Kate DiCamillo’s stories make life better. They have the ability to warm you up and they could melt even the coldest heart. They leave you smiling and full of joy. You know you’re always going to make new friends that you’ll carry around with you, even when you’ve finished their story. Kate DiCamillo’s latest book, Raymie Nightingale, is another outstanding book that promises all of these things.
Raymie Clarke has come to realise 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 has run away 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, but she has to compete with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante with her 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 them to come to each other’s rescue in unexpected ways.
Raymie Nightingale is an up-lifting, soul-expanding story. It fills you up with happiness. It’s a story of an unexpected, life-changing friendship, packed with unforgettable characters. Kate DiCamillo’s writing is beautiful. I wanted to really take my time with Raymie Nightingale so that I could savour it.
The story follows three very different girls, who would normally not have anything to do with each other – Raymie, Beverly and Louisiana. They meet at baton-twirling lessons at Ida Nee’s house. Raymie’s father has run off with a much younger dental hygienist. She wants to enter the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition in the hope of getting her father’s attention and bringing him home. Beverly Tapinski is tough, not afraid of anything and she wants to sabotage the competition. Louisiana Elefante is flaky and naive. Her circus parents are dead, so her strange grandmother is taking care of her. Each of them has found the others at just the right time. They all need a friend who will be there for them and have their back.
The thing I love most about Raymie Nightingale is the characters. Raymie, Beverly and Louisiana are each so different but they make the perfect team. Raymie is concerned about her soul. Things like the thought of her father leaving her and her mother make her soul shrink, but little things that her friends so for her make her soul expand.
‘Raymie felt something expanding inside her. It felt like a gigantic tent billowing out. This, Raymie knew, was her soul.’
Louisiana is ‘filled up with feathers and regrets. And fears.’ She says the strangest things sometimes but she made me laugh too. Beverly isn’t afraid of anything, whether that is picking the lock at the Very Friendly Animal Centre or stealing Ida Nee’s precious baton. I also love the minor characters too, like Mrs Sylvester, her father’s receptionist. No matter when or how often Raymie calls her she always has time to listen. She always seems to know what Raymie needs, even if it’s just to tell her that everything is going to be alright. We only see Mrs Borkowski and Mr Staphopoulos briefly but these two people have a big impact on Raymie’s life.
Fans of Kate DiCamillo will not want to miss this book. If you haven’t read any of her books before read Raymie Nightingale and fall in love with the wonder of Kate DiCamillo.