I had super high hopes for this novel because DiCamillo is amazing and her books are fantastic. I can't say that I was extremely disappointed or even minimally disappointed, really, but it wasn't as good as I was expecting. (Since my expectations for DiCamillo are very high this might be unfair to her.)
This story features a young girl named Raymie who is looking to win a beauty pageant so that her picture will be featured in the local paper, her father will see it, and he'll find his way back home. (At the beginning he's left Raymie and her mother to be with his dental hygienist.) A farfetched plan? Yes. But totally reasonable for a pre-teen to think? Absolutely.
Raymie meets two other girls, who have their own reasons for being in the competition, and the threesome end up becoming reluctant friends. The conflicts or obstacles each face are different - Raymie has been abandoned by one parent, Beverly's single mom is negligent if not downright abusive, and Lousiana Elefante (my favorite character with her Luna Lovegood-esque mannerisms) is an orphaned child living in poverty with her grandma, who probably shouldn't be allowed behind the wheel of a car. (That one part with grandma driving the car with the girls in it is particularly harrowing.)
There is a lot to love about this story, it features all of those themes that usually make stories so awesome - love, loss, redemption, solidarity, friendships, strength, etc. But when I compare it, perhaps unfairly, to The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, well, it just doesn't measure up, and maybe it isn't supposed to. I own that. My own reaction to this book is less than it was to that book with the bunny. This does not mean the Raymie Nightingale isn't excellent.
39 down plus 13 to go!