I’ve been a fan of Kate DiCamillo’s every since I read her first book Because of Winn-Dixie about 15 years ago. Numerous books and awards later, her quirky characters have stayed with me, and I’m always happy to recommend her books. So I was excited to read her latest, Raymie Nightingale. We first meet Raymie Clarke at baton-twirling class two days after her father ran off with dental hygienist Lee Ann Dickerson. Raymie figures if she can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest, her father will see her picture in the paper and come home. An unlikely friendship develops with two of her classmates; tough talking Beverly Tapinski, who loves to tell people that her father is a cop and timid Louisiana Elefante, daughter of the Flying Elefantes who has a tendency to faint. Beverly and Louisiana also have rather misguided reasons for entering the contest and the Three Rancheros, as Louisiana nicknames them, end up on all sorts of crazy adventures to obtain the crown. Along the way we meet Ida Nee, the baton instructor with yellow hair and white knee high boots, compassionate Mrs. Sylvester who sounds like a cartoon bird and old Mrs. Borkowski, who sits on a lawn chair in the middle of the road. Another winner for DiCamillo and awards are sure to follow.