Written by Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press, 2016, 272 pp.
Ten-year-old Raymie Clarke lives in Lister, Florida and has a plan to get her father to return home. Raymie’s father left with Lee Ann Dickerson, a dental hygienist, and Raymie believes that if she can win the 1975 Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest she will get her picture in the paper and her dad will be so proud he will return home. Not surprisingly, Raymie’s plan does not go as desired. After showing up at her friend Ida Nee’s home to take a baton twirling lesson, Raymie meets Louisiana and Beverly, two other girls who plan to compete in the contest, and an unexpected friendship develops as each deals with the loss of a parent(s).
Raymie Nightingale is written as a third-person narrative. The tale is shaped by Louisiana, Beverly, and Raymie’s simple yet deeply felt heartbreak and a longing to amend the loss of their parents in some way. Kate DiCamillo states on her website that “writing is seeing. It is paying attention.” She allows readers to ‘see’ each of the characters in their own idiosyncrasies which make them unique by providing explicit details of the visual, affective, and personal traits of each character. The book deals with loss in a subtle manner and shows what wonder can occur when a new door is allowed to open.
Kate DiCamillo was born in Philadelphia and moved to the warmer climate of Florida with her mother and older brother at the age of five to help combat her chronic pneumonia. Though she now lives in Minneapolis, many of her books make obvious her deep affection for her Southern roots through her choice of characters and settings. Kate credits her illness in part for her desire to write. She spent a lot of time in bed alone growing up and became an avid reader and eventually wrote her own stories. Kate majored in English at the University of Florida in Gainesville where she excelled at writing. Kate realized when she began writing for a career that talent did not matter as much as working at writing. She normally writes five days a week and her goal is to write two pages a day. She has stated that she never wants to write, but she is always glad that she did.
Three books to pair with Raymie Nightingale around the theme of closing doors and being open to other possibilities are: The Great Good Summer (2015) by Liz Garton Scanlon, Each Little Bird that Sings (2016) by Deborah Wiles, and Because of Winn Dixie (2009) by Kate DiCamillo. Each of which includes new friendships while also dealing with loss.
Megan McCaffrey, Governors State University, Chicago, IL
WOW Review, Volume VIII, Issue 4 by World of Words is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on work at https://wowlit.org/on-line-publications/review/viii-4/