Kate DiCamillo is a two-time Newbery Medal-winning author who has gifted the world with children's stories like The Tale of Despereaux and Because of Winn-Dixie. And now, DiCamillo has written another novel to add to her collection of beautiful stories.
Raymie Nightingale, which will be published this April, is about a 10-year-old from Florida named Raymie who enters a local beauty pageant as an attempt to get her dad to notice her after he left their family for a new life.
BuzzFeed had the chance to catch up with the author over email and learn about Raymie Nightingale. Here's what she had to say:
1. The author was inspired to write the story because of a real-life beauty pageant.
"I had this notion that I was going to write a funny book about a rather inept child who enters a Little Miss contest and makes a madcap mess of things. So I started with the idea of Little Miss Central Florida Tire and the inept child and then I was surprised (this happens a lot with stories; they surprise you) to find that more was going on than I had anticipated. Raymie wants to win the contest because her father is gone. And she wants to get him to return. And she thinks that winning the contest will do that. And then these other kids showed up (totally unanticipated): Beverly Tapinski and Louisiana Elefante, and they are struggling with their own losses and, zoom, the story was off and running‒out of my control, delighting me, terrifying me, moving me."
2. Writing Raymie Nightingale was a different experience for her than other novels.
"This one kept knocking me off my feet with unanticipated things. I just never knew what was going to happen."
3. She sees herself in Raymie.
"That's me — that introverted, terrified, watching, hopeful child."
4. DiCamillo was in a beauty pageant when she was younger, too.
"I actually participated in a Little Miss Orange Blossom Contest when was I was seven or eight years old. I remember standing up on the stage and thinking: oh boy, I should not be here. Obviously, I didn't win. Also, I never did learn how to twirl a baton. In spite of lessons."
5. Friendship is a major theme in the novel.
"I was a shy, terrified kid. But I was also a kid who was lucky enough to have friends. I laughed with those friends. I had adventures. We dreamed together. I relied on them. Louisiana says at one point in the novel, 'We'll rescue each other.' That is how it was for me with friends. Still is. They saved me. They save me."
6. The author hopes the book will make readers feel "less alone."
"I hope that readers laugh. I hope that they think about their souls. I hope they think about how they are connected to the people around them. I hope that the story makes them feel less alone."
7. This is what she would tell her younger self:
"It's going to be okay. You'll be okay. You're stronger than you know."