LA LA LA:
A STORY OF HOPE
Written by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Jaime Kim
(Candlewick Press; $17.99, Ages 4-8)
★Starred Review – Publishers Weekly
“Everyone can sing,” we are generally told. Then, at some point children may get pegged down as tone deaf or some variation of “you sound bad when you sing.” But what does that mean? Isn’t singing really about the joy escaping a child’s chest when they let out their own individual sound?Don’t we all know how to breathe? Don’t we all have the right to sing? La La La by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Jaime Kim made me ponder that.
Kim’s gorgeous illustrations, imbued with so much meaning and emotion in this virtually wordless picture book, show the intense feelings a child has when their song is left undiscovered. Alone.
We all know what it’s like to feel alone, and arguably children even more so as they struggle daily to find a friend … that one friend who will answer their song back with their own unique spin.
I read this story on a day that I deeply needed it. And I will share it with any child who innately understands that we are meant to connect. And if we can connect …. we can truly sing.
One of the most heartbreaking moments in the story is when the little girl is alone and clearly in grief. How often do we forget that children grieve a loss of connection in life? The loss of a special toy. The loss of being a baby. The loss of a parental figure when going to school.
Share this story with them. Give them reassurance that connection is always there … we just have to keep singing our way to it.
La La La is uplifting, a gift of hope for anyone who has let their voice ring out, even when there isn’t a response back. It’s about the courage it takes to continue singing, even in our darkest moments. And right now, we need all the songs of the heart. We need connection more than ever, and this book is a lovely reminder of that.
Check out this link to a helpful teacher’s guide.
LA LA LA. Text copyright © 2017 by Kate DiCamillo. Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Jaime Kim. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.
AN INTERVIEW WITH KATE DICAMILLO
ABOUT RAYMIE NIGHTINGALE
by Hilary Taber
We’re back again today with more on Kate DiCamillo’s latest middle grade novel, Raymie Nightingale. Hilary Taber’s got some terrific questions lined up for a chance to get the author’s insights about writing this moving story.
Hilary Taber: Raymie is a character that is dear to my heart. She’s going through such a hard time, and at the same time she’s looking for what is true about life, what is real, what can be counted on. Is Raymie like you in this way or is that a particular facet of her character?
Kate DiCamillo: Raymie, oh Raymie. Raymie is very much like me. In particular, she is very much like me as a child.
HT: Raymie’s father’s secretary, Mrs. Sylvester, is such a sweetheart. It’s sort of like Raymie gets to have a very practical, straightforward mentor and encourager on the phone whenever she needs someone. Mrs. Borkowski is almost like the opposite of Mrs. Sylvester. She says such mysterious things that make you wonder if they are true somehow. Are these characters based on someone you know or are they both a symbol of the archetypal wise woman?
Children’s book author, Kate DiCamillo, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2014–2015 and winner of a Newbery Medal and a Newbery Honor.
KDC: I had the great good-fortune of growing up on a dead-end street in a small town. One side of the street was families with young children; and on the other side of the street there were three widows: Mrs. Lucas, Mrs. Lindemann and Mrs. Broadfield. These ladies all kept their doors and hearts open to the kids on the street. I could also go and sit on Mrs. Lindemann’s porch and talk with her. Mrs. Sylvester and Mrs. Borkowski are fictional characters, but they are also a way of thanking those ladies.
HT: Raymie, Beverly and Louisiana each have a problem of their own. Their shared suffering seems to unite them until they are almost a little family. Are these three friends going to make it? I believe that Raymie will make it, but I worry about Beverly and Louisiana. You’ve got me so invested in them!
KDC: I believe—absolutely—that all three of them will make it. I have no doubt about this.
HT: I’m fascinated by Louisiana’s bunny barrettes. They seem like Louisiana herself – present but also little, a tiny bit removed from reality. Did you make those up or did you ever see anyone who wore those?
KDC: Oh boy. And: bless you. I had bunny barrettes. I lost them in Mrs. Lucas’ backyard.
HT: As a child, did you have a book about a larger than life hero like Raymie did? Was there a particular person that you considered your hero when you were a child?
KDC: Librarians were my heroes. Teachers were my heroes. Anybody who put a book in my hand was my hero.
HT: Marsha Jean. Marsha Jean haunts me. Marsha Jean is not real, but yet she is. She’s the, “…ghost of what’s to come.” She’s a person that Louisiana’s grandmother has made up to keep her granddaughter on her toes. What made you think of writing about Louisiana who is pursued by the unknown?
