Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo is a bighearted tale told by 10-year-old Raymie Clarke whose world has just been turned upside down by her father who left her and her mother in the middle of the night for another woman. Like many kids in similar situations, Raymie thinks it is up to her to win back her father’s love and get him to return home. Her big plan is to get her father to notice her by winning the 1975 Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest. She joins Ida Nee’s baton twirling classes to be able to compete in the contest where she meets two other girls: Louisiana Elefante who is also hoping to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest and Beverly Tapinski who is planning to sabotage the contest.
This book is as full of humor as it is anguish. Each of these girls has a sadness they must face. Raymie and her absent father who left without even saying goodbye; Louisiana, an orphan whose lives in poverty with her grandmother; and Beverly who lives with her abusive mother and whose father is also absent. These three girls become the Three Rancheros and try to help each other.
What follows is a series of laugh-out-loud misadventures in an effort to fix a variety of heartbreaking situations. Along the way the girls form a true friendship, find courage they didn’t know they had and get lessons in compassion, accepting things they cannot change and fight for what is important in life. Depending on a child’s reading level, this book is suitable for children in 3rd or 4th grade and up.