Ten-year-old Raymie Clarke of Lister, Florida, has a plan to get her father to come back home.
Raymie feels “alone, lost, cast adrift.” Her father has run off with a dental hygienist. She is determined to learn how to twirl a baton, win the title of Miss Central Florida Tire 1975, and get her photograph in the newspaper. Her father will see it and be so proud that he’ll return home to be with her. Raymie and her quirky new friends, Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski, have all lost parents and seek ways to move on with their lives and to protect one another along the way. DiCamillo’s third-person narrative is written in simple words, few exceeding three syllables, yet somehow such modest prose carries the weight of deep meditations on life, death, the soul, friendship, and the meaning of life without ever seeming heavy, and there’s even a miracle to boot. Readers will approach the tense and dramatic conclusion and realize how much each word matters. Raymie may not find answers to why the world exists or how the world works, but she can hold onto friends and begin to see more clearly the world as it is. Raymie’s small town is populated by quirky, largely white residents, many of them elderly, all distinct characters in their own rights.
Once again, DiCamillo demonstrates the power of simple words in a beautiful and wise tale. (Historical fiction. 9-14)