KDC: Hmmm. I don’t know. So much of what happens in a story is not planned out by me, but is rather a surprise to me. So I don’t know how this happened. I do know that I am familiar with that feeling of being pursued by the unknown.
HT: Beverly is initially such a gritty realist, but she can be very sweet. Louisiana is more vague and kind initially, but she can be strongly adamant about how there is room to hope. Where do you see Raymie to be? Is Raymie somewhere between these two?
KDC: Raymie is somewhere in the middle, yes. She is an introvert, a hoper, a watcher. Like me.
HT: The more I read Raymie Nightingale, the more I realized that wisdom and truth are ever present in everyday life. Raymie is someone who listens for it. She listens for people to say something true, something wise. Were you like Raymie when you were a child? Did you listen for a certain phrase or words of truth like Raymie does?
KDC: I did. I still do.
Many thanks to Kate DiCamillo for answering my questions, and to the entire team at Candlewick! As Kate is my writing hero I treasure this chance to interview her. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity I will not soon forget. Summer reading is coming up! Be sure to go to your local indie bookstore and get a copy of Raymie Nightingale today. I can’t imagine anyone else that I would rather spend the summer with than Raymie, Beverly and Louisiana a.k.a. The Three Rancheros!
Click here to read Hilary’s review of Raymie Nightingale from Monday, May 16th.
Click here for Kate DiCamillo’s Facebook page.
Click here for Kate DiCamillo’s website.
- Interview courtesy of Kate DiCamillo and Hilary Taber
Written by Kate DiCamillo
(Candlewick Press; $16.99, Ages 10 and up)
Reviewer Hilary Taber calls Raymie Nightingale, “A rare and hopeful song.” But after reading her review, you’ll discover, as with all DiCamillo’s books, it’s that and so much more
Raymie Clarke is preparing herself to enter the Little Miss Florida Central Tire competition. Her father has recently run off with a dental hygienist, and Raymie is determined to win so that he will see Raymie’s picture in a newspaper and will, of course, come back to his family. This is the initial plan, but like most plans it doesn’t turn out the way that Raymie originally intended. First of all she needs to learn how to twirl a baton in order to win the competition. It is during those baton twirling classes that she meets her “rancheros”, her new friends who become like family. Gritty, but sweet Beverly, and storyteller extraordinaire Louisiana, help her through this hard time. Maybe, just maybe, Raymie is more than just a little girl with a big dream to get her father to come home. Maybe, just maybe, Raymie is destined for adventures with her new friends that show Raymie that she is the hero of her own difficult time. Raymie finds that somewhere in her is a person who is stronger than the storms of life. She also learns that, with help from her friends, she can manage to make her way to a new life full of goodness and grace. It is a life that she could have never imagined when she began making her plans to turn things around. Kate DiCamillo delivers yet another wonderful novel that makes you believe again in the strong, incredible power of friendship and hope.
It is that rare quality of combining sorrow with sweetness that makes every book she writes life affirming. Every book is like watching a sweet spring creep over a winter world. Often as a children’s bookseller, I see an absolute faith placed in her books by the children who read them. Even though the story might be hard to read, the children show a willingness to take the journey with Kate. Time and time again I wonder what it is that they are feeling when they look at her books in their little hands. I think it’s something akin to knowing that she is telling them the truth. There is a certain peace in that. Kate tells us that life is hard, but you should always hope. Hope is real, hope is something to hold on to, hope is the stuff of life.
On a personal note I feel that Kate DiCamillo is the E.B. White of our generation. Like White she is adept in the art of condensing profound thoughts into short, but amazing sentences. I was honored to meet her recently and to have my copy of Raymie Nightingale signed. I think it’s worth noting that beyond the wonderful writing is a very brave writer. Kate has personally been through the very hard experience of having an absent father, and she has courageously taken up the task of writing about this time in her life. That had to be difficult. Ultimately I think her bravery in writing about this time in her life will help to heal others who have gone though something similar. So, here is to one amazing writer who is also incredibly resilient, just like Raymie.
Come back tomorrow to read Hilary’s interview with Kate DiCamillo to get the inside scoop.
Download a teacher’s guide here.
Download a book discussion guide here.
Superhero Princess to the Rescue!
Hilary Taber reviewsThe Princess in Black
(Candlewick Press, $14.99, Ages 5-8),
the first book in a new chapter book series.
Who says you can’t be a princess and a heroine? Allow me to introduce you to Princess Magnolia. This princess wears pink, has a sparkle ring, glass slippers and, at the beginning of the book, she is taking tea with the Duchess Wigtower. The Duchess has a feeling that Princess Magnolia is perhaps too perfect. Princess Magnolia appears to the Duchess to be too prim and proper. Princess Magnolia therefore must have a secret.
