What is it with Kate DiCamillo, and how is it that I don’t hate her? Her writing about everyday life is so good, so luminous, that I have laughed, cried, and gasped while reading her books. Her characters are so perfect and imperfect that I feel like I know them, and yet they are 5,000 times more interesting than anyone I’ve actually known. She could write my shopping list and make it a million times better, funnier, and more interesting, joining Kathi Appelt and J.K. Rowling in a rather exclusive little club I’ve created in my head for awesome writers.
I mean, really. You hear these people have new books coming out, and you think, “Ok, excellent! I have something to look forward to now!” Sometimes, almost always, the books live up to what you are hoping for, because these writers are just that good. But once in a while, you get a Raymie Nightingale, which has not just several baton twirlers, but also a few crazy old ladies, many strong women, and some difficult and delusional new friends. And there’s Mrs. Sylvester, with her voice like a cartoon bird, and the ever-mysterious Marsha Jean, who’s got Louisiana Elefante and her grandma always on the run. And there’s more! There are sentences you would not believe – “People left and people died and people went to memorial services and put orange blocks of cheese into their purses” – which are completely crazy but always work perfectly somehow.
Kate DiCamillo is like a high school cheerleader, the one who’s nice to absolutely everyone and manages to pull off the Farrah Fawcett haircut to boot. She’s the college professor who’s everyone’s life coach, who’s unfailingly supportive when others are not and who seems to honestly believe you really can do what you dream of, She’s a Jedi knight, bringing light to a dark, scary world, fighting for something bigger, and recognizing the remarkable humanity inside all of us imperfect humans. I’ve known these people (except for the Jedi knight, although I have some pretty wonderful friends who might stand in) and while you’d kind of like to hate them sometimes, you can’t. They are just too good.
And Raymie Nightingale? It’s too good, too.