Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem
by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Candlewick Press, 2020, 96 pages
My young readers have always loved Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson and her Tales from Deckawoo Drive series. And now I’m excited at the possibility of being about to share the latest Deckawoo tale with them. Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem is the fifth volume in the series and I know my kids are already excited about it, thanks to Zoom meetings. I haven’t read it to them (copyright laws), but this is pretty much what I have told them about it:
It’s Stella’s first day of second grade and it just so happens that her new teacher, Tamar Calliope Liliana, loves the same things Stella loves – ‘listening closely, speaking softly, and singing loudly.’ Second grade is definitely on course to be wonderful. Well, except for Horace Broom, the class know-it-all, who naturally knows the definition of metaphor when Ms. Liliana asks if the class knows what a metaphor is before assigning them homework – to write a poem with a metaphor in it. That ought to be easy, Stella thinks, especially since Ms. Liliana also agrees with Baby Lincoln – that anything is possible in stories and in poems, too.
But writing a poem that includes a metaphor AND the idea of that anything is possible isn’t as easy as Stella thought it would. Needing some moral support and inspiration, Stella heads over to visit Mercy Watson and sure enough, she comes up with a lovely poem that includes Mercy.
The next day, proud of what she has written, Stella mistakenly lets Horace read her poem but when he comes to the part where Mercy is sitting on the couch, he insists that pigs do not do that, that it is not possible, that pigs live on farms. But Stella stands her ground and insists that Mercy lives in a house and sits on the couch – all the time. No longer ‘speaking softly,’ Ms. Liliana sends Stella and Horace to Mr. Tinwiddie, the principal, and it is a trip from classroom to principal’s office like no other. But by the end of their adventure, Stella and Horace have become friends, and have learned to respect their differences, and look at things from the other’s point of view. My young readers are just going to have to wait to find out what adventures Stella and Horace have on their to Mr. Tinwiddie’s office.
Stella’s story, like all the Deckawoo tales, is just charming. DiCamillo has taken something a simple as a poem and a walk to the principal’s office to highlight Stella and Horace’s different and opposite personalities, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, and has shown us how adversaries can learn to use them to help each other and even forge a friendship.
I’ve read the Mercy Watson and the Deckawoo tales to a lot of kids and one of the things they really like about them are the recurring characters, and not only that, but the characters are always consistently who the kids expect them to be, in both the action of the story and the illustrations. And kids like that – it’s familiar and comfortable and feels like they are seeing old friends each time they visit and revisit Deckawoo Drive. And yet each story is refreshingly new and has a gentle lesson that even my youngest readers can grasp. And Stella Endicott and the Anything-Is-Possible Poem is no different.
And luckily, there is a treasure trove of Tales from Deckawoo Drive. Have you read them all?
This book is recommended for readers age 6+, but 5-year-olds like it, too.