If I had to make a short list of what to put in my lifeboat for teaching, Kate DiCamillo‘s books are at the tippity-top of my list. When I had my own classroom, one of my favorite read alouds with my 5th graders was The Tiger Rising. I have to admit, the very first time I read it, I did not love it. It seemed too sad and a little dark. However, my experience of reading this book aloud to children was transformational, and the interactions between me, the children, and the text, were pure reading magic. It’s a feeling that I always want to return to over and over again when I read aloud with students. It’s a feeling of love.
When you enter the world of a Kate DiCamillo story, it is sometimes hard to leave, to close the book. My students always asked, “Where is Sistine’s book?“ at the end of The Tiger Rising. They’ve come to know and care about and love the characters.
Kate’s newest book, Louisiana’s Way Home published by Candlewick Press*, (coming October 2, 2018) satisfies the young reader’s need to return to favorite characters. This is a book that I cannot wait to read aloud and share with kids. We first met and fell in love with the central character, Louisiana Elefante, (one of the Three Rancheros) in Raymie Nightingale. Now Louisiana has her own story, written in her own distinctive voice. (An added bonus for true aficionados is the reference to Lister, Florida.)
Book description from the publisher:
When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return.
Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town — including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana’s and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.)
There are so many beautiful moments to linger over in this book. One of my favorite lines is from Louisiana’s Granny in a letter that comes at a pivotal moment:
“And perhaps what matters when all is said and done is not who puts us down but who picks us up.”
When I finished reading Louisiana’s Way Home, I started thinking again about some of the sadness and darkness that comes up in the book, and I was reminded of something I read earlier this year. Kate DiCamillo wrote a response to Matt DeLaPena‘s question about how honest author’s should be (about the world) with children. Her response was a beautifully written letter to him published in Time that you should read here, but I will share my favorite part:
And I think that you, with your beautiful book about love, won’t be surprised to learn that the only answer I could come up with was love. E. B. White loved the world. And in loving the world, he told the truth about it — its sorrow, its heartbreak, its devastating beauty. He trusted his readers enough to tell them the truth, and with that truth came comfort and a feeling that we were not alone.
I think our job is to trust our readers.
I think our job is to see and to let ourselves be seen.
I think our job is to love the world.
“You must be filled with expectancy. You must be awash in hope. You must wonder who will love you, whom you will love next.” These words could easily fit into Louisiana’s story.
Louisiana’s Way Home is a book about many things; identity, hope, loss, determination, overcoming impossible circumstances ……but mostly it is a book about love and acceptance (and pink houses and cake). It is a book that will make you fall in love, again, with Kate DiCamillo. <3 <3 <3
Purchase the book through Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780763694630
*Thank you, Candlewick Press, for providing me with an ARC of Louisiana’s Way Home.