it’s surprising but it feels right coming when it does following what it does. Many of the minor, quirky, “does the book need them?” characters haunt Beverly’s dream. Near the beginning of the book, Freddie says to Beverly, “I’m telling you: you have to have a dream” (15). On the next page, she repeats, “This is the end of the road unless you have a dream.”

    So Beverly has her dream. She is lying by Buddy’s grave and the trees are bare and Beverly thinks, “Now there is no point.” She looks up and sees an angel, which is an answer to a wish she has on page 111 (“She wished she could send her to go and stand over Buddy’s grave, or float over it, or whatever it was that angels did.”) More subtle foreshadowing, but the angel’s wings are brown, not blue.

    What does it mean that the angel’s wings are brown? On page 191, Beverly thinks, “Annunciation. The angel had come to make an announcement to Mary. And you knew something important was happening in the painting because the angel had wings like blue fire.” Is Beverly unimportant? Having been as happy as she’s ever been, then having the dream, then waking up to reality and bad things (Tommy’s appearance, having to leave Iola and Elmer), was Beverly’s happiness “the end of the road”?

    Kate DiCamillo is always telling us the color of things. It’s part of her efficiency. On the very first page, Joe is described as “he had red hair and a tiny little red beard and a red Camaro”. Faces, especially Elmer’s are described as red nearly a dozen times. Charles (who on page 215, a few pages before Beverly’s dream, himself says “I was dreaming about something good, but I don’t remember what”) is repeatedly associated with his green cap. That Iola’s trailer is pink is stated several times (one remarked on by Cherylynn) and Rachel’s fine intro gives another take on pink. Mr. Denby’s chair is repeatedly called orange. And of course there is blue blue blue: the angelic lapis lazuli that so captures Beverly’s attention, the sad blues of the restaurant (chairs, tablecloths, plates, dining room, napkins are all noted to be blue), and the numerous poetic blues: Iola’s “blue spells” (66), “They were such beautiful blue words” (122), the merciless blue of the sky that is “the washed-out giving-up blue of the end of things, the blue of August in Florida” (141). As Beverly thinks, “Maybe everything and everyone in the world should be painted with blue wings” (192).
    Why are the wings brown in Beverly’s dream? There are so many colors in DiCamillo’s world, but only one thing before the dream is called brown, another very small role, Mrs. Deely’s hair. When they first meet, she beams at Beverly and her hair is “gathered up on top of her head in a big brown pile” (113). Mrs. Deely asks Beverly, “Can I interest you in salvation?” but her cartoon, that Beverly folds just as she folds her own image later, doesn’t say anything: “There was a bubble coming out of its mouth, but there weren’t any words inside the bubble. Did Mrs. Deely forget to put the words in? Or was the stick figure trying to say something that couldn’t be said in words at all?” (116).

    Beverly’s angel doesn’t say anything, despite Beverly’s repeated insistence. It flaps its wings and keeps opening and closing her mouth like (though not explicitly stated by DiCamillo) a bird. Like the seagull that is not allowed in by Doris and looks like it may leave but doesn’t: “the seagull lifted both wings as if he intended to leave. He opened his mouth and closed it again. And then he folded his wings and stayed where he was” (49). Like the bird that, at the peak of Beverly’s happiness, she sees as “the flutter of wings.” Like the bird whose song is unheard in The Song of the Lark, because, despite Mr. Larksong’s claims, Beverly is right that “you can’t paint a picture of a song” (106) and even though an annunciation is something you hear, The Annunciation is just a silent painting of an annoyed, silent angel, despite Beverly’s “What?” and “What?” and “What did you come to say?” and “What’s the message? Tell me!”

    And the snow. Even in Florida, DiCamillo forecast snow through Mr. Denby’s photo. “There was a window behind the tree, and you could see outside to the real world. Snow was falling” (133). Is Beverly’s dream the real world? Beverly does not believe the happiness in the photo (“Photographs like this were a lie. They promised something impossible” (142)). Yet, at the peak of her own happiness, she looks “up and out the narrow window that was above the knitting woman’s head. She almost expected to see bare branches, snow falling.” Snow and bare branches are associated with happiness, but in her dream, now that the branches are bare, “now there is no point.”

