"I think of myself as an enormously lucky person," says Kate DiCamillo. "I get to tell stories for a living."
The devoted readers of this beloved Newbery Medalist and multiple NEW YORK TIMES best-selling author feel pretty lucky, too.
Where do Kate DiCamillo’s unforgettable stories come from? "I am tempted to say THE MAGICIAN'S ELEPHANT fell right directly into my lap, much like the elephant landed in the lap of Madam LaVaughn," she says of her latest novel, a haunting illustrated fable. "I was in a hotel lobby in New York City, waiting to meet a friend, and the first lines of a story came to me. I couldn’t imagine how it was going to work out, so I just kept writing and hoping and believing in the story."
It helped, no doubt, that the author felt so connected to the story’s characters. "I can see myself in each of them," she says. "Bartok Whynn’s propensity to laugh, Adele’s ability to wait and believe, Sister Marie’s sense of wonder and hope, Peter’s desperate need for things to change, Leo Matienne’s constant, hopeful questions . . . they are all me."
While each of her writing experiences is unique, "this book, these characters, undid me, just opened up my heart in a totally new way," the author says. Her hope is that readers will be drawn in as well; "that when they are done they will be more inclined to hope and believe in the impossible."
The theme of hope and belief amid impossible circumstances is a common thread in much of Kate DiCamilllo’s writing. In her instant #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestseller, THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE, a haughty china rabbit undergoes a profound transformation after finding himself face-down on the ocean floor -- lost, and waiting to be found. THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX -- the Newbery Medal-winning novel that later inspired an animated adventure from Universal Pictures -- stars a tiny mouse with exceptionally large ears who is driven by love to become an unlikely hero.
Kate DiCamillo’s own journey is something of a dream come true. After moving to Minnesota from Florida in her twenties, homesickness and a bitter winter helped inspire BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE -- her very first published novel, which, remarkably, became a runaway bestseller and snapped up a Newbery Honor. "After the Newbery committee called me, I spent the whole day walking into walls," she says. "I was stunned. And very, very happy."
Her second novel, THE TIGER RISING, went on to become a National Book Award Finalist. And since then, the master storyteller has written for a wide range of ages, including a comical early-chapter-book series about Mercy Watson (a "porcine wonder" with an obsession for buttered toast), as well as a luminous holiday picture book, GREAT JOY.
Born in Philadelphia, the author lives in Minneapolis, where she faithfully writes two pages a day, five days a week. "E. B. White said, 'All that I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world,’ " Kate DiCamillo reports. "And that’s the way I feel, too."