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Sing Sweet Raymie Nightingale

March 27, 2017

 

Do you ever stop and ask yourself why you do the things you do? What motivates you? Our human nature makes us prone to believe that if we do everything right, life will happen the way we plan. And when it doesn't, we get depressed or upset. Raymie Nightingale by the Kate DiCamillo is a book about disappointment, love, and friendship. It's a story that depicts the concept of good intentions and plans.  As we experience life through Raymie, we learn that sometimes the best things in life are unplanned. 

 

The story takes place the summer of 1975 in Florida with Raymie Clarke and two other girls taking baton-twirling lessons at Ida Nee's (a former world champion twirler) backyard. Two days ago, Raymie's father left home with a dental hygienist. But Raymie has a plan. If she can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father will see her picture in the paper. He would be sitting in some restaurant with Lee Ann Dickerson, the dental hygienist. They'd be sitting together in a booth, and her father would be smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee. He'd open the newspaper and see his daughter with a crown on her head and a bouquet of flowers in her arms and a sash across her chest that said LITTLE MISS CENTRAL FLORIDA TIRE, 1975. Raymie's father would say, "I must return home immediately. Everything has changed. My daughter is now famous."  As Raymie visualizes this scene, we empathize. We know in our own minds that we've created scenes in our heads, and how those scenes almost never become a reality. But Raymie is determined. She wants to develop a talent for the performance portion of the pageant. Baton-twirling. 

 

While Raymie learns the art of twirling, she has to deal with her competition-Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and Beverly Tapinski, who's determined to sabotage the contest.  At first, the dynamic between the girls seems like a recipe for disaster. But as the competition gets closer, the girls form a relationship never to be forgotten. Sharing the same loneliness and unanswerable questions, the girls journey through the summer of '75 in unforeseen ways.

 

Told in third person POV, Kate DiCamillo writes in such a simple language, yet captures the essence of setting and character so naturally.  From the first line you are submerged in Raymie's world.  You'll fall in love with each character for their unique quirks, flaws, and personality. With its innocent content, I recommend this book for 3rd graders reading at a higher level. The intended audience is middle grades 4-7. 

 

You can guess that Raymie's summer doesn't unfold how she planned. Yet, something even better happens. This is a book your child will hold close to the heart. Kids will marvel at the great possibilities life brings when they least expect it. Raymie Nightingale gives us a friendly reminder. When plans founder, don't stress. Perhaps something better is in store. 

 

 

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