Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Louisiana's Way Home, by Kate DiCamillo
|Words by Kate DiCamillo, word art by me :)|
Random readerly fact: when I was a kid, I absolutely loved historical fiction set in the 30's and 40's. The world seemed generally familiar and comfortable, yet so very far away and long, long ago. Do you want to know how old I felt when I realized my children's historical fiction books set in the 70's are as far, far away and long ago from their lives as WWII stories were from mine? (Answer: very old.)
Luckily, nothing makes me feel quite so deliciously young as slipping into the world of a good Kate DiCamillo story--her inner eleven-year-old and mine could be very good friends, I think. Louisiana's Way Home, her newest story, is set in the 1970's and continues the story of Louisiana Elefante, first introduced in Raymie Nightingale. (Don't worry, though, if you haven't read the first book--this is absolutely readable and enjoyable on its own terms.)
Publisher's blurb for you:
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.)
Called “one of DiCamillo’s most singular and arresting creations” by The New York Times Book Review, the heartbreakingly irresistible Louisiana Elefante was introduced to readers in Raymie Nightingale — and now, with humor and tenderness, Kate DiCamillo returns to tell her story.
One of the many things Kate DiCamillo does tremendously well is explore what it means to be human--whether we live in the 21st century, the 1970's, or a medieval castle (and, um, happen to be a mouse). Louisiana's Way Home beautifully develops a theme she's raised in many of her stories: being hurt is part of being human, but sharing our pain paradoxically increases our joy.
I can't think of many more important themes for today's children (and children-at-heart!) to have running through their minds and hearts. Recently, my heart has been breaking--not from my own troubles, directly, but from the pain so many of my friends and even strangers in the world are suffering. In the midst of all this, I read Louisiana's Way Home--and let me tell you, great children's books are the best cheap therapy ever. :) Because I suddenly felt gratitude for the heartbreak. In gardening, you sometimes need to take out the shears and slash away at seemingly healthy plants so that new, tender growth can explode from the scars. Heartbreak is like that, too. What a wonder it is that when our hearts are crushed, if we submit to our Loving Gardener, new growth and a capacity for love will spring out of the wounds.
Heartbreak is one of life's certainties. But thank God for beautiful writers like Kate DiCamillo who can remind us that Love is a certainty as well.
Louisiana's Way Home will be released on October 2. You can preorder it (and earn me a tiny commission) by clicking here or on the cover image above. (Many thanks to Netgalley for providing me with a review copy!) And check out more MMGM reviews and recommendations at Greg Pattridge's blog, here.
What books do you turn to when you're struggling through life's harder bits?