After her father leaves her mother for a dental hygienist, Raymie hatches a plan to get him back by winning the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. To pull this off however, she needs to learn how to twirl a baton. And so she finds herself in Ida Nee’s class. She never manages to learn much about baton twirling, but she does befriend two other girls, Louisiana and Beverley. The "Three Rancheros" (as they call themselves) set out to do good deeds and end up rescuing library books and abandoned dogs along the way.
This period piece, set in the mid-70s, is the usual mix of DiCamillo’s folksy absurdity and dry humor, making the book a brisk and enjoyable read. It will remind readers of her (much better) debut Because of Winn Dixie for the humor and the memorable characters. And while this is not her best book, it is hard not to like her gentle storytelling. For drama, there are some dicey moments with animals in peril, but everything ends up well in the end. And a short wrap up with her father at the end avoids sentimentality while providing satisfaction.