Review: Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

Way Home.jpgAn exquisitely crafted standalone sequel to the brilliant Raymie Nightingale.

Although I’m not a children’s book specialist, I take great pleasure in reading a truly brilliant book aimed at younger readers. There’ve been a few in my time — having missed the truly transformative Harry Potter years — including most recently Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor, and before that, Kate DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale. There is no greater feeling as a bookseller  and certainly I can make no greater impact in my role than putting a truly remarkable book in a child’s hands. I can safely say Louisiana’s Way Home will another one of those books.

Raymie Nightingale told the story of ten-year-old Raymie Clarke and her plan to make her father return to his family after he eloped with a dental hygienist. Set in 1975, in Florida, Raymie was determined to learn how to twirl a baton in order to win the title of ‘Miss Central Florida Tire 1975.’ She figured by winning the title, her photograph would make it into newspaper and be seen by her father, which would make him so proud, so desperate to see her, he’d want to return home immediately, and life would resume as before. But also aspiring to win the competition were two girls, Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski, both of whom had also lost parents and were seeking ways to move on with their lives. And while this triumvirate started off as competitors, their particular quirky personalities soon merged into friendship, worthy of being tagged as the “Three Rancheros” by Louisiana — whose journey we follow in Louisiana’s Way Home, set two years later in 1977.

The book chronicles 12-year-old Louisiana’s travels from Florida to Richford, Georgia, with her kooky grandmother, who forcibly plucks her from her happy, contended life with her friends, and unintentionally propels her on a journey of self-discovery, and the unravelling of “the curse of sundering” she believes has been her fate since birth. Were it not for Louisiana’s biting observations about the adults around her (which had me chuckling on several occasions), Louisiana’s Way Home would be mortifyingly sad — but Kate DiCamillo’s lucid prose and her ability to craft tales that are simultaneously poignant and triumphant make this a book to cherish.

We can only hope this is a trilogy in the making, and the third and final of the Three Rancheros, Beverly Tapinski, finds herself the protagonist in a story of her own, too.

4 Star

ISBN: 9781406384208
Format: Hardback
Pages: 240
Imprint: Walker Books Ltd
Publisher: Walker Books Ltd
Publish Date: 1-Oct-2018
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

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