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31 October 2019 BEVERLY, RIGHT HERE by Kate DiCamillo, Candlewick, September 2019, 256p., ISBN: 978-0-7636-944-7


“If there is a load you have to bear

That you can’t carry

I’m right up the road

I’ll share your load

If you just call me”

-- Bill Withers “Lean on Me” (1972)


"’The person who wrote this actually took the time to see the person she was describing. That's what writing is all about. Seeing. It is the sacred duty of the writer to pay attention, to see the world.’"

--On her website, in talking about the process of writing, Kate DiCamillo recalls her first college expository writing course and what her professor told the class after having read aloud Kate’s assignment submission. 


20 years ago this month, I read an advance reader copy of BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE. Since then, Kate DiCamillo has won two Newbery Medals, a Newbery Honor, and a Boston Globe Horn Book Award. She’s part of the lives of millions of kids and former kids.


During her earlier years of being published, I read her books aloud to my children. Now, I’m beginning to share them with the next generation.. 


And, for the nth time over these 20 years, I’m here to sing the praises of Kate’s latest release, which is another winner. 


BEVERLY, RIGHT HERE contains stellar examples of the author’s ability to observe and describe the world. For instance:


“The office smelled like fish and cigarette smoke. It had a big desk and three metal filing cabinets. The desk was piled high with stacks of paper. There was a fan balanced on one of the stacks.

‘There’s a lot of work to do around here,’ said Mr. Denby. He waved his hand in the general direction of the desk. ‘As you can see.’

Beverly nodded.

‘So I need someone with a good, strong work ethic,’ said Mr. Denby. ‘I need someone who believes in getting things done.’

He reached out and turned on the fan

The top layer of papers blew off the desk.

‘Shoot,’ said Mr. Denby. ‘Do you see what I’m talking about here? He turned the fan off and moved it to the floor. The papers fluttered and sighed. Mr. Denby sat down at the desk. He folded his hands.

‘Sit down,’ he said. He nodded in the direction of an orange plastic chair. Beverly sat down.

Mr. Denby looked at her. ‘Let’s see,’ he said. ‘Have you ever worked in a restaurant before?’

‘No,’ said Beverly.

‘Do you like fish?’

‘Not really,’ said Beverly.

Mr. Denby sighed.”


Set in 1979, BEVERLY, RIGHT HERE is a companion book to RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE and LOUISIANA’S WAY HOME. It begins with fourteen-year-old Beverly Tapinsky, having just buried her beloved dog Buddy under the orange trees out back, running away from home. She ends up in Tamaray Beach and, stumbling across a funky seaside lunch place, seeks a job there at Mr. C’s. She is immediately hired, off-the-books, as the new busser.


A couple of passages caught my attention. They depict contrasting philosophies. The first one involves Beverly and Doris the cook, who is giving Beverly the low-down on getting tipped out by the waitress:


“‘Pay attention to what’s going on,’ said Doris. ‘See what people leave on the table. Know what things cost. Pay attention. Nobody watches out for you in this world.’

‘But you’re watching out for me,’ said Beverly to Doris’s wide, solid back, ‘aren’t you?’

Doris snorted again.”


The second involves Iola, the old woman in the nearby trailer park who impulsively takes Beverly in, totally trusting the teen and giving her free lodging in exchange for Beverly driving her to nightly bingo games at the VFW:


“Beverly stood on the steps, and Iola stood in the doorway.

Somewhere behind them, the ocean was muttering.

‘Don’t wait for me,’ said Beverly. ‘I can’t stand to think about you waiting for me.’

‘I waited,’ said Iola. Her glasses slipped down her nose. She pushed them up with one finger. ‘Just because you can’t stand to think about something don’t mean it ain’t happening, that it ain’t true. People wait on other people. People rely on other people.’”


So which philosophy guides you? Beverly has grown up with a mother who was rarely there for her, so we can see how she might relate to the go-it-alone philosophy. But as Beverly comes to learn, people do need others to lean on, and there are, in fact, generous, caring people in the world who will offer much-needed support, even if you’re a newcomer. 


Here, as is the case in many Kate DiCamillo books, a collage of disparate and colorful characters find solace and meaning as a result of coming together and creating community. They rely upon one another, lean on one another, and care for one another. 


We also meet scoundrels and busybodies who are only in it for themselves and who add tension and comedy to the story.


Raymie, Louisiana, and now Beverly. I sure love this trilogy. I find it notable that these girls, in the late 1970s, are the same age Kate DiCamillo was back then. Do we dare hope that Kate still has more to mine from her adolescent years, and has another in this series up her sleeve?


Richie Partington, MLIS

Richie's Pickshttp://richiespicks.pbworks.com





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