Raymie Nightingale


Raymie Clarke’s neighbour, Mrs Borkowki, ‘laughs like a horse in distress.’ She asks Raymie, ‘ –why does the world exist?‘ In the summer of 1975, 10-year-old Raymie, is trying to discover why. When her father, Jim Clarke of Clarke Family Insurance, leaves town with a dental hygienist, Raymie struggles to cope and understand. As one of the newly appointed Three Rancheros, she finds herself, trying to recover a lost library book, find their former champion baton twirling teacher, rescue a cat betrayed to the Very Friendly Animal Centre, and realise how she can do Good Deeds.

Beverly Tapinski, one of the Three Rancheros, suggests that ‘some things just do not bear thinking about- people leave and they don’t come back. Somebody has to tell you the truth.’ Her other fellow member, Louisiana Elefante of the Flying Elefantes, suffering from swampy lungs and the threat of the county home, reads from Raymie’s borrowed biography of Florence Nightingale. She tells Raymie she reads the  ‘book in my head, and that’s sometimes better than the actual book… I want to be there, instead of the words that are actually there.’ Who is right? Raymie flexes her toes and thinks on her objectives, while asking, ‘Do you think that if you were in a deep hole in the ground, and it was daylight and you looked up and out of the deep hole, at the sky, you could see stars, even though it was daylight, and the sun was out?’

Kate Di Camillo has excelled herself. ‘Raymie Nightingale‘ is an exceptional book of meaningful questions and considerations. Louisiana says of Raymie, ‘I think her heart is broken.’ The compassion that Kate Di Camillo shows all her characters is weighted and true. The world keeps turning, Mrs Borkowski’s toenails need cutting, Raymie’s mother sits on the ‘couch in the sun room’, Mrs Sylvester answers the phone in the office of Clarke’s Family Insurance and offers candy corn, Beverly seeks to sabotage the Little Miss Florida Tire competition, Louisiana seeks to rescue Archie, and Raymie longs for reasons and reunions.

I love this book so much I have read it twice in a month, and will read it again. Every word is a gem, each character so considered, so important. Reading ‘Raymie Nightingale‘ makes my ‘soul bigger.’ Kate Di Camillo may write two pages a day, five days a week, but few authors write such outstanding pages. ‘Raymie Nightingale‘ is the first book of the Florida trilogy that continues with Louisiana’s Way Home and Beverly, Right Here.

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Raymie Nightingale

Kate Di Camillo


‘Raymie Nightingale‘ is on a mission to win her father home by her baton-twirling genius. First she has to make it through the classes and contend with the other girls. There’s overly dramatic Louisiana Elefante; how could her stories of an acrobatic ancestry come true? She seems to have a story for every eventuality! Thereafter there’s her grandmother, her strange bunny barettes and the smell of tuna fish… Furthermore, Raymie’s situation in the classes is not helped by Beverly Tapinksi. Why does she seem convinced that the best way to proceed is to undermine Raymie’s plan. For that plan is for Raymie Clarke to become Miss Central Florida Tire. Wouldn’t that lure her father back?
Raymie knows that the future rests with her for it seems like her mother has no plan whatsoever. Thereafter, her father’s secretary, though a listening ear, gives little advice.. Surely it can’t be that counsel from Louisiana and Beverly could ever evolve into anything, could it?


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