    Beverly’s dream is a page and a half. I’m sure I’ve wasted more words here than the dream itself. So I’ll stop, and having unpacked it as deeply as I can, I am left with more questions than answers. But I remain convinced more than ever of the beauty and power and craft of DiCamillo’s writing, of its spirituality and humanity and thus like any truly distinguished contribution to literature, its mystery.

    • Samuel Leopold says:

      You are so right! The way Dicamillo uses sensory realities—–such as colors—–to provide meaningful depth into the core of Beverly’s thinking/feelings is one of the many reasons I have this book squarely in my top 5 as of now.

      Now I do have a few issues with the plot development—–it kind of slows down for me a little too much at times—– and that issue puts it behind a few books we will discuss later. But, the exquisite writing alone places it at least in “honor” territory for me.

    • Thanks for this. So much to notice in her writing!

    • I read this book over the weekend and so enjoyed reading this comment. I found it impressively distinguished and a good part of that is the way the colors – those colors! – play off the setting and the characters and create both expression and contrast.

      I think the insistence on colors also highlights the fantasy or magical realism elements others have touched on – to me, it all ties together amazingly well.

      Many of the minor, quirky, “does the book need them?” characters haunt Beverly’s dream.

      This was when the entire book came into focus for me. I thought the dream was superb, and so was the depiction of snow, in both her dream and that photo, as representative of places Beverly was not. (The title is wonderful, too.)

  10. Melisa Bailey says:

    I agree that this was a beautifully written book full of wonderful imagery. What struck me most were the moods. I could feel Beverly’s hopelessness and need to flee in the beginning and then her gradual acceptance of the loss of her dog and the limitations of her own power. I felt her idleness and need to fill time as she played on the beach and her desperation as she applied and lied to get her job. To play foil against her sadness was is Isola, a usually perennially cheerful woman who saw the good in everything and was generous beyond measure. The characters were believable and very real feeling.

  11. Thank you all for the thoughtful comments and I agree with pretty much all the positives and the concerns. One more observation to offer: the cast of characters around Beverly are definitely well presented and full of details and life. The only “character” that is completely flat and undeveloped and yet crucially important to the story and to Beverly’s motives is her mother. She is literally “a voice without a body,” We only see how Beverly interprets her and never get to know her ourselves to make up our own minds about her and her behaviors. She is a plot device, not a character. To a certain extent, Raymie is, too — and if a reader never encountered her from the companion books, she would probably appear to be very much just another undeveloped character. This is an authorial choice and it does not hinder my appreciation of the book but I thought it worthwhile to be pointed out.

    • I found it to be an authorial choice as well – the two people Beverly leaves behind are almost entirely unexplored. (Beverly talks about being left by Louisiana; here’s Raymie, left twice.) I read this as part of Beverly’s journey: it’s here – right here – in this new place – that she comes to realize the impact of leaving people, from Iola to Robbie and even to Elmer (though in a way Elmer is leaving her – and everyone else).

  12. Cherylynn says:

    My concerns include the fact that this story is about a runaway who doesn’t encounter any difficulty in finding a place to stay or a job. She also is a missing kid who does not have a parent or a friend who reports her missing to the authorities. I also felt like there was a little bit of a problem with repetition. I found myself thinking that I know the angels wings were an incredible shade of blue. Every two to six pages she talked about what color were the wings. The book was small and had large margins. The discussions happened about once a chapter. I felt like she did not trust the reader to get her point and just kept saying it to make sure.

    • A Newbery Committee member’s concern would most likely be more focused on whether the author presented the situation successfully from a literary stand-point and not whether the situation is concerning.

      • Alissa Tudor says:

        I spoke too soon earlier. We do examine plot. I need to think on this one a little more. I am torn between the presentation and the content.

  13. Molly Sloan says:

    Leonard I greatly appreciate your attempt to quantify and explain the depth and beauty of DiCamillo’s writing. I love her writing and yet it always touches on something deep that I can’t quite articulate. Perhaps you are right that great art is often a mystery. Like those unbelievably blue wings, we have to just settle for the pull of the beauty without always understanding why it pulls us so.

    I hear the concerns about the believability of the situation. Certainly as a teacher and a parent I feel the disconnect of a 14 year old running away and landing right where she needs to be. However from a literary standpoint, books for kids so often have various vehicles for getting kids on their own (orphans, runaways etc). This device serves to give the young character agency to make their own decisions and grow without it being under the guidance of an adult guardian figure. I think that is what DiCamillo is doing with Beverly’s story.

    I agree with Roxanne that Beverly’s mother is completely flat. And we do only see her from Beverly’s viewpoint. That might be an important flaw for us to consider. It seems that the mother character is so central to Beverly’s unhappiness and sense of alienation that we readers have a right to know more about the reasons for their broken relationship. And I do have some other concerns about the delineation of plot. I felt the story ended without a real feeling of closure. I’m not sure the equity /workers strike plot line developed to its end and I am left wondering about where some of the other minor storylines were going (Mr. Denby’s family). Was anyone else troubled that Beverly never went back to the beach to find the boy she promised to see the next day? That felt like a betrayal of Beverly’s core value of being there for others—for the Rancheros, for Buddy, for Elmer.

    On the whole I love the book the way I love DiCamillo’s writing—as some glimmering metaphor for the beauty of life which I can’t quite grasp but which I reach toward anyway.

    • Leonard Kim says:

      I was not troubled. It is not just Robbie that Beverly disappoints and keeps waiting. I think it is part of her nature and part of what the book explores. I quoted already her feelings about Mr. Denby’s happy photo, “Photographs like this were a lie. They promised something impossible.” But Beverly herself is like that happiness-promising photo. On page 237, Robbie calls Beverly a liar, “You lied. you said you would come back, and you didn’t come back.” And Beverly disappoints Iola, who waited for her in happy anticipation: “‘I even put those lips on’, said Iola, ‘and i just sat here and waited for you, thinking how it would make you laugh'” (124). Beverly disappoints Elmer who was imagining, waiting for, a different response to his drawing (188). Raymie, her best friend, essentially spends the whole book waiting for Beverly and being disappointed, “‘I keep looking for you,’ said Raymie. ‘And I go to Buddy’s grave. Every day since you left, I’ve gone back there.’ ‘Oh,’ said Beverly” (236).

      The feeling that you’ve disappointed someone is, I think, a familiar and powerful one for children, but one that I think is relatively rarely explored in books. DiCamillo is a master at mining this particular feeling. (One of the sharpest, most direct statements in children’s literature is simply, “You disappoint me” in Edward Tulane.) I can sort of see how the book’s ending might feel abrupt. But I don’t think it is. The book ends when Beverly feels the urge to apologize to those she disappoints. And on the very last page of the book, Doris says, “Get in here,” and Beverly doesn’t keep her waiting.

      • Molly Sloan says:

        Good points, Leonard. Those are all examples of other incidents where Beverly kept people waiting and disappointed them. I hadn’t collected them all together in my mind. You’re right, it’s actually an important theme of the book. Beverly values the trait of reliability and constancy yet realizes that she fails on this trait herself. You are quite astute in observing that disappointing others is a real concern for kids (I know it is for my son) yet there are few books that explore this character flaw. (My son often quotes Edward’s “You disappoint me.”) I think young readers will recognize the inconstancy Beverly shows to Robbie and call her out on it. And perhaps that is what DiCamillo hopes they will do and why the scene exists in the story.

    • Melissa McAvoy says:

      I think the failure to honor Robbie’s promise may exist as an opportunity for Beverly to recognize life’s complexities and that we often don’t honor our promises because of extenuating circumstances, not because we deliberately intend to deceive. Beverly reflects on Robbie’s mother’s ‘lie’ “She thought about how everyone lied to little kids without even thinking that they were lying.” ‘Everything will be right here’ and ‘I’ll be back’ are both untrue. But when Beverly promises to meet Robbie the next day she likely believes she will be able to keep her promise, she can’t know that Iola’s son will confront her and that there will be a strike at the fish restaurant and that she will be part of a Christmas celebration and have just had a tearful phone conversation with Raymie. To me this was an opening of the door of possibility that Beverly might be able to imagine the circumstances (Not excuse – but imagine) in which her father loved her, and left her, and failed her.

    • Alissa Tudor says:

      I also recognized the beauty in the writing. I fell in love with the poetic voice, the deep figurative language, and the rich sensory descriptors. The character of the mother, as Roxanne pointed out, was woefully lacking and a missed opportunity. 
      I will say that DiCamillo did a fantastic job describing the setting. Iola’s trailer and the restaurant! The sights, the smells… amazing.
      I did notice a few odd diversions from Beverly’s normal characterization throughout the novel. For example, on page 122, when she waved after Elmer and shouted “Lapis Lazuli”. In fact, all of her interactions with Elmer seemed at odds with the rest of her inner thoughts and dialogues. I felt as if we were witnessing multiple characters. She definitely has some depth, and we certainly watched her evolve throughout the story.

