It's a pipe dream of many an aspiring author: publish your debut novel, claim a spot on the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller list, and rack up an astonishing array of awards, including a Newbery Honor. For Kate DiCamillo it was a dream-come true - and nobody could have been more surprised than she was. "After the Newbery committee called me, I spent the whole day walking into walls. Literally," she says. "I was stunned. And very, very happy." And it gets better: just three years later, Kate DiCamillo would receive another, even more stunning call from the Newbery committee.
Kate DiCamillo was born in Philadelphia and moved with her family to Florida when she was five years old. "People talked more slowly and said words I had never heard before, like 'ain't' and 'y'all' and 'ma'am,' " she says, recalling her first impressions. "It was all so different from what I had known before, and I fell swiftly and madly in love." In her twenties, Kate DiCamillo moved to Minnesota, where the long winter helped inspire BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE. "One night before I went to sleep, I heard this little girl's voice with a Southern accent say, "I have a dog named Winn-Dixie." I just started writing down what India Opal Buloni was telling me."
Kate DiCamillo credits a friend's son for inspiring the story that earned her the coveted 2004 Newbery Medal, THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX: BEING THE STORY OF A MOUSE, A PRINCESS, SOME SOUP, AND A SPOOL OF THREAD. She recalls, "My best friend's son asked me if I would write a story for him. 'Well,' I said, 'I don't normally write stories on command.' 'But this is a story that I know you would want to tell,' he said. 'It's about an unlikely hero. He has exceptionally large ears.' 'What happens to this hero?' I asked. 'I don't know,' he said. 'That's why I want you to write it down, so you can find out.' "
Readers can look forward to meeting another "unlikely hero" when a china rabbit named Edward Tulane sets out to find his way home in THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE. "One Christmas, I received an elegantly dressed toy rabbit as a gift," the author explains. "I brought him home, placed him on a chair in my living room, and promptly forgot about him. A few days later, I dreamed that the rabbit was face-down on the ocean floor - lost, and waiting to be found. In telling THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE, I was lost for a good long while, too. And then, finally, like Edward, I was found."
After successfully spinning tales for middle-graders, Kate DiCamillo turned her talents to creating stories for early chapter-book readers. Lovable pig Mercy Watson wiggled her way into the hearts of many in MERCY WATSON TO THE RESCUE, the first of six stories about this "porcine wonder." "Mercy Watson had been in my head for a long time, but I couldn't figure out how to tell her story." says the author. "One day, my friend Alison was going on and on and on about the many virtues of toast. As I listened to her, I could see Mercy nodding in emphatic agreement. Sometimes you don't truly understand a character until you know what she loves above all else."
Kate DiCamillo 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,' " she says. "That's the way I feel too."