Review posted May 25, 2016.
Candlewick Press, 2016. 263 pages.
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #8 Children's Fiction
No one does quirky like Kate DiCamillo.
And her quirky, unique, like-no-other characters are all the more real that way.
Raymie Clarke has a plan. She wants to win Little Miss Central Florida Tire by learning to twirl a baton. Then her father will see her picture in the paper and come back from wherever he ran off to with the dental hygienist.
At baton-twirling lessons, taught by Ida Nee, a former champion of multiple contests, Raymie meets Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski. Louisiana also wants to become Little Miss Central Florida Tire, but Beverly wants to sabotage the contest.
First, they have very short-lived lessons together. Ida Nee doesn't waste her time with lollygaggers and malingerers or fainters.
But the girls start helping each other out. Raymie needs her library book on Florence Nightingale rescued from under a bed in a nursing home. (Now there's a story!) And Louisiana wants to rescue her cat Archie from the Very Friendly Animal Center.
All the adults they encounter along the way are quirky as well. Raymie's mother is still mourning her father's loss. Louisiana's grandmother is an adventurous driver. Different adults in Raymie's life offer her different kinds of comfort about her father's abandonment.
All the quirks make the story feel true. You end up loving these three girls and rooting for them as they stumble through as best they can, trying to follow a Bright and Shining Path. Together.