Kate DiCamillo’s books came out after I was already an adult is a generation after me, so I didn’t have the pleasure of having that childlike excitement of reading them when I was young. Still, thanks to the suggestion of my young friend Lucy, I picked up copies of several titles on her assurance that I would LOVE them.
This week, I decided I would start with The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and I was immediately swept up. A journey. Children who adore a toy, although Edward probably wouldn’t like being called a toy. A sadness . . . all things I adore.
Trusting Children with the Full Truth
Even as a child, I was not a fan of books – or people for that matter – who tried to shelter children. As early as I can remember, I knew my mother had battled cancer and would probably die of that disease, probably earlier than she should. I walked around with the knowledge of that for every day of my childhood, and for many, many years I was terrified to leave her side.
So I wanted stories that showed big feelings, that trusted me to be able to handle it, that mirrored back to me deep pains and honest struggles. That is the most central reason I adored The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. The book isn’t afraid to go to hard, painful places, and it’s not afraid to celebrate in wild joy, too.
Plus, the characters – even in the short chapters of the novel – are rich and complex, imperfect but – for the most part – lovable. And of course, their lovableness is the point of the book. (Don’t worry. No spoilers here.)
A Writer’s Eye View
In this book, DiCamillo grounds us firmly in the realities of Edward’s life. She sets the scene. She establishes his character, and she sets the central theme of the book in motion – all with great storytelling and just the right amount of detail.
Then, she disrupts all that she’s laid out by taking Edward on a journey – a quest with just a taste of magic – where the stakes keep on rising and where Edward’s character is tested and tried and deepened with every stage of the journey.
Not every moment is beautiful, but not every moment is stark either. But each step of Edward’s expedition works to serve the larger purpose of the story, and while we can see how the theme is being worked out, the book isn’t pedantic or preachy. It feels real and honest as it walks through the brokenness and the beauty of life.
Her chapters are short, as is appropriate for her intended audience, and the illustrations provide the description that a book for readers of this age can’t always get away with in words.
If you enjoy a great journey story, if you appreciate stories that teach lessons with truth and not preaching, if you are looking for a model of how to build to a climax without being gimmicky, if you loved The Velveteen Rabbit, then this book is for you.
Definitely grab this book if you love a contemporary children’s classic that tells the truth of life, if you find this quote by G. K. Chesterton to be powerful:
Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.
You can get your copy here:
Let me know how you like it?
For a LIMITED TIME, my YA novel, Steele Secrets, is one sale for just $0.99. Mary Steele is your typical teenager bookworm. Until today, she told her mom everything, but after she meets Moses, the ghost of enslaved man, she suddenly has a secret. She’s not the only one.
This young adult, supernatural novel has heart and oomph. If you like small town intrigue, the mysteries of history, and spunky female narrators, Steele Secrets won’t disappoint.
You can get your copy at:
And stay tuned for the sequel, Charlotte and the Twelve, coming this November.