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Raymie Nightingale

Review

Raymie Nightingale

Award-winning author Kate DiCamillo has written another winning, deceptively simple yet ultimately profound novel about building friendship and overcoming loss.

Kate DiCamillo is one of those writers who, it seems, can do just about anything. Animal fables? Check. Funny early chapter books? No problem. A picture book about a chicken? You bet. But what DiCamillo has excelled at since her very first novel, BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE, is the combination of deceptively simple language with complicated situations and profound truths, uncovered by child characters and child readers simultaneously, without much (if any) heavy-handed moralizing. DiCamillo trusts her readers, and she respects them --- and all these traits are on display in abundance in DiCamillo’s latest novel, RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE.

Raymie Clarke has had some disappointments in her short life, but nothing compares with the latest doozy: her dad has run off with a dental hygienist, leaving Raymie and her mom bewildered, sad and angry. But Raymie has a plan for how to get her dad back. She’ll take up baton twirling as her “talent” and win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest. When Raymie’s dad sees her picture in the paper, he’s sure to see the error of his ways and come back to the family --- especially his newly famous daughter.

"Award-winning author Kate DiCamillo has written another winning, deceptively simple yet ultimately profound novel about building friendship and overcoming loss."

There are just a couple (okay, maybe more than a couple) hurdles standing between Raymie and her happy ending. The first problem is that Raymie’s baton twirling teacher is possibly the worst teacher ever. Raymie and the other two girls in the class --- Louisiana and Beverly --- have nothing in common other than their shared frustration about the time they’re wasting with Ida Nee.

Beverly is a tough-talking lockbreaker who’s already good at twirling a baton. Her swaggering exterior, however, hides her own history of disappointment and loss. Louisiana, on the other hand, appears fragile, but has her own hidden reserves of strength. Soon Louisiana has dubbed their accidental threesome the “Three Rancheros,” and they band together on a chain of missions, from rescuing Raymie’s library book from a nursing home to attempting to retrieve Louisiana’s lost cat Archie from the “Very Friendly Animal Center.” Along the way, all three girls learn about friendship, trust and resilience, and about finding your own light and serving as a light for others.

“’Aren’t we all brokenhearted?’” Louisiana asks at one point in the novel. And there is a lot of heartbreak here, both explicitly addressed and implicitly illustrated. You could say that RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE is a sad book, and you might be right --- there’s very little resembling a traditional happy ending here, and although the three girls find solace in friendship, their individual lives remain far from perfect at the novel’s close. But at the end of the day, the novel doesn’t feel sad, because its moments of hope and beauty offset the heavier, darker ones. Raymie’s plan doesn’t work out at all like she thought it would, but in the end, that’s ok --- what she gains is far more important.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on April 19, 2016

Raymie Nightingale
(Louisiana's Way Home #2)
by Kate DiCamillo