Monday, November 26, 2018

Review - Raymie Nightingale

Raymie Nightingale
by Kate DiCamillo
Date: 2016
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Reading level: MG
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 272
Format: e-book
Source: library

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.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I guess it had to happen sometime: I read a book by Kate DiCamillo that I didn't absolutely love.

Now, there's nothing wrong with this book, per se. It just didn't click with me. Part of that may be to do with the fact that what's in the book doesn't really match the synopsis. I thought this would be a story about three girls competing in a contest. It's actually not. That's how it starts out, and the contest provides the context in which the girls meet, but the actual plot revolves around rescuing Louisiana's cat from the Very Friendly Animal Center (which is exactly what you might be thinking it is).

The book is very character driven, which is a good thing. I was actually going to read Louisiana's Way Home first, because I didn't realize that this book actually introduces that character. I saw a reviewer say they wish they'd read Raymie Nightingale before they read the companion book, so I figured I'd do that. The characters of the three girls are all drawn very well; they're very distinct and come alive on the page with DiCamillo's trademark precociousness and charm. At times, though, I felt the girls weren't quite acting their age. Raymie sometimes lapsed into sounding too much like an adult, and Louisiana was the opposite (I occasionally had to remind myself that she was not in kindergarten).

Once the plot really got going, with a nighttime rescue mission that involved a shopping cart, a smelly dog, a swan, and a sinkhole, I was pretty engaged (even though I did have to suspend a bit of disbelief that these little girls were wandering around town in the middle of the night on their own; it was 1975, but still). Everything tied up neatly in the end. Perhaps a little too neatly. I just can't shake the feeling that I didn't... well, have any feelings to shake. (The last book I read by this author was The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, which was the best book I've read all year. It almost made me cry, which books so rarely do. Raymie Nightingale had a lot to live up to.)

As I said at the beginning, this isn't a bad book. Not at all. It might appeal more to middle graders, or to readers who enjoy really character-driven stories that might be light on plot. It was just sort of average for me... although I don't think that'll stop me from checking out Louisiana's story in the future.

Premise: 3/5
Plot: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 4/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3.38 out of 5 ladybugs

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