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Friday, March 9, 2012

Spotlight on Kate DiCamillo: Author

One of my new favorite authors is Kate DiCamillo.  My appreciation of her work started about two years ago when I first read Because of Winn-Dixie, and then grew last fall when I read The Tale of Despereaux to my boys.  Recently, I headed to the library and came home with an armload of DiCamillo books.  I have now read and enjoyed them all... and am eagerly awaiting her next creation!
DiCamillo has written books for children of all ages.  She has created two picture books so far.  The first is Great Joy (2007), which I have not seen yet (someone else checked it out before I got to it).

The second is Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken, illustrated by Harry Bliss, 2008... 

Louise, an intrepid chicken, longs for adventure.  She leaves her home, venturing out into the wide world.  There she encounters pirates, circus performers, and a mysterious stranger.  Louise learns that, while adventures can be exciting, they can also help you appreciate the warmth and safety of home.

I enjoyed the subtle (and the not-so-subtle) humor in the story and illustrations.  (I also got a chuckle out of the character idea of a chicken who's not "chicken".)

DiCamillo has also written several early reader chapter books.  The first of these was Mercy Watson to the Rescue, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, 2005...   

Mercy is a pampered pet pig who loves buttered toast more than anything else.  When she climbs into bed with the Watsons one night, the overloaded bed begins to fall through the floor and it's Mercy to the rescue!  (Well, sort of....)  Kids and parents alike will be entertained by this amusing story and its hilarious illustrations!

An entire series has now been dedicated to Mercy, the porcine wonder, including Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride (2006), Mercy Watson Fights Crime (2006), Mercy Watson: Princess in Disguise (2007), Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig (2008), and Mercy Watson: Something Wonky This Way Comes (2009).  I haven't had a chance to read these books yet, but hope to look for them on my next trip to the library.

Another Early Reader chapter book by DiCamillo is Bink & Gollie, co-written with Alison McGhee and illustrated by Tony Fucile, 2010...

A story about the friendship between two very different (and headstrong) girls, this book made me laugh out loud!  (My family thought I was a little crazy... until they read it, too.)  I think part of the reason that I enjoyed it so much is that Bink and Gollie really reminded me of my own kids, especially the way that they talk to each other.  I also love Fucile's charming drawings, as well as the zany predicaments the two girls find themselves in.

A new Bink & Gollie book, Two for One, is set to come out this June.  I can't wait!

DiCamillo has also written several middle grade novels:

Because of Winn-Dixie, 2000...  I talked about this wonderful book in a previous post.

The Tiger Rising, 2001...
Twelve-year-old Rob Horton feels lost and alone in the world.  His mother recently passed away, he and his father moved to a new home, and the other kids at school either ignore him or bully him.  Then Rob finds a tiger in the woods and everything changes.

This book is filled with sadness, but some hopefulness shines through, as well.  I found it to be a poignant story.

The Tale of Despereaux, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering, 2003...
Despereaux the mouse loves music, stories, and the human princess called Pea.  Roscuro the rat lives in darkness and longs for light.  Miggery Sow is a slow-witted girl who wishes to be a princess.  When these three lives become intertwined, it creates an endearing story you won't soon forget.

My daughter Emmalie read this book many years ago.  She loved it, and recommended it to me.  I finally got around to reading it last fall.  Almost as soon as I'd finished it, I began re-reading it -- only this time out loud, to my boys. (They loved it, too.)  It is my favorite of all the DiCamillo books I've read so far, and one I imagine I will want to read over and over again.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline, 2006...
Edward Tulane is a self-absorbed china rabbit, belonging to a young girl, Abilene, who adores him.  One day he is lost at sea, and his unusual journey begins.  As he moves from place to place, encountering people from all walks of life, Edward slowly learns about love and the things that truly matter in life.  I found it to be a touching, thought-provoking book.

The Magician's Elephant, illustrated by Yoko Tanaka, 2009...
Peter, an orphan, has been told that his young sister is dead.  But when he meets a fortuneteller who insists that Adele is alive -- and that an elephant will lead him to her -- he wants to believe it is true.  This is a magical tale, a fable that asks "what if?"

For more information about this talented author and her creations, check out the Kate DiCamillo website.  There is also a Mercy Watson website that includes fun games for kids, a letter from DiCamillo, and a section for parents and teachers.  And don't forget to look for DiCamillo's work at your library and bookstore!

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