It seems that the Duchess will certainly have an opportunity to find out what that secret might be when Princess Magnolia’s glitter stone ring suddenly gives off an alarm. However, Duchess Wigtower (deftly and sweetly illustrated by LeUyen Pham with a wonderfully towering wig) never quite catches on that there has been a call to action! The glitter stone ring is actually a secret alarm. The Princess excuses herself to change into her black outfit to become the Princess in Black!
Princess Magnolia’s kingdom just happens to be located right next to Monster Land. A daring princess is clearly needed here. Together with her black pony (who is usually disguised as a unicorn), she sets off to find out why the alarm was sounded. When the princess arrives, she finds that the rather dim witted monsters who live underground in Monster Land have forgotten why they are not allowed to go above ground. It’s especially hard for them to remember the reason for this rule when they can smell the lovely scent of goat floating down into their cave. They love goats, but not in the strictly, “I’m just admiring these charming goats. Reminds me so much of Heidi!” Certainly not. The monsters want to eat the charming goats. This is a job for the Princess in Black! Well, these silly monsters have certainly met their match, but will Princess Magnolia be able to save the day and protect her superhero identity? If anyone can outwit duchesses and monsters it would be Princess Magnolia, a.k.a. the Princess in Black!
LeUyen Pham’s charming illustrations meet Shannon and Dean Hale’s lively writing punch for punch and sparkle for sparkle. The illustrations are so sweetly princess-like when they need to be, but so full of action-packed, adorable fun when they should be that they are impossible to resist. There are also many interesting clues to be found in the illustrations that the attentive reader can pick up on that prove, without a doubt, that Princess Magnolia is actually the Princess in Black. Additionally, The Princess in Black is the first in a series. Huzzah! This series will provide a much needed bridge to longer, more challenging reading when the time is right. Fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series will find much to enjoy here. Princess fans of all ages will find a heroine to inspire them, for Princess Magnolia is a model of both fashion and bravery.
Click here to find out Seven Things You Didn’t Know About the Princess in Black.
Click here to read a Q&A with the Hales.
Shannon and Dean Hale are the husband-and-wife writing team behind the graphic novels Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack, both illustrated by Nathan Hale.
Enter our 1000+ Twitter Followers Giveaway
Win Copies of Flora & Ulysses and Journey!
Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by 2014 Newbery Medal Winner, Kate DiCamillo, with illustrations by K. G. Campbell, Candlewick Press, 2013.
A huge thank you goes out to Candlewick Press for this fantastic opportunity. (Plus, read what DiCamillo’s publicist, Tracy Miracle, has to say about working with this two-time Newbery Medal winner.) Three contest entrants chosen at random will receive a set of two award-winning books, Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo (2014 Newbery Medalist) with illustrations by K. G. Campbell, together with Journey, a wordless picture book (2014 Caldecott Honor Book) by Aaron Becker.
Enter by clicking here. Include your name and address please. Remember to write 1000+ in the subject line. Contest ends at midnight PST on Tuesday, Feb. 18 and three winners will be selected and notified on Weds. Feb. 19, 2014. For eligibility, entrants must first follow us on Twitter or Facebook. Contest rules also available here. Good luck!
Journey, 2014 Caldecott Honor Book, by Aaron Becker, Candlewick Press, 2013.
“In addition to interviews with Kate DiCamillo, K. G. Campbell and Aaron Becker, we’ve been delighted to have both Flora & Ulysses and Journey reviewed on our site. So, it simply made sense to offer our readers a chance to share the enjoyment we’ve gotten from reading both these brilliant books. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t use this occasion to thank all our followers for their continued support. We love bringing our favorite books, authors and illustrators to our readers’ attention.”
– Ronna Mandel, founder Good Reads With Ronna
“Working at Candlewick is an embarrassment of riches for any book publicist, honestly. There are too many wonderful books and authors, it can be overwhelming!
But working with Kate DiCamillo is a singular privilege that I can honestly say is one of the defining aspects of my career in publishing. Over almost a decade now, we have worked and grown together, and her books have continued to surprise and impress me at each publication. Not to mention, she’s a good person, and who doesn’t want to see a really, genuinely good person do well?
While no longer an underdog by any means, she’s still easy to root for. And I count myself among her biggest cheerleaders — ever.”
– Tracy Miracle, Sr. Publicist, Candlewick Press