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Book Review

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

It’s the summer of 1975. Ten-year-old Raymie Clark’s father, an insurance agent, has just run off with a dental hygienist. Raymie believes if she can learn to twirl a baton, she can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest. Then her father will see her picture in the paper and be so proud he’ll come home. Raymie is attending her first lesson with former baton champ Ida Nee when she meets Louisiana Elephante and Beverly Tapinski.

Louisiana tells the other girls her parents were famous trapeze artists called the Flying Elefantes. She lives with her tiny derelict grandmother, and the two are always on the run for fear Louisiana will be taken to a children’s home. Louisiana and her grandmother barely have enough money for food, so they frequently steal it. Louisiana wants to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest so she and her grandmother can survive.

Beverly, the daughter of a baton champion, has no interest in twirling. She tells the girls she intends to sabotage the contest. The tough girl is sometimes beaten by her mom and is initially cold and sarcastic toward Raymie and Louisiana.

Various circumstances, including Louisiana’s fainting spells and Beverly’s insolence, keep Ida from ever teaching a twirling lesson. The woman marches off in frustration each time, leaving the girls to become acquainted as they wait for their guardians.

Raymie’s father is not the only person to leave her. Her wise swim and lifesaving teacher moves away, and her elderly neighbor dies. Mom isn’t acting like herself either, as she tries to deal with Dad’s absence. Raymie often ponders her own soul, as well as wondering where others’ souls go when they die. She also questions why the world exists.

Raymie needs to do a good deed she can record on her contest entry form. She visits Golden Glen Happy Retirement Home and offers to read her library book about Florence Nightingale to someone. When she accidentally loses the library book under the bed of a scary, wailing woman, Raymie enlists her baton partners to help her get it back. Beverly manages to retrieve the book by demonstrating unexpected compassion toward the old woman. Meanwhile, Louisiana frees the janitor’s bird from its cage. Her grandmother appears in their beat-up station wagon and whisks the girls away. They eat tuna from cans at the run-down house Louisiana and her grandmother call home. Louisiana dubs the girls The Three Rancheros.

When the girls can’t find their baton teacher at a scheduled lesson, Beverly breaks into her home. The girls find a bunch of trophies that don’t belong to Ida. Beverly takes Ida’s baton and bashes it in the rocks outside.

Louisiana tells the girls that she had to give up her beloved cat, Archie, because they couldn’t afford to care for him. Grandma said she took him to the Very Friendly Animal Center. Louisiana is desperate to rescue him, even though Beverly tries to convince her there is no such place and the cat has probably been put down.

Louisiana stays over at Raymie’s, and the Rancheros plan to sneak out that night to look for Archie. Raymie shows her book, A Bright and Shining Path: The Life of Florence Nightingale, to Louisiana. Louisiana opens to random pages and reads from it. She does this because she says you never know what’s going to happen, and it keeps you on your toes.

After midnight, the girls break into the pet facility Louisiana shows them. There are no cats in the empty cages. They only find a mangy dog with his eye crusted over. They decide to rescue him, even though Louisiana is distraught about not finding Archie. She and the dog get in a shopping cart the girls have found.

Beverly and Raymie are pushing it when it gets away from them and rolls down a hill into a pond. Louisiana can’t swim, so Raymie uses her lifeguard training to save her friend. She feels like Florence Nightingale. The girls take Louisiana to the hospital, and the dog follows behind. Louisiana’s grandmother and the other girls’ mothers arrive. To everyone’s surprise, Archie appears, curls up on the hospital bed and purrs.

Raymie’s father calls the hospital to check on her, and she realizes she doesn’t have much to say to him. She decides not to enter the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest, but she and Beverly are there to support Louisiana.

Instead of twirling a baton, Louisiana sings. She wins the contest and gets a check for almost $2,000. The girls and their guardians all celebrate by going to the top of a famous tower and looking down over the city. Louisiana is afraid of heights, but the other two girls assure her they are holding onto her as they all look out over the world.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

Raymie often ponders her own soul, as well as wondering where others’ souls go when they die. She also questions why the world exists.

Authority Roles

Raymie’s father, an insurance agent, has run off with another woman. Raymie’s mother is processing and grieving the loss. Ida, the baton teacher, gets upset and leaves each lesson without teaching the girls anything. The girls find trophies in her house that don’t belong to her. Beverly’s mom yells and hits her. Louisiana’s loving, thieving grandmother tries to take care of the girl even though she has no resources to do so.


The word heck appears a few times, and crap appears once. A nurse cries Oh my with the word Lord when the girls seek help at the hospital.


Raymie’s father has run off with another woman, but there is no mention or insinuation of them doing anything together other than having dinner.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Crime: Louisiana and her grandmother steal canned goods. Grandmother drives recklessly to escape people she says are trying to take Louisiana away. Beverly picks locks, and the girls break into an animal shelter where they rescue a dog. Beverly’s mother hits her after the girl shoplifts, leaving a bruise on Beverly’s face. Beverly also breaks into Ida’s home, where she steals and damages Ida’s prize baton.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

10 and up


Kate DiCamillo






Record Label



Candlewick Press


On Video

Year Published



New York Times Notable Children’s Book, 2016; ALA Notable Children’s Books, 2017; Kirkus Best Middle Grade Books, 2016 and others


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