The incomparable Kate DiCamillo offers a charming fable of a girl, a monk and a goat, a tale that testifies to the power of love (as so many of her books are) and the power of the written word. to change the world for the better.
DiCamillo situates his tale with medieval flavors in “times of war”, skillfully bringing his characters to life, whether they are animals or humans, with his efficient and luminous prose. She begins: “Answelica was a goat with teeth that mirrored her soul – tall, sharp, and uncompromising.”
Brother Edik, a benevolent soul with a twisted and capricious eye, finds a feverish, bloody and dirty girl, curled up asleep holding the goat’s ear firmly in the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrows monastery. The girl is Beatryce; alarmingly, Beatryce can read – it is illegal for a girl or a woman to read and write – but she cannot remember how she came to escape to the monastery.
When a soldier arrives at a local inn and requests that a monk be sent to write his confession, the monastery sends Beatryce, her hair cropped, hoping to get rid of her. Meanwhile, the king searches for the girl named in a prophecy stating that a child will overthrow the king.
Among the memorable characters Beatryce befriends are Cannoc, a bearded old man who loves to laugh, and Jack Dory, an orphan who is “a fleet of feet, a prodigious memory and a great impersonator.” The villains of the tale – the king, the soldier, the king’s adviser, a thief – are left unnamed in the tale.