Slice of Life Tuesday:Thinking about think of Raymie, Beverly and Louisiana…


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I finished reading Kate DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale a couple of weeks ago, and my copy of the book is now making its rounds from one happy and entranced reader in my classroom to the next.  But Raymie and her friends Beverly and Louisiana have been very much with me.   They are unforgettable characters, really, and the why of that unforgettable-ness has been much on my mind, because when I think of Raymie, Beverly and Louisiana, I think of the children I teach…especially now, when our time together is drawing to an end, when I want to remember as much about them as I can.

Yesterday, I listened again to this interview with Kate DiCamillo:

Actually, I listened to it twice.  Because the first time, I got stuck at this quote, and needed time to think about it and chew on the substance of it:

Raymie, she’s very much like the child that I was. Very introverted, watching, worrying, wondering, but also hopeful.

I have Raymies and Kates like this…they are watching and worrying and wondering, too.  I see this in the way their eyes focus and unfocus throughout the day.  Now they are here, watching, and then they are not, because they are off in some sixth grade zone of worrying and wondering. Many of them have much to worry about, because, as Raymie discovered when her father went off with that dental hygienist, grown ups often do things  that the kids who love them, and trust and need them, cannot even imagine they would do.  This is why they hope, and why they have to believe in the power of hoping, as Raymie did with her plans to become Little Miss Central Florida Tire so that her father would have a means to live up to that hope.  I want my kids to know hope, too: hope in our classroom community, and hope in the great world beyond.  What am I doing to inspire and nurture hope?

The second bit of the interview that stopped me short was when Kate said this:

but it wasn’t until after I finished the book that I … [realized] that I was, as a kid, stronger than I thought I was. … Raymie does something that surprises herself and surprised me and made me realize … you’re stronger than you think you are.

And this is the part that gives me hope.  Because my kids always surprise themselves (often when they least expect it) by being stronger than they ever think they can be: they try new things, they push themselves to figure out new books and projects I dream up in the middle of the night, and they allow themselves to be kind when kindness is hard to summon up.  Because kindness is often hard to summon up in middle school, where simply surviving through the day is challenge number one.  What am I doing to inspire and nurture bravery?

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These are the questions rattling around in my teacher’s head and heart today, and, considering what had been weighing me down just a few days ago , these are just the sort of questions I need to be thinking about in these last weeks of school.


17 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday:Thinking about think of Raymie, Beverly and Louisiana…

  1. What a quote of the day. “What am I doing to inspire and nurture bravery?” I think this might be a T shirt for ALL of us…every grade level….even non teachers…..if we lived like that every day?????

  2. From all I know of you, Tara, and of your teaching, I imagine that you inspire bravery every day, and somehow the students will keep that with them, too. In Booked, remember that the boy Mark learned that “the only fight he had to win was the one against the fear”? I guess that’s what teachers do, is to help students fight the fear. Between Kate DiCamillo and Kwame Alexander, I hope they’ll always win.

  3. Beautiful, Tara. I read Raymie last week, and it spoke to my heart as well. My dad left when I was just a child and that hope…. Raymie’s hope – man, I get it.

    I get to meet Kate DiCamillo on May13th and I can’t wait. I think it may be one of the highlights of my life. I’m reading Edward Tulane with Maddie right now, and I wonder what message Maddie will take away.

  4. I’m looking forward to getting to know those three girls…I don’t have a copy of the book- yet. Today a friend forwarded me Kate DiCamillo’s acceptance speech for the Caldecott for Flora and Ulysses. I cried. She is an author who truly gets it, and knows how to share it in a way that kids can get it, too. That hope.

  5. I read Kate even though I am well past middle school. She does have a lot of goodness come through her writing without any treacle. From what I remember of my children’s middle school days, it does take an awful lot of courage to be kind in middle school.

  6. I finished Raymie today and I want to read it again. Kate Dicamillo is such a master. I want to study and figure out the formula, but it’s probably just that she is so intuitive about kids. Those three girls reminded me of the Little Rascals, innocent and mischievous, and always trying to figure life out. I wish I had time to read it aloud this year. Time is flying by.

  7. I have not read this, but I know that I want to read it just because Kate DiCamillo wrote it. I love her words, but I also love your words and heart that you put into everything you do. You do what is right for kids.

  8. I also loved this book because of the 3 characters and those they encounter along the way! Your post reminds me of why we read…so we can know how to live! I so enjoyed your reflections. And thanks for the link to the interview. I had missed it.

  9. I can’t wait to read this book! I have heard so many raving reviews about it. I think I need to crawl under a reading rock and disappear! Thank you, Tara for the quotes and the link to the interview. The quotes definitely hit home with me.

  10. It is hard being a kid and trying to cope with things they don’t fully understand. Your students are lucky that you are there for them inspiring them to have the kind of bravery they need to be kind.

  11. You know Tara, I keep coming back to your previous post about being average. This post shows anyone who reads it that you are not average. The love you have in your teacher’s heart is so beautiful and when you share your stories and your students with all of us, I am in awe. Your students are truly blessed. Now, about that book…coming soon!

  12. I just finished reading Raymie Nightingale two days ago. You are inspiring and nurturing hope in so many ways…just by sharing special books like Raymie Nightingale with your students! (If you haven’t read All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor, check it out. Perry and Raymie could be such great friends!)

  13. Just checked my holds list – I’m #66 on 35 copies. Maybe I should check the middle school library. But I did discover that Booked and Laura Shovan’s The Last Fifth Grader at Emerson Elementary are in transit! So much to think about in your question – What am I doing to nurture and inspire bravery? Hoping to get back to listen to Kate’s interview soon.

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