LOUISIANA’S WAY HOME by Kate DiCamillo – REVIEW BY DANA EDWARDS
Louisiana’s Way Home
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Age Range: 9-12
Three semis drove past us. One was painted with a picture of a cow standing in a field of green grass. I was jealous of that cow because she was at home and I was not.
It seemed like a very sad thing to be jealous of a fake cow on the side of a truck.
I must warn you that a great deal of this story is extremely sad.
Louisiana wasn’t lying. A great deal of this book was sad. It was also insightful, poignant, and funny. That’s what Kate DiCamillo does best—she writes a story that has the perfect mixture of emotions to help the reader grow along with the storyteller.
The storyteller in this case is Louisiana Elefante, and readers were introduced to her in Raymie Nightingale. Louisiana was the friend with the very odd grandmother. In Louisiana’s Way Home, this same Granny takes—Louisiana would say forces—Louisiana on a road trip to confront the curse that has besieged their family for years, leaving behind Louisiana’s best friends and beloved cat, Archie, back in Florida.
When Louisiana and Granny make it to Georgia, a medical emergency (Granny needs her teeth pulled) causes them to stay at the Good Night Sleep Tight Motel, with no money. While Granny recuperates, Louisiana meets Burke Allen (a boy with a crow and knack for getting free candy from vending machines), the entire Allen family (including Betty Allen, baker of all pies!), Reverend Obertask (pastor of the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church), and Miss Lulu (the not easily impressed church organist).
Louisiana is determined to never forgive Granny. She uprooted her from her home, her friends, and her cat in the middle of the night, after all. But Louisiana is about to discover a bigger reason to never forgive her grandmother. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s ginormous!
Louisiana badly wants to go home, and while she tries to figure out how to get her suitcase back from the owner of the motel, who is holding it for ransom until the bill is paid, Louisiana learns a few things. She learns some hard things, and some not-so-hard things. But mainly she learns: 1) there are kind people in the world and 2) while grace is often not deserved, it can be freely given.
When he got back into the car, Reverend Obertask turned to me and said, “I want you to know something, Louisiana. We all, at some point, have to decide who we want to be in this world. It is a decision we make for ourselves. You are being forced to make this decision at an early age, but that does not mean that you cannot do it well and wisely. I believe you can. I have great faith in you. You decide. You decide who you are, Louisiana. Do you understand?”
I told him that I did understand.
Even though I wasn’t certain that I did.
There will be times when the reader will be angry with Granny, too. And maybe a little mad at Kate DiCamillo for making him or her feel so many things at the same time. But mainly the reader will feel love for Louisiana’s Way Home.
Dana Edwards is a school counselor for 4th-8th grade students. She lives outside of Atlanta with her husband and three dogs. In her spare time, she writes stories for kids, watches her son play college baseball, and trades hilarious gifs with her grown daughter. You can find out what she’s up to at danaedwardswrites.com