Kate DiCamillo draws from Central Florida childhood in new book 'Raymie Nightingale'

Kate DiCamillo, the author of several celebrated children’s novels such as Because of Winn-DixieThe Tiger Rising, The Tale of Desperaux and more, is no stranger to writing from a personal place. Her new book, Raymie Nightingale, is one of her most autobiographical to date.

The children's novel stars Raymie Clark, a 10-year old girl grappling with the emotional fallout from her father leaving their family for a dental hygienist. Raymie becomes convinced that winning the Little Miss Central Florida Tire Competition, thereby getting her picture in the paper, will be the only thing that will convince her dad to come home. She first finds competition and then friendship in two other girls competing, and what follows is an adventure that examines the hope that comes out of emotional hardship.

Like many of DiCamillo’s novels, Raymie Nightingale draws
from her own personal experiences create something relatable and new. With this novel, DiCamillo comes home – much like Raymie Clark living in Central Florida, DiCamillo hails from Clermont, and has a father who left her at a young age.

“Setting the book in Central Florida wasn’t so
much a conscious decision as something that happened naturally,” DiCamillo says. “My father left when I was young, and all my books have autobiographical elements, they all have missing parents. It was much more of an emotional decision."

DiCamillo was aware of the higher level of autobiographical material in Raymie Nightingale, and simply decided to work through it.

“I was certainly aware how much closer to home I was while
writing the novel,” DiCamillo says. “I just decided to not think about it as
best I could. If I was thinking about how it compared to my own life, I would have gotten unnerved and that might have affected my writing.”

The personal connection in the novel hasn’t been lost on
readers: several have spoken to DiCamillo appreciating the subject matter.

“It’s been a very rewarding, seeing how people have embraced
and connected to this book,” DiCamillo says. “I’ve had people on this tour
coming up to me telling me their own personal stories about these matters. It’s been a raw and intimate experience, and a very moving one.”

Kate DiCamillo is visiting the Orange County Library System
on Thursday, June 23 as part of her 20-city book tour, where she will be
reading from Raymie Nightingale and signing copies for the audience.

6 p.m. Thursday, June 23 | Orlando Public Library, 101 E. Central Blvd. | ocls.info | free