A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Raymie Nightingale, by multiple Newbery Medal winner Kate DiCamillo, draws heavily from the events and feelings of the author's childhood in 1975 Florida. It offers strong positive messages of friendship, courage, and making things better in an often-cruel world, where fathers desert families, parents hit their children, grandparents steal to feed their grandchildren, kids steal from pure cussedness, and everybody but you knows the shelter you think is caring for your cat has killed him. As 10-year-old Raymie and her new friends form elaborate plans to make things right, their good deeds rarely go as planned but their brave acts of kindness often deliver unexpected rewards. Their cheer-worthy efforts -- supported in various ways by kind, if often odd, adults -- often involve questionable activities such as breaking and entering but are driven by noble, sometimes life-saving, motives. Some adult characters smoke.
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What's the story?
It's June 1975, in Lister, Florida, and 10-year-old Raymie Clarke's father, the local insurance agent, has ditched his family and run off with a dental hygienist. But Raymie has a plan: She's going to win a local pageant with her baton-twirling skills and get her picture in the paper, which will cause him to come to his senses and come home. Of course, she's never twirled a baton in her life, so it's off to class, where she meets Louisiana, who's determined to win the same pageant so she and her impoverished grandma can get some money, and Beverly, daughter of a pageant-mad former twirling champion, who's determined to sabotage the whole thing. Things are soon running off the rails on numerous fronts as the girls try to help themselves and their loved ones in a world that's fraught with trouble and pretty much not under their control.
Is it any good?
Kate DiCamillo returns to the small-town Florida of her childhood in this poignant, funny, triumphant tale of a determined 10-year-old and her friends trying to set their messed-up world to rights. Readers will relate to the struggles of RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE to perform the miraculous feat she thinks will bring back her faithless father, empathize with her and her friends as they deal with circumstances beyond their control, and cheer them on in their imaginatively weird exploits. Along the way, there are plenty of instances of life's random cruelty and a recognition that you can't change a lot of things -- but you can fix some of them, and it feels great:
"The world went on.
"People left and people died and people went to memorial services and put orange blocks of cheese into their purses. People confessed to you that they were hungry all the time. And then you got up in the morning and pretended that none of it had happened.
"You took your baton to baton-twirling lessons and stood under Ida Nee's whispering pine trees in front of Lake Clara, where Clara Wingtip had drowned. You waited with Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski for Ida Nee to show up and teach you how to twirl a baton.
"The world -- unbelievably, inexplicably -- went on."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Kate DiCamillo's books and why they're so popular. Which others have you read? How does this one compare?
How do you think things have changed since 1975, when this story takes place, and today? How are they the same?
Do you know how to rescue a drowning person? Have you taken a water-safety class?
- Author: Kate DiCamillo
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Candlewick Press
- Publication date: April 12, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 18
- Number of pages: 272
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
Our editors recommend
For kids who love friendship and coming-of-age stories
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