  14. Alissa R Tudor says:

    I agree with both of your arguments for different reasons. I had the same thoughts as Cherylynn. I am not in love with the plot of the book; however, we are not assessing the plot of the book.
    But, we are to consider if this book is ” A ‘contribution to American literature for children’ shall be a book for which children are a potential audience. The book displays respect for children’s understandings, abilities, and appreciations. Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen, and books for this entire age range are to be considered.” (From the Newbery Guidelines). I am not sure if I agree that the book has this particular age range in mind. I feel that it is best suited for an older audience.

  15. Tamara DePasquale says:

    I agree with many of the points made regarding Kate DiCamillo’s writing. It is deliberate and rich. The cast of characters, each with their own flaws, quirks, and/or vulnerabilities, are indeed memorable, but not all are fully developed. Her setting is well-drawn. Her descriptions are modest, meticulous, and so strong in their appeal to each of our senses that we feel the heat of a Florida summer, the stiffness following a swim in the ocean, and the painful walk across those white crushed shells. We smell the cigarette smoke, the fresh bed linens, and the fried fish. We hear that humming VFW sign, the roll of the ocean waves, and so on. These strengths are DiCamillo hallmarks.

    Yet, I’m reluctant to hold a place for Beverly, Right Here in my top five choices. I believe the strength in this addition to the trilogy relies on the previous books. There are so many pieces to Beverly’s story that are richer and easily acceptable to us because we have the luxury of her backstory. We know her mother and we fully understand her relationships with Raymie and Louisiana. We care more deeply about the loss of Buddy because we simply know Buddy as a character.

    Why do we meet Joe Travis Joy at the start of the book? Did anyone else feel a bit lost wondering if he would reappear? In a story where everything is intentional, what is his purpose?

    I also struggle with the ending or lack of one. Here, right here, (excuse the word choice) the reader knows that Beverly is okay. She has found her place in an imperfect but very real surrogate family and community. However, Raymie is on her way; she must leave Iona, and Elmer is off to Dartmouth. What is in store for Beverly? Are we supposed to accept that because she is happy right here, right now that her future holds the same good fortune? I’m not looking for a tidy ending, but I am looking for a nugget of hope for Beverly and the reader to hang onto. I am invested, and I care…now what?

    I would argue that Beverly, Right Here is a strong addition to middle grade reading lists, especially for DiCamillo fans. I would also argue that there are some positive messages for readers longing for that perfect family photo. That said, none of these things matter to the mission set out before us. There is nothing here that makes me pause and wonder at the magic, that artistic “mystery” that makes a book standout among the shelves. I do not believe it lives up to the standards of “distinguished” as a whole.

  16. Mary Zdrojewski says:

    I’m not sure how to say what I’d like to say without using comparisons to other books.
    I thought that the dialogue in this book, while retaining DiCamillo’s distinctive quirky style, felt more realistic and had less of a fairy tale tone than Louisiana’s Way Home. That realistic dialogue, especially Beverly’s short and surly responses, made this feel like it fit better with the age of the characters and didn’t seem like it was a young teen book written for younger readers.

    While the tone was heavy and yet hopeful in true DiCamillo style, I didn’t think the tension in the book’s conflicts built up enough and they were resolved very quickly without noticeable climaxes.

  17. Leonard Kim says:

    On whether Beverly’s situation is safe and therefore not credible:

    Beverly is 14. The first time she tells someone her age is after Mr. Denby says, “What happens with kids is you want to protect them, and you can’t figure out how to do it” (12). She lies and says she is 16. Maybe she was lucky the lie only saddens Mr. Denby. He has three daughters and says, “Someday one of them will go into a restaurant and lie to a man about how old she is” (14). That “to a man” is a recognition that Beverly could easily be in danger. In Wein’s The Pearl Thief, Julie, who is in a safer situation than Beverly, lies about her age and a man assaults her. But that’s a YA book, and I’m not sure that must happen for a book to be credible. The threat is not unacknowledged by DiCamillo. A man pinches Beverly’s butt, of which Freddie says enablingly, “if you don’t complain about him, he tips more” (75). Jerome twice makes insinuations about Beverly in Mr. Denby’s office, crooning “Have a good time in the office with Mr. Denby” (77) and winkingly, “Why don’t you sit down beside him and help him count out all his money?” (98).

