When our oldest first learned to navigate the library by himself, he started with three sections: the Star Wars easy readers, the Boxcar Children series, and the shelves filled with books by Kate DiCamillo. I heard her on the All the Wonders podcast in April and spent the bulk of the podcast nodding along, writing down book recommendations, and feeling surprisingly weepy at some of the things she had to say about books and reading. Then, as always happens, I learned even more to admire about her when I sat down to write about why I love Kate DiCamillo.
About the Author
Kate DiCamillo describes herself as short and loud. She grew up in Florida and lives in Minnesota. If you’re thinking there’s a big difference in the climates and cultures of Florida and Minnesota, you’d be right. In fact, Because of Winn-Dixie began as a way for her to cope with missing Florida one particularly cold winter. She is one of only 6 authors to have won two Newberry medals. She is a huge advocate for children and children’s literature, both on her own and as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature from 2014-2015 and the 2016 National Summer Reading Champion. (Click on that last link for her 2016 summer reading list and top 10 reasons to read this summer–both are great.)
About the Books
The first of her books published was Because of Winn-Dixie, which was published in 2000. (Which is crazy to me. It feels like a children’s classic.) It was a Newberry honor book in 2001 (Yes, that’s in addition to her two Newberry wins), and adapted into a movie in 2005. She writes books for young children all the way up to young adults. They range from goofy to fantastical to realistic; her range is one of the things I enjoy most about her writing. Most of her books feature animals, either as main or supporting characters. She describes herself as a dog lover who can’t have a dog in her apartment, which is one reason she writes about them.
The very first audiobook I ever borrowed from the library for my children was The Tale of Despereaux. To be fair, it was way over their heads. (They were 4 and 1 at the time.) Since then, we’ve read just about everything she’s published. Specifically, we’re huge fans of Mercy Watson (the pig who loves buttered toast). When it comes to our very favorite Kate DiCamillo book, however, there is really no competition. Of all the books we’ve read together in school (by any author), Flora and Ulysses is definitely in the top 3 books we all adored. Our third grader listened to the audiobook first, and enjoyed it so much that he requested we read it in school. After we read the book (which is definitely worth reading in print–the illustrations are a huge part of the story), he listened to it again. The only other book he’s consumed that eagerly is War Horse.
I’ve admired Kate DiCamillo’s work for years now, but it was listening to her speak passionately about books and libraries that really sealed the deal. You can learn more about her on her website.