Louisiana’s Way Home


Louisiana’s Way Home (ebook)

by Kate DiCamillo


If you didn’t read Raymie Nightingale, you’ll still do fine with Louisiana’s Way Home, though it’s definitely easier to understand if you’ve read them in order.  In this story, Louisiana has been traveling with her granny, and she is learning about life from Granny’s perspective (get what you can for free, win arguments, etc.).  She is angry, because granny has taken her out of Florida, away from her friends, and she doesn’t understand why.  They end up in a small town in Georgia, and her granny, having lost all of her teeth, has abandoned her emotionally.  Louisiana is left with the stories her granny has passed on to her- that she is the orphan of trapeze artists, that her family has a curse, and that she can’t escape this curse.  Louisiana meets a friend, learns the truth about her family history, and has to figure out who she is before life passes her by.

What I liked about this story was the repetition of words and phrases, often leading to themes or motifs, and the was things came full circle.  I enjoy Kate DiCamillo as much as the next person.  I can agree that she’s a skilled author and creative storyteller, but she never stood out as my favorite.  However, this book blew me away.  I loved the way she wrote Louisiana and how certain things were repeated throughout the book.  This is up there on my list of 2018 books and it isn’t even out yet!

What I didn’t like about this story was how much anxiety and feelings of helplessness I felt for Louisiana.  As an adult, a teacher, and a mother, I wanted to take Louisiana home.  I feel like I have had students who would totally relate to her situation, and that makes my heart break for her and for the real people who could relate to this story.

Book 70 of 2018

Because of Winn-Dixie


Because of Winn-Dixie (paperback)

by Kate DiCamillo

AR Level 3.9, 3 points


Because of Winn-Dixie is another of Kate DiCamillo’s stories where her voice and style is strong.  It was very similar to Raymie Nightingale in that the main character, India Opal, is a lonely child who is down a parent while the remaining parent (her dad, a preacher) is suffering his own sense of loss and shuts Opal out.  She is new to town and doesn’t have any friends yet, which makes her even more lonely, until she meets a dog who leads her to meet new friends.  Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal reconnects with her father and they realize they need to be supportive of one another.

What I like about this book is the language and thoughtfulness of the writing, and the life lessons that DiCamillo works into the storyline.  For example, Opal dislikes several boys because of what they said about someone else, not her.  She also isn’t sure whether to be afraid of a man because he’d been in jail.  A friend of hers tells her, “you can’t always judge people by the things they done.  You got to judge them by what they are doing now.”  That is a good lesson or reminder not only for children (the intended audience), but for adults, as well.

What I did not like, and I shouldn’t say I didn’t like, because sometimes I do enjoy it, is the whimsical way the story flows.  You are on a journey with Opal, and there isn’t a solid plot line until the end when you realize what the story was about.  There isn’t a solid “problem” of the story and the conflict is internal.  This isn’t always bad, but I’m sometimes not in the mood for it.

Book 13 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Raymie Nightingale


Raymie Nightingale (paperback)

by Kate DiCamillo

AR Level 4.2, 5 points


Raymie Nightingale is Raymie Clark, and she lives with her mother in Florida in the 1970s.  Her father has just run off with a dental hygienist, and Raymie thinks if she wins a pageant, her father will see her picture in the paper and return to the family.  She is taking baton-twirling lessons to help her chances of winning, but she meets 2 unlikely friends who seem to have a tougher situation than she does.  Together, the three girls spend their summer trying to learn to twirl a baton, save a cat, find a misplaced book, and save each other from desperate situations.

What I liked about this book was the way Raymie was able to come out on top and defeat what she saw as the odds.  Her mom “woke up” and her dad called, even though Raymie no longer wanted to talk to him.  Even though most of it was kind of depressing, there were well-developed characters, and you felt for each one of them.

What I didn’t like about this book was it was kind of depressing.  Raymie and her friends were all in a depressed state over their lives, Raymie’s mom was depressed over her husband leaving, and there was death and near death.  However, it all contributed to the tone of the book, and Raymie came out on top in the end, being a light in her friends’ and mother’s worlds.

Book 3 of 40 (40 Book Challenge)

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures


Flora & Ulysses (hardcover)

by Kate DiCamillo

AR Level 4.3, 5 points


This is a cute story about a cynical girl and her super hero squirrel.  Flora is a self-proclaimed cynic who lives with her mother (the arch-nemesis) and visits with her father.  She and her father share a love of a particular comic, called The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incadesto, with a segment called “Terrible Things Can Happen To You.”  Both of these are referenced throughout the story, and there are many comparisons in the story lines.

