Raymie Nightengale by Kate DiCamillo
Description (from Goodreads)
Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can 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 (maybe) 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 wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.
Raymie is one of the bravest protagonist I’ve come across in a long time. All she wants is her father back, who’s run off with a dental hygenist. The story follows her and her new unlikely friends as they take baton twirling lessons, each girl with her own motivation to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire title (except for Beverly Tapinski). I enjoyed this book, the quirks and adventures. There was an underlying sadness to this book, even with Raymie’s selflessness that churns the story towards a satisfying ending. Kate DiCamillo’s tackles complex issues of growing up, love and loss and the endurance of hope in the face of abandonment. Raymie Nightengale is one of those books I would read again just to spend a bit more time with these characters.