    I guess I am with Mary Zdrojewski in thinking this actually is “more realistic” and “less of a fairy tale” than we might be giving DiCamillo credit for, perhaps because her “distinctive, quirky style” is still in play, making it seem like her usual larger-than-life, Coen brothers-ish fare.

    (Later Beverly claims to be 18, and the response is to ask for ID (61). Seems reasonable. Later still, she truthfully gives her age, to which Elmer responds, “right” (121). Does he not believe her?)

    • Leonard Kim says:

      One other thing about danger: Beverly is 5’9” and when she says she “would have beat the crap out of” Jerome, she must have been at least somewhat credible, because Elmer’s response isn’t to laugh at her but seemingly take her statement at face value (159). When Beverly meets Iola, an arthritic old woman who looks like a baby owl, the question isn’t whether Iola is dangerous, but whether Beverly is. “I could be a criminal,” Beverly says (32). Beverly twice steals in the book, minor things to be sure, but also considers stealing Iola’s car, “She had the keys to the car. She could take the Pontiac and go. She could become a proper criminal—a car thief. Iola probably wouldn’t even turn her in” (62-63). Tommy and Maureen have every reason to be worried about Iola “letting strangers come into your house and live with you” (222).

      There’s no doubt bad things can happen to a 14-year-old on their own, even a Beverly. And suspension of disbelief is necessary in any Kate DiCamillo book. I am just questioning whether the level of suspension actually needed for this book rises to the level of weakness.

      • Courtney Hague says:

        Thank you for articulating what I could not, Leonard. I feel like DiCamillo subtly acknowledges that this could be (and maybe is) a dangerous situation for Beverly but, as luck would have it, she has stumbled into just the right combination to people. I believe, like I have said before, that DiCamillo’s books (and especially the Three Rancheros books) are like fairy tales in that they are highly stylized and stuffed full of symbolism.

      • I agree heartily!

      • Sorry, to be clear, I agree heartily with Leonard’s points.

    • I found this very interesting… I think the age thing is DiCamillo’s way of telling the reader that Beverly is very attractive. Leonard shared some great examples that show this. Mr. Denby doesn’t exactly call her out on lying to him about her age which tells me it’s at least plausible that she could pass as 16. Elmer laughs when she tells him her real age which tells me she looks older. The customer in the restaurant probably wouldn’t pinch a 12-14 year old on the butt so that tells me she looks older than she is. And I get the sense that Freddie feels threatened a bit by Beverly when she first arrives. Because of her looks?

      So what is DiCamillo saying about this? Is that why she has a relatively easy time running away? Because she’s attractive? I also found it interesting that in contrast, so many other characters are NOT described in an attractive way. Mr. Denby is overweight. Freddie’s boyfriend is a jerk. Elmer’s face is covered in pimples. Iola is a bit eccentric.

      Just another layer to this story that I observed but couldn’t always put my finger on what I was observing or why… I guess I’m feeling like Tamara up above in that I’m still searching for the WHY in this story. Seems like I’m missing something.

      • Leonard Kim says:

        Jordan, I think it comes back to what Rachel quoted, “princesses and beauty contests and her mother and lies” as well as my own comments about mothers below. Beverly’s looks are what link her to her mother, a former beauty queen. Freddie thinks being a Living Darlene/underwear model is her ticket out of waitressing towards a destiny of being famous. She thinks Beverly should have the same aspirations. But that was Beverly’s mother’s path and that is one Beverly’s main struggles in this book.

  18. Leonard Kim says:

    On flat mothers:

    Maybe Beverly’s mother doesn’t get a lot of ink. But I think her characterization, rendered purely through dialogue and action, shows DiCamillo’s typical mastery (18-19) (82) and is one of several effective quick sketches of mothers.

    Immediately after Beverly’s flashback to her own mother shouting, “Get on the horse,” DiCamillo gives us another mother shouting “get on the horse” to her daughter, even more cruelly, because Vera unlike Beverly wants to ride. I am in awe of DiCamillo’s ability to show character through simple dialogue and action. Vera, has 13 words, 6 of which are “horsie” and still I know exactly her emotional arc, as if ripped from life (83-85).

