Wednesday, March 11, 2015


In 2014 the John Newberry Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American Literature for Children was awarded to Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. Miss DiCamillo began her acceptance speech with a word that she discovered in William Maxwell's short story,The Thistles in Sweden capacious. 

Capacious:adjective |ca•pa•cious | \kə-ˈpā-shəs\ able to hold or contain a lot : large in capacity 

Before Miss DiCamillo's speech, I don't recall ever hearing the word capacious, but after hearing it, in the way Miss DiCamillo presented it, I wanted to know that word. I wanted to pick it up and examine it from all angles. I wanted to know how it fit into Mr. Maxwell's The Thistles in Sweden. I wanted to experience capaciousness. 

I love that it was the last line in the short story that made Miss DiCamillo feel "surprise, gratitude, and joy." The last line from The Thistles in Sweden“…and I think that if it is true that we are all in the hand of God, what a capacious hand it must be.” made her feel capacious; "more open more capable of seeing the wonders of this world." It connected with something deep within her, spurring her to creativity.

I have listened to Miss DiCamillo's speech many times and each time it speaks to me as strongly as it did the first time I heard it. Miss DiCamillo does a perfect job of encapsulating exactly how I feel about books and writing. She proves that it isn't just the first line of a story that can change the reader, but every line, even the last one. She shares how she has always felt something inside her, but until she read the last line of that short story, she did not know what it was. However once she discovered the word it became a part of her, "(I) carried the word capacious around with me like a pebble in my pocket... ...saving the word for something. I didn't know what." In 2009, she discovered what her word was intended for and that "what" became her award winning book, Flora and Ulysses. Wouldn't it be wonderful to create words that give each child something to carry around like pebbles in their pockets? Words that lift them up and help them feel joy at the reading of those words. Wouldn't it be wonderful to help them feel capacious?

The word capacious inspired Kate DiCamillo to write a book that won her the Newberry award. Her passion for that word inspired me to read Flora and Ulysses and The Thistles in Sweden. It all happened because of one word, capacious.

Do words lead you to joy? Do you have one that has transformed you? Has it ever made you feel more capable?

Check out Kate DiCamillo's 2014 John Newberry Speech. 

May you also find your one perfect word.


Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

That is really inspiring. Now I'm going to be trying to think of a word that I can carry with me.

~Sia McKye~ said...

There are words that fascinate me because of their meaning. Sometimes seeing that meaning in a different light--how it's applied or how it can be inspirational to someone.

Yes, giving words to young ones as a pebble to carry around in the pocket with the view of future achievements is invalueable. Funny thing is few people telling a story set out to do that--inspire. They're simply telling a story. The world they create and people affect others in various ways, including inspiring the reader to be different, to try something new with confidence.

Interesting post, Jenn.

Sia McKye Over Coffee

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

One word that captivated and motivated her - wow. And in the hand of God. That's powerful.

LD Masterson said...

Finding a word that not only inspired but tied to God...what a marvelous gift. I need to open myself to that kind of word.

cleemckenzie said...

From the seed comes the rose. Beautiful post and very inspiring.

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