Three Rancheros #1: Raymie Nightingale – Kate DiCamillo

“Have you ever in your life come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on you?”

Raymie is learning how to twirl a baton. If she can master that, then surely she’ll be crowned Little Miss Central Florida Tire 1975. Then her father will see her photograph in the newspaper and come back home. See, he ran off with Lee Ann, the dental hygienist, two days ago.

Louisiana also plans to win the contest. Beverly plans to sabotage it. These three unlikely friends meet during one of Ida Nee’s baton-twirling lessons and quickly become the Three Rancheros.

Raymie is sad, Louisiana is scared and Beverly is angry. Together they face fears and painful truths, supporting one another along the way. They also search for Archie, the King of the Cats, and meet a one eyed dog named Buddy, not Bunny.

I really liked the supporting characters in this book, especially Mrs Sylvester, who has the best work phone banter ever (“How may we protect you?”), and Mrs Borkowski, who asks great questions and whose catchphrase seems to be “Phhhhtttt.”

“And I wonder what will become of us. Don’t you wonder what will become of us?”

I was left needing more information about Louisiana and Beverly, so thankfully they have their own books. I would have been so disappointed if the Three Rancheros’ story ended here, when I have so many unanswered questions. Now I need to revisit Louisiana’s story (yes, I read the second book first!) before I find out more about Beverly, who I suspect may wind up being my favourite Ranchero.

Content warnings include physical abuse, neglect, death, loss and abandonment.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

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.

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