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Friday, October 5, 2018

Louisiana's Way Home, written by Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2018. $19.99 ages 10 and up

"Well, my heart soared up high in my chest at those words. I saw the vending machine as if it were right in front of me. It glowed with all of its special objects - ballpoint pens, cheese-filled crackers, candy bars, rain bonnets - each one of them giving off its own special light. "My goodness," I said to him. "Anything you want." He smiled. He looked like a pirate, standing up there with the crow on his shoulder."

Oh, Kate DiCamillo! What a writer you are ... I am forever indebted to you for the joy you bring to my reading life. When I met the cast of characters in Raymie Nightingale, I hoped that there would come a time when I might meet up with them again. I did not know that Louisiana had her own story to tell.

Louisiana's first person narration is strong, observant, full of power and angst. She is a wonder, and I am thrilled to know more about her. There are many readers out there who will be as happy as I am to share her story. I found myself stopping to reread passages, and know that I will read it again after my friend Don has had a chance to read it as well.

She begins at the beginning with her great-grandfather and a curse. That 'sundering' curse causes her Granny to set out in the middle of the night, her granddaughter in tow. She will not say where they are going; she does say that they are going because the 'day of reckoning has arrived.' That is all that Louisiana knows and it is not very satisfying.

As they cross the state line from Florida into Georgia, Louisiana becomes more desperate about their home, her friends and all they have left behind. On the way her grandmother becomes ill with a paralyzing toothache and they must find a dentist to help. They pull into the small town of Richford, Georgia, where they find a dentist. He decides he must remove all of her teeth. It puts a stop to their journey. They find a motel, and prepare to stay until Granny has improved. Louisiana's life until now has never been easy; it gets a whole lot worse when her granny abandons her at that motel. What will the young girl do?

The chance that her story could become even darker and more devastating at this point is a possibility. Luckily, Louisiana does not give up. Her determination to be who she wants to be, after learning the truth about her birth in a letter left by Granny, and the goodness in the hearts of some of the community members she meets, help Louisiana stay and find the true meaning of home.

Her heart and her humor, in the face of such adversity, ensure a place for her in our collective memory, Fans know Ms. DiCamillo to be a gifted storyteller whose skill with words makes an impact each and every time she picks up her pen and sends a new book into the world. This one is no exception ... 

"Perhaps what matters when all is said and done is not who puts us down but who picks us up.”

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