Prather’s Pick: A crooked little house
Over the years Kate DiCamillo has written memorable novels for young adults — but which adults also enjoy — such as “The Tale of Despereaux” and “Because of Winn-Dixie.” More recently she has written three novels that introduced the characters of Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly. “Beverly, Right Here” is the most recent of the three novels, the story of Beverly Tapinski. It is this week’s featured book.
As the novel begins, 14-year-old Beverly has just buried Buddy, her dog and best friend, under some orange trees. Then she decides to leave — not that she hasn’t left home before — but this time for good. She hitches a ride with her 19-year-old cousin, Joe Travis. When they get to the city limits of Tamary Beach, Beverly asks Joe to let her out.
Beverly walks along until she finds a sign with a pink seahorse on it. Also on the sign are the words “Seahorse Court. An RV Community.” After the court there’s a motel called Seaside and a restaurant called Mr. C’s. Beverly needs a job so she walks right into the restaurant and talks to the owner, who says they need somebody to bus tables. Just like that she has a job.
Mr. C’s is known for its fish. Several other people work there; Doris is the cook, Charles washes dishes, and Freddie is the waitress.
After the restaurant, Beverly stops at a phone booth to call her mother. She lets her mother know she’s OK, but as usual the talk with her mother is unsatisfying. While she is in the phone booth, Beverly notices the words “In a crooked little house by a crooked little sea” scratched in the glass. Beverly likes the words. From this point on, Beverly thinks about the words — a lot.
After the phone call, Beverly walks back to Seahorse Court. She finds a woman watering her flowers out in front of a pink trailer. Her name is Iola Jenkins, and after they chat Iola invites her inside for a tuna melt sandwich. They climb up some crooked stairs. “In a crooked little house…”
Iola has a son who has made his mother sign a paper that she will not drive her rather large Pontiac car. Beverly knows how to drive — even though she is only 14 — and she shows Iola that she can, too. In the end, Iola agrees to let Beverly stay with her if the girl will drive her to the VFW to play bingo and to the grocery store.
Also in the area is Zoom City, a convenient store with a mechanical horse outside. For a dime, kids can get a little ride on the horse. A 16-year-old boy named Elmer works there, and it isn’t long until he and Beverly meet up.
Beverly has a mother who cares only for herself. Beverly’s father has been gone since she was 7. She had a dog, but now he’s dead. She has two friends, Raymie who is still in Lister and Louisiana who moved to Georgia. Now Beverly lives with Iola who waits for her to come home, makes tuna melts for her, and ensures her everything will be fine.
Besides that, Beverly is becoming part of an extended family. The reader can feel the warmth and companionship of all involved as Beverly finds out about herself.
Kate DiCamillo is a superb writer who has received two Newbery Awards and a Newbery Honor, plus other honors.
This week’s novel for young adults is published by Candlewick Press (2019). The book costs $16.99 in hardcover. You can also find it at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries.