It is 1975 and Raymie Clarke is determined to learn to twirl a baton so she can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. If she does, she is sure she will get her picture in the newspaper, where her father will see it. And if he sees it, he will surely come back home to live with Raymie and her mom. Raymie meets Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski, both of whom have reasons to want to be Little Miss Central Florida Tire. The three girls could have been rivals, but instead, they become friends. Together they find a lost library book, look for a missing cat, and mourn for a elderly friend who has died. While each girl clearly has problems in their personal lives, they do not let those problems define them. Instead, they love, laugh, and enjoy life, and you see the strength of their characters shine though.
This book does not offer easy answers to any of the problems the girls must face. Instead, Raymie Nighingale celebrates the power of friendship and the joy of every day things. I very much enjoyed this one, though I do wish that Ms. DiCamillo had given the relationship between Raymie and her father a little more depth. That way, the loss of that relationship would have had more meaning to me.