Kate DiCamillo. It’s a name in children’s literature that you can count on.
So many of my favorites have been penned by her hand. (I read that DiCamillo faithfully writes five pages five days a week. I feel so undisciplined, Ive wasted forty three years already. How many pages would that have been? Someone do the math for me so I can feel worse about my unproductively.)
Because of Winn-Dixie. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Flora and Ulysses. The Tale of Desperaux. The Magician’s Elephant. Tiger Rising. The Mercy Watson series. (You guys, have you read Edward Tulane? My word. It’s beautiful.)
Raymie Nightingale was sitting on the newly acquired books shelf at our local library.
I didn’t bother reading the book cover. I just added it to the bag.
The story takes place one summer in 1975 and it gathers together three charming young girls whose lives are each individually full of tragedy and turbulence. A dad who just ran away with a dental hygienist. A daughter whose parents are dead and whose quirky grandmother lives in constant fear of social services taking away her granddaughter. An abusive mother whose husband deserted their family.
These girls. Their lives are a mess and their hearts are a mess and they accidentally find themselves thrown together in a series of events that bonds them and shapes them and holds just the traces of the beginnings of perhaps healing them.
Of course it’s lovely writing. It would make a great read aloud with its cadence and rhythm and funny one liners.
It feels a little profound and there are whole paragraphs I want to highlight – but I don’t because I have a hard enough time keeping in the good graces of the public library system without defacing their books.
In a life guarding class Raymie, the protagonist, participates in one summer the coach announces —
Land is an afterthought, people! … The world is made of water, and drowning is an ever-present danger. We must help each other. Let’s be problem solvers together.
Although this line is delivered early in the novel, it might just be the story’s point.
And, as Raymie noted later …
It seemed like a strange reason to be called into the world – to drown, to be saved, to drown again.
To which I want to shout, AMEN!
It seems like a strange reason indeed.
So yes, I loved this little novel. I love Raymie and her desire to call her father’s office each day just to hear the comforting words of her dad’s receptionist in a familiar and stabilizing voice, “Clarke Family Insurance. How may we protect you?”
And I love Louisiana the orphan and Beverly Tapinski, the girl who has acquired the life preserving skill of a tough outer layer.
It’s a good story. It’s lovely words in a good order with characters that feel familiar in my own heart and it’s full of worthwhile moments and a little something that tastes kind of like hope.