The Nitty Gritty: Louisiana’s Way Home

I didn’t set out to have my heart stolen by this little book by Kate DiCamillo. In fact, all I was trying to do was read a book with my (almost) 10 year old to get her prepped for the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl. It’s a trivia game for book nerds. But to win, you kinda gotta read the books first.

I’ve loved a lot of the books on the Helen Ruffin list this year. What I’ve loved even more is sharing them with my sweet kiddo–because spending time nerding out over books is awesome. But even more awesome are the conversations some of these book have laid the groundwork for. They cover big themes (like family conflict, race, loss, friendship, immigration, and forgiveness), which leaves plenty of room to explore.

I guess that’s what I was expecting: a sweet book that I could hold at arms length & then discuss.

That is not what happened.

What happened is that I encountered a 12 year old protagonist who had dwelled in complete chaos her whole life, but still had space left for a dog of her heart, a cat she loved, and two best friends. And a granny who took her away from all that, because the day of reckoning had arrived.

And as you may have guessed, days of reckoning are irrevocable.

When you never know when a day of reckoning may arrive, you stick to small plans and avoid hoping too big. You persevere, you engage in battles of wills, and you are wily.

But what if it doesn’t have to be like that at all?

This is Louisiana Elefante’s story. And I promise you will love her.

Because some pretty dang awful things happen to Louisiana. But, in the end (which I barely made it through without sobbing–which I could not do, because I was reading aloud), she triumphs.

This book is so beguiling that Jane (the almost 10 year old) and I have worked phrases from the book into our daily chatter. Because, when there’s a character that says things like “it’s a tale of sundering,” you really have to honor that by keeping her words front and center in your lexicon.

If you’re sharing this book with a young person, you might want to read it aloud together. There’s a cadence to Louisiana’s speech patterns that you might miss, if you’re reading quickly to yourself. It’s stellar & you absolutely don’t want to miss a word of this book.