Courage and the Power of Words: Kate DiCamillo

“Say it, reader. Say the word ‘quest’ out loud. It is an extraordinary word, isn’t it? So small and yet so full of wonder, so full of hope.”-Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux

I clutched the book in my chubby little hands, grinning widely. Yesterday, my teacher had made it official, giving me access to the ‘big kid’ books. I was cool now. I read chapter books! At the time, it was my crowning achievement. No longer were my books restricted to three lines and a picture- now, I read paragraphs. The world had suddenly grown bigger and broader.

For the remainder of the school year, I found new tales and adventures to join in on- all crafted masterfully by Kate DiCamillo. Even now, more than a decade later, I find myself smiling fondly at the name. DiCamillo was to me a hero and a friend. As a child I had the distinct feeling of being confided in whenever I read her books; as if she was an older aunt come home from some grand adventure, telling me every detail. Rats, squirrels, or little girls; it didn’t matter what the subject matter, her stories never failed to enthrall me.

Around the time I delved into chapter books, DiCamillo had burst into the children’s literature scene with Because of Winn-Dixie, a story of a young girl and her life-changing dog; which later was developed into a film with Anna-Sophia Robb as the main lead. At the time, she had recently graduated with a degree in English and was working long hours at a book warehouse far from home in the bitter cold. The opportunity presented itself in an almost fairy-tale like manner, with her boss noticing her talent and getting her published. In 2003, she published The Tale of Despereaux, which features an adventuring mouse, a princess and a band of evil, kidnapping rats. This went on to win the Newberry Medal in 2004. DiCamillo had established herself as a force in children’s writing.

A decade later, DiCamillo went on to win the medal once again for Flora & Ulysses, a feat rarely accomplished twice. Speaking on the occasion, DiCamillo mentioned, “hands down, the biggest thrill is to get a letter from a kid saying, I loved your book. Will you write me another one?” In the same year, her immense success and talent were recognized as she was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for the years 2014 and 2015.

Certainly, these achievements are fantastic and key. However, the success that DiCamillo has enjoyed has been largely in the form of delighting children all around the world and managing to gain a steadily rising group of friends in the form of readers. She has created a network like no other, connecting a world of librarians, teachers, parents and of course, children.

Kate comments, “Every well-written book is a light for me. When you write, you use other writers and their books as guides in the wilderness.” It is only fitting to say that Kate has illuminated the world, one dreamer at a time.