I must admit, I went into this with few expectations. This is not a typical read for me and I did not know what to expect. What I got was a beautiful, heartbreaking story of childhood, loss, and friendship. And I loved it.
The story follows ten-year-old Raymie Clarke, a girl determined to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. The reason or this is that her father has just left home with a dental hygienist, and she believes that if her father sees her in the paper he will come back home.
But, before joining the competition she has to do an act of kindness. So, with a book on Florence Nightingale, she and her newly made friends, and fellow competitors, the tough, determined Beverly, and sweet, hopeful Louisiana, she sets off to do her deed.
The three friends, nicknamed the Three Rancheros, go on a mission to do a good deed, retrieve a book, and find a cat. Along the way, they learn many life lessons as they explore their individual loss and hardships, and it entirely broke my heart.
What I loved about this book was the subtlety of it. It doesn’t throw you any heavy-handed life lessons, it doesn’t force any deep philosophical wisdom down your throat. It simply tells you a story and along the way you learn something. It is simply written, unassuming and heartwarming.
The entire second half had me with teary eyes. This played with my emotions in ways I did not expect. It deals with divorce, grief, abuse, poverty, and death. It displays complex topics and emotions and does it beautifully. But, ultimately a book about the friendship and strengths of these three girls. It is about hope and good deeds.
The ending is somewhat inconclusive. Not all the problems get solved. It’s not happily ever after. This book is not that simple, and I appreciate that. Children can read about tough topics. Children have the capacity to think and have complex emotions. Children are not blind to the realities of the world. This book acknowledges that.
I highly recommend.
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