Raymie Nightingale

Book review by
Mary Eisenhart, Common Sense Media
Raymie Nightingale Book Poster Image
Tragedy, triumph, and wisdom in funny, heartfelt tween tale.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The story is set in 1975, and there's lots of period detail. A book about Florence Nightingale plays a role in the plot, as does all the time a character has spent in Lifesaving 101.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about friendship, loyalty, courage, determination, and working together -- and how these help you overcome the truly rotten things that happen to you and your loved ones all the time.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Good deeds often go awry, but Raymie's a highly relatable heroine as she tries to do what it takes to bring her dad back, then makes friends and tries to help them also. All the girls wind up doing hair-raising and definitely illegal things -- with breaking and entering high on the list -- but they're driven by real, sometimes lifesaving concerns. One of the girls lives with her grandmother, who steals food to keep them alive. Some adults, notably Raymie's absent father, are useless and irresponsible, but many others (her dad's office manager, an old lady in the neighborhood, two teachers) show great empathy for the kids and provide much-needed support.


An elderly character dies of natural causes. One of the kids shows up with an ugly bruise on her face because her mom has hit her. Another kid's parents drowned in a ship sinking, or so she believes. An adult character claims to have seen a baby snatched from its mother's arms by a giant sea bird, never to be seen again. The local lake is famous for the ghost of a woman who drowned herself there after the Civil War. One of the girls believes her cat is safe and enjoying life at the animal shelter, while everybody else seems to know the place's history of killing every cat as soon as it gets them.


All the girls are fatherless, and at least one dad has run off with a woman with an undesirable reputation; their abandoned mothers are bitter.


A few books get a mention as a part of scene-setting, including A Bear Called Paddington, Little House in the Big Woods.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A lot of adult characters smoke.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLadyOfTheStage January 27, 2021

One of the most heartwretching yet beautiful I've read

Kate DiCamillo does an outstanding job telling the story of Raymie and how she meets two girls named Louisiana and Beverly at a baton twirling class. Raymie has... Continue reading
Adult Written bysincerely_reading January 31, 2020


Constant hopelessness in the storytelling, and the heartbreaking imaginings of a little girl, picturing her father with another woman. Why would I ever want to... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old May 4, 2021


This trilogy with Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly is a must-read! As always, DiCamillo creates a sorrowful story with a spark of hope that turns into a flame. I... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old June 2, 2018

Great book with some heavy themes

Not as good as others Dicamillo has written but still a perfect read on a hot summer day.

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?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love friendship and coming-of-age stories

Themes & Topics

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