Beverly Tapinski, the sharp-edged friend of Raymie Nightingale, overcomes a rough upbringing in the final volume of DiCamillo’s series.
Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick, 2019, 241 pages
Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12
Recommended for: ages 12-15
When her cousin shows up to visit his mom, with a red Camarro, Beverly Tapinsky hitches a ride to wherever he’s going. That happens to be Tamaray Beach, Florida. Why not? Since she buried her beloved dog Buddy, and her best friend Louisiana moved away, and her other best friend Raymie has other things to think about, not much is holding her. Certainly not her mom. One place is as good as another, so after getting out of her cousin’s car she walks to the nearest place of business (a seafood restaurant), lies about her age (she’s 14), and gets a job, just like that. This is the 1970s, so maybe employers were more lax about the paperwork then, but Mr. Denby the restaurant owner is always promising to get around to it. Next, fate leads her to the nearest trailer park and Mrs. Iola Jenkins, who could use a driver for her Pontiac—as well as a little company. Will Iola, the ocean, the blue blue sky, and the pimply-faced boy she meets at Zoom City be enough to soften Beverly’s hard heart?
Readers of the series that began with Raymie Nightingale and followed up with Louisiana’s Way Home should be able to guess the answer, but they’ll be interested in the development. Beverly has matured some from the 10-year-old she was in the first book, but her disposition is as sharp as ever. Her defenses are up, meaning she’s hard to like. But there’s a responsive, redeemable person under the hard shell. As in the other two books, connection is an important theme: “People wait on other people,” Iola reminds her. “People rely on other people.” Also, transcendence: everyone has an “in,” some door within that opens to a broader, spiritual, world. Beverly finds both connection and transcendence, making her journey worthwhile.
- Beverly’s mom is truly selfish—almost unbelievably so. But, much as we don’t like to admit it, such moms exist.
- Beverly lies about her age to get a job and drives without a permit. This might be a good opportunity to discuss why we have driving and child labor laws.
Overall rating: 4 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 3.75
- Artistic/literary value: 4.5
Another girl has to readjust her life with a new family in Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel, by Kimberly Willis Holt. For more books by Kate DiCamillo, see our reviews of the Mercy Watson series, the Bink and Gollie series (both Chapter books), Leroy Ninker Saddles Up (picture book) and the Newbery winner Flora and Ulysses.