Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

cover image

Candlewick Press, 2016. ISBN 9780763681173
(Age: 9-12) Recommended. Family breakdown. Friendship. Meaning of life. Loss. Kate DiCamillo is renowned as a two-time Newbery Medallist, as author of the Tale of Desperaux and Flora and Ulysses. In this, her latest book, she uses the inspiration of her own childhood memories to tell the enigmatic tale of Raymie Clarke who believes that if she wins the 'Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition' she might be able to entice her father back home (he has left town with a dental hygienist and is currently out of her life completely). With childish logic, she needs to add baton twirling and good deeds to her 'resume' for her competition entry, and meets two other girls who are also entangled in pursuit or sabotage of the Little Miss Central Florida Tire title. The challenges of friendship, and understanding the world around her and the wisdom of adults come to the fore as she grapples with life, loss and the big questions of existence. Keeping life's batons twirling can be very difficult. There are some curious adults within her circle of contacts, and her new friends are also extremely unique.
This is a quirky tale that highlights that children can sometimes feel that they need to solve the problems of their world or are unaware of the consequences of their choices; problems that from an adult or psychological perspective should never be borne by a child. It is a simply written tale, and the naivete of the children and their responses to poverty, marriage breakdowns, death and their own difficult circumstances are dealt with in a gently humorous way that makes the story entertaining and accessible for a young reader.
Carolyn Hull