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Kids Book of the Week: Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

May 2, 2017

9781406373189 (3)Raymie Clarke has a plan. It involves good deeds, a cat who is maybe a dog, bunny hair clips, baton twirling, and two very different girls.

Raymie Nightingale is the new book from award winning author Kate DiCamillo, author of well-loved The Tale of Desperaux  and The Tiger RisingThe New York Times has said “DiCamillo is a star of the children’s publishing world,” and this new venture absolutely proves it. In fact, we would venture to say that Raymie Nightingale tops anything DiCamillo has written before.

Raymie Nightingale follows the story of Raymie Clarke. It is 1975 and her father has left town with the dental hygienist. Her mother is broken-hearted; she sits on the couch all day and is silent. Raymie spends her time talking to the old lady across the street, Mrs Borkowski, and cutting her toenails in exchange for sweets. When she’s lonely and needs someone to talk to, she rings Mrs Sylvester, the receptionist at her father’s insurance office. But she has a plan. A plan to bring her father back.

Raymie knows that if her father sees a picture of her in the newspaper, he’ll miss her and come back. So she’s determined to enter Little Miss Central Florida Tile and win – to get her picture published. Raymie takes baton-twirling lessons. Her teacher, Ida Nee, baton-twirling extraordinaire, is a horrible teacher, and while Raymie doesn’t learn any baton-twirling, she does meet two extraordinary girls: wispy but determined Louisiana Elefante, and the fiesty, knife-wielding Beverly Tapinski.

While baton-twirling doesn’t go to plan, Raymie’s life does go on twists and turns that will surprise you at every chapter. Raymie and her friends will rob a house, find a dog, set free a bird, read to the elderly, and throughout it all become the Three Rancheros – not, as Raymie suggests, the Three Musketeers. Raymie Nightingale is a story about love, loss, and friendship. It’s about learning to stand on your own two feet, and learning to let someone else in when you need it. It’s about three little girls who are alone, and by the end, maybe aren’t so alone anymore.

kateDiCamillo’s writing is as beautiful as ever. The novel is heartbreakingly sad, but there is a sense of hope throughout the pages. It deals with some heavy topics, and adults reading the book will see beyond the surface into some of the situations. Louisiana, for example, is an orphan, living with her grandmother, under threat of being sent to the local home. Beverly, as well, suffers a violent relationship with her mother, which often leaves physical evidence behind. And Raymie is alone, her mother not always there. There are issues of death, loneliness, abuse and neglect in the novel, but DiCamillo deals tactfully and elegantly with these topics, suffusing Raymie Nightingale with an undeniable knowledge that these three girls will make it out the other end alright.

While the novel focuses on three girls, there is a vibrant tone and mood to Raymie Nightingale that will make the novel perfect for boys and girls ages nine and up. Adults will love this book, too, for its beautiful imagery and focus on family and friendship. Raymie Nightingale will take your heart, break it, and put it back together, and you’ll be left smiling by the end of it.

Kate DiCamillo is one of America’s most well-regarded storytellers, author of The Tale of Despereaux and Flora and Ulysses, both of which have been awarded the prestigious Newbery Medal; Because of Winn-Dixie, which received a Newbery Honor; The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award; and the bestselling Mercy Watson series. Born in Philadelphia, she grew up in Florida and now lives in Minneapolis, USA, where she faithfully writes two pages a day, five days a week.

Kate will be in Australia on the following dates:

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