by Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press, 2016
Middle grade, historical fiction
Ages 8 – 12
Additional formats: ebook
Honors: Junior Library Guild Selection
In so many ways, this novel, set in Florida in the 1970s, is the perfect middle grade story about friendship. Raymie Clark’s dad has abandoned the family for a romance with a dental hygienist. Her plan to get him back is to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire pageant by twirling a baton. It’s at her baton twirling lessons that she meets Louisiana, an orphan in her grandmother’s care, and Beverly Tapinski, an angry, if pragmatic, girl who seems bent on all manner of sabotage. The three form an unlikely trio and eventually become one another’s lifeline.
I found each girl fascinating and often hilarious, even as they faced the saddest of truths. Ultimately, this is a story of friendship and support, focused on how girls grapple with the big disappointments that life can sometimes offer. Themes of grief, economic poverty, and neglect are handled expertly for the age group.