Loosely based on Kate DiCamillo’s own childhood,Raymie Nightingale tells the story of ten-year-old Raymie Clarke and her plan to get her father to come back home after he eloped with a dental hygienist.
The year: 1975. The place: Florida. Feeling alone and adrift, Raymie is determined to learn how to twirl a baton in order to win the title of ‘Miss Central Florida Tire 1975.’ She thinks, by winning the title, her photograph will be in the newspaper and be seen by her father, which’ll make him so proud he’ll want to return home, and life will resume as before. Also aspiring to win the competition are two girls, Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski, both of whom have also lost parents and are seeking ways to move on with their lives. And while this triumvirate start off as competitors, their particular quirky personalities soon merge into friendship, worthy of tagging as the “three Rancheros” by Louisiana. Together they get into all kinds of mischief – but never just for mischiefs sake. Their series of adventures are a consequence of their combined determination to help each other through the challenges they face as individuals, which can only be overcome together.
DiCamillo’s simple prose is so elegant and delightful, offering a meditation on life, death, and friendship in such a way that will enthral younger readers, and adults alike. Raymie Nightingale is unquestionably my favourite children’s novel of the year and deserves mass accolades and designation as a modern classic. It really is that good, and earns an everlasting spot in your child’s bookshelf – or yours!