Kate DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale is Filled with Heart, Humor, and Heroics

Raymie Nightingale

We read for lots of reasons. We read to laugh, to cope with life, to learn, to be inspired; even to be frightened. Some books fall into our hands, are read and enjoyed, but then put away. They’re like literary treats—sweet, delightful, but fleeting in our memories.

And then there are the other books. The ones that remain in our minds and on our hearts long after we turn the final page.

Raymie Nightingale is that kind of book. Written by two-time Newbery Medalist, and former Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Kate DiCamillo, this book is a gem. Get your hands on it now, because people are going to be talking, and you’re going to want to be in on the conversation.

It’s the summer of 1975, June 5th, to be exact, and Raymie Clarke has a plan. Two days earlier, her father ran off with a dental hygienist. Just like that, he goes from local businessman to local disgrace. Even worse, he leaves Raymie fatherless. A tragedy, her mother says. Which is why Raymie has a plan. She’s going to learn to twirl the baton, taking lessons from the famous Ida Nee, and then she’s going to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest. Her father will see her picture in the paper and return home immediately to be with his now-famous daughter.

Simple.

Except at her very first baton lesson, she meets two other contest contestants. Louisiana Elefante, orphaned daughter of show business parents, who is prone to fainting and has swampy lungs. And tough-as-nails Beverly Tapinski, whose father, she reminds everybody, is a cop. Beverly has no time for foolishness such as baton-twirling, yet she plans to enter the contest, too, if only to sabotage the whole thing. Then there’s Ida Nee herself, who is a less-than-dependable instructor, prone to fits of temper and disappearing acts. Suddenly, things are not so simple. Without an instructor, Raymie can’t learn to twirl the baton. Without learning how to twirl the baton, she won’t ever get her picture in the paper. And without getting her picture in the paper, her father will never come home.

And yet, this story is not about a contest, a missing father, or even baton-twirling. This story is about three girls—dubbed “The Three Rancheros” by Louisiana—and the deep hurts they all carry. Their stories unfold quickly, and yet also with a lazy, hazy summer feel. Despite being as different as they could possibly be, Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly forge a unique friendship out of shared heartache, secrets, and a rescue mission. DiCamillo delves into painful truths, while also reliving childhood memories of bike rides, summer heat, and life in a small-town community. If ever there was a story about growing up, this is it.

But back to that baton-twirling. Does Raymie ever learn? Does she win the pagaent? Does her father come home?

I can’t tell you. That would be cheating. But I will tell you that the journey to those answers is the most perfect tale, and that you will be thinking about The Three Rancheros long after you’ve finished reading their story.

Raymie Nightingale is available for pre-order now, and will be in stores April 12. 

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