So Flora comes upon a squirrel named Ulysses, whom she rescues from her neighbor’s vacuum cleaner.  Upon rescuing him, she discovers he has super powers, including the ability to fly, type poetry, and communicate with humans.  Flora and Ulysses make an instant connection, but Flora’s mother disapproves of a squirrel living in her household, and tries to get Flora’s father to murder him with a bag and shovel.  Yikes!  Flora and Ulysses have to work together to battle several intrinsic and extrinsic conflicts, including Flora’s mother’s hurtful words, evil cats, and the ability to change one’s outlook.

What I liked about this book… well, there were several things.  First of all, DiCamillo continues to write beautifully complicated characters.  Flora is a child I’d enjoy having as a student in my class.  She is thoughtful, self-aware, and cynical.  She’s a thinker.  She and Ulysses have several interesting “friends” in the story, who each have backstories and contribute to the plot in a meaningful way.  While those stories are difficult to read, we feel their pain and their strength and the love they feel for our hero and heroine of the story.

Another thing I liked was the wonderful illustrations (it is The ILLUMINATED Adventures, after all).  Several chapters are in the form of comic strips, which go nicely with the idea of Flora’s favorite comic book.  Ulysses is, himself, a super hero, so naturally, it would make sense to put him in a comic.

What I didn’t like about this book was… I’m not really sure how to explain… while it has all of the qualities of a great novel, I lost focus half way through and picked up another book.  Maybe that was my fault, because it really is a good book and an easy read.  I have found that DiCamillo writes these sagas that have an end goal, but move from place to place to place, and it kind of gets fuzzy in the middle.  Or maybe I’m just ADD, which is a completely reasonable and likely explanation.

This is definitely a good read.  It is funny, sad, heart-warming, and suspenseful all at the same time.  I can see why it won the John Newbery Medal for 2014.

Book 14 of 52

Update/Side Note: I’ve read 14 books in 10 weeks.  I should be a lot farther along, but it’s been a busy couple of weeks!

Thank you Megan for your recommendation, and for letting me borrow your book!

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane


The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (paperback)

by Kate DiCamillo

AR Level 4.4, 2 points

A friend recommended that I read this book.  She said she’d read it to her class in the past, and her students were able to predict the ending, but she thought something different would have happened.  That caught my attention- there must be something about the way kids related to the story compared to how we as adults do.  It follows the journey of a vain “toy” bunny (don’t let him catch me calling him a toy) as he grows and changes emotionally when his world is turned upside down.  He starts off in the home of Abilene, a little girl who loves and treasures him.  He was given to her by her mysterious grandmother, Pellegrina.  When they are separated, he goes from hand to hand and learns the value of LOVE.  He has several heartbreaking losses (some more heartbreaking than others), and you feel his pain each time because of DiCamillo’s awesome ability to personify this bunny.  I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I will say that the happiness or sadness of it is all about your perspective and emotional ties to the characters.  However, the theme is powerful, and summed up by the quote, “If you have no intention of loving or being loved, then the whole journey is pointless.”

What I liked about this book:  I haven’t read a Kate DiCamillo book before, but I enjoy her style of writing.  She is incredibly descriptive, and you have as much disgust for Edward as distrust for Pellegrina as the author meant for you to have.  You can see the flecks of gold in the little girl’s eyes and smell the dump or taste the salty ocean water.  I also enjoyed the way DiCamillo used short, precise sentences and phrases to make her point.  Something about the writing made me want to keep reading, even over the character description and desire to see what became of Edward.

What I didn’t like about this book:  There was something that happened in this book that didn’t sit right with me.  Everyone has their thing that makes them uncomfortable or upset or distressed and prevents them from enjoying the book or movie, whether it’s cruelty to animals, foul language, etc.  Suicide is one for me (although not the case in this book).  The particular event in this story made me cry big fat tears, and while I finished the book, it really took away from the meaning behind it, because I was so distressed about what happened.  For most, it would probably be no big deal, though.  I’d say that overall, the message of the book is powerful, and worth the read.

Thank you for recommending and lending me this book, Megan!

Book 4 of 52