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.
Review: Raymie Clarke has a plan to reunite her broken family. Her father has run off with a dental hygienist without a word, but Raymie is certain that if she wins the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, her father will see her picture in the newspaper and return. With this goal in mind, she begins baton-twirling classes with two other girls, Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski. Both Louisiana and Beverly have their own reasons for entering the competition. Louisiana needs the prize money, and Beverly wants to sabotage the event.
I really appreciated the female friendship that was formed by these three very different girls. All three have lost people close to them, and each girl deals with her loss in different ways. With each small adventure, whether it's finding a lost book or rescuing a beloved pet, their friendship grows into an undeniable bond. Though Raymie Nightingale is a quick read with its short, precisely crafted chapters, there is so much heart and emotions demonstrated by her unique characters. Raymie is memorable. She is observant, thoughtful, and sensitive as she struggles to make sense of the world around her. My heart broke for her many times throughout the book.
I appreciated how the story was told in simple, straightforward way without the author sacrificing and shying away from exploring complex themes which is very tricky especially if you are writing for younger readers. Expect this to be discussed and short-listed on several award lists.
Rating: 4 stars
Words of Caution: Raymie's father has an affair and leaves her family. There are also allusions to physical abuse. Recommended for strong Grade 4 readers ad up.
If you like this book try: Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor,