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Monday, June 6, 2016

Raymie Nightingale, written by Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2016. $20.00 ages 10 and up

"And then she thought how if fairy tales people got three wishes and none of the wishes ever turned out right. If the wishes came true, they came true in terrible ways. Wishes were dangerous things. That was the idea you got from fairy tales.

Maybe it was smart of Beverly not to wish."

I could barely contain my excitement when I knew that Raymie Nightingale would soon arrive. When it did, and despite the height of my TBR pile, I sat down and got right to the reading. I didn't stop until I closed the cover and hugged it to my chest. She's done it again, that Kate DiCamillo!

Raymie is only ten when her father leaves the family to run away with a dental hygienist. His abandonment leaves a hole in Raymie's heart and a sense of purpose in her being. She plans on getting him back. As you might expect, her mother cannot help with advice, nor can her father's secretary. Raymie focuses on what she has learned from her life-saving coach. She will be a problem solver.  The way is clear - enter a contest, win and get your picture in the paper. Her father is sure to be impressed and will want to be back home with his famous daughter once more.

With no obvious talent to help her win the contest, Raymie signs up for baton lessons. There she meets two equally determined contestants.  Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski have also lost parents. All three are trying to find their way through that loss by taking action that will allow them to move toward a better place. Although that is all they have in common to begin with, they cement a strong bond and a lasting friendship through their interactions and their willingness to protect each other.

Louisiana dubs them The Three Rancheros, and astounds with her motto: "We'll rescue each other." Truer words were never spoken. Each adventure cements their need to be together and to assure that the others are supported and saved.

Ms. DiCamillo's new novel is so beautifully and simply written, in a third person narrative that is both spirited and haunting. It encourages its readers to think deeply about life issues, while also helping them to believe in miracles. Through her new friends, Raymie finds a path that helps her see more clearly her world and how she fits within it.

A wonderful cast of characters, brilliant writing, wry humor, and a story that will pull at the heartstrings and leave readers with a stronger sense of themselves, this is a book not to be missed.

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