I'm Sorry I Betrayed You!
Apparently, I've been on a nostalgia kick lately. After My Best Friend's Exorcism, I read Kate DiCamillo's latest, Raymie Nightingale. Set in the 1970s in a small, central Florida town, the middle grade novel explores the power of friendships (another repeating theme for me, it seems) and the painful complications of being a child in world that doesn't always make sense.
I am a fan of DiCamillo's (who isn't?) but haven't explored her entire bibliography. I read Because of Winn Dixie in library school and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane as a children's librarian. I think that she captures a certain aspect of childhood that many writers, whose work is designed for children, fail to address: the often helpless feeling that children have in the larger world. Raymie Nightingale focuses on this theme like a laser.
Raymie's father has recently run off with a dental hygienist, leaving Raymie, her mother, and his own business at loose ends. Raymie's plan to get him to return is that she will win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire beauty pageant. When her father sees her photo in the paper, he will return. In order to win, Raymie must learn how to twirl a baton. So, she enrolls with Ida Nee, the local baton-twirling expert. It's there, on the shore of Lake Clara that Raymie meets Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski. Through a series of complicated encounters, the girls become The Three Rancheros: an unbreakable band working to right wrongs and save lives.
Like my last title, this one is not strictly a young adult novel. Really, it's what you would call a Middle Grade novel (recommended for grades 4-7) but, as an adult, I can speak to its more universal appeal. I can also see teens (esp those who balk at longer titles) finding it very interesting.
The novel's 1970s setting is fairly understated (nothing screams 1970s like Hendrix's 1980s setting did in Exorcism). However, it got me thinking about all of the coming of age films that take place in the 70s.
If you enjoyed any of these titles, I am sure you'll love Raymie Nightingale:
Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Eli the Good by Silas House
not to mention any of DiCamillo's other titles!