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Raymie Nightingale: 12/13/16
I'm never sure what to expect with a Kate DiCamillo book. I respect authors that keep me guessing and keep experimenting with their voice. Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo comes close to reading like it was written by Polly Horvath.
The book opens with Raymie taking baton practice so she can compete in the 1975 Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. With her are Louisiana who is prone to fainting and Beverly who wants nothing more than to sabotage the entire event as she's sick of being forced into these competitions by her mother.
The first chapter gives the impression that this book will be about a girl who has never competed before being pushed into a world she doesn't understand. She'll be bullied by the seasoned professional (Beverly) and become a stronger, more compassionate person with the help of a shy and misunderstood competitor (Louisiana). But that's not how it goes at all.
Each of these girls is her own, completely rendered individual. Each has a reason for participating in the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest. Despite being competitors they also become friends.
The thing that brings them together is Louisiana's living situation. Her parents are dead and her cat was dumped off a shelter by her grandmother. Her cat is her one remaining tie to her family and she's grieving over him — feeling (rightfully so) that she has betrayed him.
What could have been just another story of a popularity contest, we get a story of girls coming together to rescue a cat. It's a quiet story about little miracles in the midst of hardship and tragedy. It's about getting on with life and making the current situation as good as possible.