At the risk of sounding dangerously cliche, 2020 was quite a year to say the least. Fortunately, for everything else that happened, the world still turned and so did the pages of books. Let me tell you, there were some good books that crossed my path in 2020. So just the same as last year, I’ll be starting a round-up of my top ten reads of 2020, breaking down what each book is about and why it made the top ten out of everything else I read last year. It’s going to be a good time and you might just find something you want to read!
I can’t think of any better place to start than with one of my favorite authors, Kate DiCamillo, and her beautiful book Beverly, Right Here. This was one of the first books I read in 2020. It immediately earned a spot in the top ten and held it all the way through a year that felt like it had at least sixteen months in it instead of the customary twelve. That’s some staying power.
What’s the Book?
Beverly, Right Here is the spunky, melancholy conclusion to DiCamillo’s charming Three Rancheros trilogy that follows a group of young girls growing up in 1970s Florida. In it, fourteen-year-old Beverly Tapinski has decided she’s had enough. Her father left her behind long ago, one of her friends has moved away, her mother only thinks of herself, and, to cap it all off, her beloved dog Buddy has just died. Nothing serves as a catalyst for departure in a fourteen-year-old’s life quite like the death of a beloved dog.
Beverly runs away once more, but this time with finality set in her heart. Determined to make this time count, she makes her way to a small seaside town and in no time at all begins to build a life befitting her spunky independence. Still, no matter how hard she tries, people still creep into her life and are determined to draw her out of herself. Whether it’s the flustered owner of the restaurant she works at, the elderly woman who gives her a place to live in exchange for driving her to bingo, or the caustic, teenage cashier with a surprising penchant for art history, Beverly still finds herself caring about the people in her world despite all her best judgments. In time Beverly begins to realize that she’s not running from a place. She’s running from herself.
Why It’s a Top Ten
What sets Beverly, Right Here apart from the first two installments is the extra note of seriousness in Beverly Tapinski’s life. Yes, her other two friends have both faced adversity and loss in the course of their own adventures. In Raymie Nightengale, Raymie struggles with her father’s abandonment and what her life and family will look like moving forward. In Louisiana’s Way Home, the erstwhile Louisiana Elefante grapples with being forced to leave her home and finding out what makes a place truly home. What’s more, both Raymie and Louisiana share a similar approach in that they simply take life as it comes to them and are quick to believe in the goodness of others.
Beverly does not have that same affability. At only fourteen, her walls are already up and her bitterness for the world is on display for all to see. She doesn’t have anyone to genuinely look after her as a mentor or parent figure and the hurt of that lack is shown in her permanently guarded personality. Even those who do try to care for her are usually thrust away per Beverly’s general mistrust of others. Sometimes you want to shake Beverly and show her the error of her ways. Sometimes you cringe because you’ve been guilty of the same mistakes. Beverly is painfully human and relatable and that familiarity makes her jump off the page and confront the reader face to face.
It’s the strong character of Beverly colliding with the sweet and simple world of Kate Dicamillo’s work that gives this book such a punch. Where a lot of authors may hold back, DiCamillo’s signature style trusts children to wrestle with the big unanswerable topics that we all struggle with. In Beverly, we see a frustrated, bitter girl, but we also recognize the loneliness and hope that she can’t quite rid herself of. And through DiCamillo’s pages, it’s all ok. It’s ok to be a little broken and a little lost as long as you keep moving forward.
I genuinely believe you can never go wrong with a Kate DiCamillo book and Beverly, Right Here is certainly no exception. DiCamillo tells a story that’s achingly familiar to so many even if our young hero’s circumstances are vastly different than our own. Even parts solemn, comical, poetic, and simple. Beverly, Right Here is a children’s book with some genuine staying power.