8 Questions for Kate DiCamillo
The Raymie Nightingale author talks about baton twirling, what makes a classic summer tale and reminding young people of the joy of reading.
Two-time Newbery winner and outgoing National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Kate DiCamillo returns to her Florida roots in her latest book for ages 10 and up. DiCamillo is best known for her books Because of Winn Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux — both made into films. She considers herself a transplanted Southerner but grew up outside of Orlando, Florida, in a single-parent household. With a history of mining emotional territory in her past novels for children, DiCamillo circles closer to her own history for Raymie Nightingale and calls this little book “the absolutely true story of my heart.”
Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. If she can just win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton, she also has to contend with the frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. As the competition approaches, loneliness, loss and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship.
We asked DiCamillo to tell us more about her connection to Raymie, responsibilities as a national ambassador, having Dean Koontz as a fan and just what makes twirling a baton so hard.
1. This book is loosely based on your own childhood in Clermont, Florida. How were you like Raymie growing up?
I was shy and worried like Raymie. I was always planning and hoping like Raymie. And like Raymie, I had good friends that I relied on a great deal.
2. Raymie thinks that if she can win Little Miss Central Florida Tire her father might come back. Your own father left when you were young. What things did you think of to try to bring him back?
Well, unlike Raymie, I never had a plan. I just had a wish, an ache.
3. What’s so difficult about twirling a baton?
I was a kid who had to think very carefully about which direction was “left” and which direction was “right.” Baton twirling absolutely baffled me.
4. This book has been compared to classic summer tales like Stand By Me. What do you think makes a classic summer story?
A sense of freedom, a sense of wonder and hope. Lots of hope.
5. What does it feel like to have Dean Koontz as a fan?
I can’t believe it! It makes me kind of weepy. In a good way.
6. What are your responsibilities as a National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature?
My two-year term as National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature ended in January of this year. I did a lot of traveling and speaking as ambassador. I tried my best to remind people (young and old) of the joy and privilege of reading together.
7. In the book, Mrs. Borkowski says that most people waste their souls. What advice would you give to young people on not wasting their souls and instead filling them up as Raymie tries to do?
Well, that’s a lovely question. I would say fill up your soul by reading, and by listening to other people, and by hoping and loving.
8. Any movie news for Raymie?
Wouldn’t it be grand to see those girls on a big screen? I will keep hoping.
Raymie Nightingale is one of our 2016 summer reads. View our full Summer Reading List here.
Photo courtesy of Kate DiCamillo.