Middle Grade Review: Raymie Nightingale
Title: Raymie Nightingale
Author:Kate DeCamillo; read by Jenna Lamia
Publisher: Listening Library, 2016. Originally by Candlewick Press, 2016. 272 pages.
Source: Library digital services
Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie's picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.
Kate DiCamillo has a unique way with the waifs of the world--I first encountered her through Because of Winn-Dixie, which is also about a girl who's more than a little lost in her Floridian world, and I feel some of the same pathos (if that's the word--I don't mean it in a negative way, more just as sorry that sometimes the world sucks) in this book as in that.
Raymie is both so very lost, and so very certain that she can fix that if she just wins the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition of 1970-something. The reader knows (at least, the adult reader does; I wonder how the 8-year-olds read it?) that it's not going to be that easy, and her father's not going to come back just for that. But Raymie's pretty much finding her own way through all this, and it's an interesting path. The adults in her life--all women, and in fact none of the 3 girls has any men in their lives--are in varying degrees absent, flaky, and doing their best. Their best isn't all that great, though, so it's up to the 3 girls to forge ahead on their own. And they do.
In the end, it's a story about friendship, and about self-reliance and finding what you do best. The 3rd-person narration is so intimate with Raymie's head that I felt like it was 1st person, and seemed to work just right.
Jenna Lamia's reading is about perfect. She has the right sort of Southern voice for it, and does a marvelous job.
As usual with audio books, I recommend the story first and the audio book second. This is a great story about finding one's way in the world, and really is good for girls or boys, though some of the latter might be put off by the baton-twirling thing. They should look beyond that to see an adventure of 3 kids who band together to save themselves, because no one else is going to.
FTC Disclosure: I checked Raymie Nightingale out of my (digital) library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."