Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.
I requested a review copy of this book from the publishers recently as, until an email from them, I hadn’t realised Kate DiCamillo had a new title coming out. I’m completely in love with The Tale of Despereaux and Flora and Ulysses so I was interested in seeing what Kate had coming out next.
Raymie Nightingale is rather different from DiCamillo’s previous book as it has a more contemporary tone to it and I imagine it’s aimed at a slightly older audience. Set in the 1970s in small town American, we meet Raymie as she attempts to learn baton-twirling, and in turn, enter and win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest. Alongside Beverly, a spunky girl with a real hard attitude, and Louisiana, an oddball girl who has her head in the clouds, this trio become caught up in some great mini adventures as they all try to meet their end goals. Raymie’s Dad has run off with a younger woman and Raymie is desperate to make him come home, Louisiana wants to win the Little Miss contest for the cash to help her and her grandma survive and Bev just wants to cause havoc.
This is a really sweet and tenderly-told tale about broken homes. Raymie is a girl in real pain and her mother is lost in her own heartache, so Raymie does her best to try and solve some huge real-life adult problems. Beverly and Louisiana are in similar binds and do what kids do; find simple answers to big questions. Raymie Nightingale is a lovely book that really surprised me. I wasn’t sure how Kate’s fairytale-like storytelling would translate into a contemporary landscape but it just does. She has that magic touch that crosses over genres and it was delightful to read.
I’d love to see this crossover onto the big screen with the same gentle touch to it that DiCamillo manages to wrap into her words. For now, Raymie Nightingale is the perfect early summer read to fill the soon-to-be sunny afternoons.
Published by Walker Books UK and is available online and in bookshops now