    We’d talked about Robbie’s and Beverly’s interaction at the beach, but there is a mother there too. She waves when Robbie points her out. She doesn’t shout when Robbie doesn’t want to leave, instead saying, “You can come back tomorrow,” and “Everything will be right here.” She says thanks to Beverly (144-145). Just from that, I feel like I know this mother, very different from Vera’s and Beverly’s: a mother who conspires with other grown-ups to lie to children (which is why she thanks Beverly), the kind of mother who reflexively says, “Sit down, Robbie” and “Don’t be rude, Robbie” (238-239), and is never shown shouting, so that, unlike Vera’s or Beverly’s, she is a mother who, “When she gets really mad—then I’m afraid of her.”

    And there’s the mother who keeps saying, “Isn’t this fun, Johnny?” but then, “Stop that” to Mrs. Deely when she pats Johnny on the head (154-155). So little shown, and yet a completely different feeling mother.

    And there’s Elmer’s mother, of whom little is said, but you get the sense of her just from Elmer saying, “they’re really glad that I get to go away to school. But my mother cries about it all the time, too” (171) and “Someday, it will clear up. That’s what my mother says. No one has acne on their face for their whole life, right?” (191). And you get the sense that it’s because he has that mother that Elmer wants to believe Beverly’s mother “pays more attention to you than you think,” though he doesn’t know her and is, I think, probably wrong.

    I think one of the book’s themes is a fairly ubiquitous one: are your parents your destiny? Beverly’s mom, a beauty queen who “had a job my whole life, and you can see how much good it’s done me” (19), was basically Freddie. Freddie doesn’t know Beverly’s mom, but what she wants for herself and her attitude towards job and looks and life and men, is what Rhonda’s must have been, and what Freddie sees in Beverly. Joe equates Beverly with her mother in chapter 1, and Beverly pushes back against that throughout the book. Near the beginning, she refuses to acknowledge she has kin (23), she gets mad when Elmer draws a picture that shows “That is really how you look. Beautiful, like that” (219), and at the end, when Tommy challenges her, “Who are you? Huh?” Beverly goes through a silent litany that does not include her mother (223-224). I agree with Tamara that the book’s end doesn’t give much hope. Though Beverly wants things to change, though she rejects Freddie (who calls her a traitor) for Charles and Doris, though she finds an Elmer (and I agree with Alissa that she gets uncharacteristically goofy over him) and not a Jerome who “reminded Beverly of her mother’s boyfriends” (77), she will still leave without having clearly escaped her destiny. Maybe that’s why the ending might feel unsatisfying and abrupt, though I loved it. I am going to get super pretentious and suggest the ending is like the freeze frame that ends the movie, The 400 Blows. When I googled it just now, the top hit explains: “The end of The 400 Blows is a resolution, but it’s not the one that you’re supposed to get from a coming-of-age story. A coming-of-age story is supposed to chart the passage to adulthood, and this story just ends. If you say that the end point of a coming-of-age story is supposed to be “Now you’re a man or woman”

    http://screenprism.com/insights/article/ask-t-professor-why-does-400-blows-end-on-a-freeze-frame-what-was-influenti

    Similarly, this book doesn’t allow us to know Beverly’s future, if it is her mother’s. I am OK with that. She’s just 14. As Tamara says, in the end, she’s just [insert book title].

  19. I’d also like to argue that the “flat” feeling we get when Beverly’s mom in the writing reflects how Beverly is feeling about her mom– I think this intentionally done by the author and quite effective.

  20. I have to say that I do not believe this book has children in mind. I think that DiCamillo is obviously a talented writer, but even the highlighted prose in this post made me roll my eyes a bit. It was all so intentionally beautiful (as opposed to effortlessly so…) The Newbery committee, as noted, is not concerned with the popularity of a title. However, if those of us whose job it is to put books into the hands of children are not able to find hands to put a book into… then what is the point of that book? For a committee of adults to fawn over it and award it prizes and then for it to collect dust on the shelf at the library?

  21. Steven Engelfried Steven Engelfried says:

    We’re now closing comments on our HM discussions, as balloting by the HM Committee is underway. Look for new discussions in the January 23rd post as members re-discuss contending titles.