The wait is over for Kate DiCamillo’s legions of fans: Candlewick Press is officially revealing to the trade in this week’s print issue of Publishers Weekly the cover of the two-time Newbery Medalist’s next novel. DiCamillo’s eighth novel for middle-grade readers, Louisiana’s Way Home, is a companion novel to her Raymie Nightingale, which was published in 2016 to much critical acclaim, including a starred review in PW. Raymie Nightingale was a finalist for that year’s National Book Award in Young People’s Literature.
Louisiana’s Way Home will be released worldwide in print and digital formats on October 2. The cover, by Amy June Bates, is revealed here.
According to a release, the 240-page Louisiana’s Way Home, which is edited by senior editor Andrea Tompa, places at the center of the story 10-year-old Raymie Clarke’s best friend, Louisiana Elefante, an orphan with a rich imagination who lives in poverty with her grandmother. Louisiana claims to be the daughter of the famous Flying Elefantes trapeze artists. Together with a third girl, Beverly Tapinski, the trio, who live in 1975-era central Florida and meet over baton-twirling lessons, call themselves “The Three Rancheros.”
“When Louisiana’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town—including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder — she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes.” A possible curse on Louisiana and Granny’s heads also may have an impact upon their lives, the release concludes, “but that is a story for another time.”
This novel marks the first time that DiCamillo has revisited in her fiction the human characters and a world she has created in a previous novel, although Candlewick says fans have asked her to do so for years. DiCamillo, of course, has written six novels about Mercy Watson in that chapter book series for young readers—but Mercy is a pig.
DiCamillo explains that the inspiration for Louisiana’s Way Home was sparked when she was preparing on her next writing project and was leafing through notebooks, re-reading “all the phrases and images that I had written down that I thought might turn into a story.”
Disclosing that the words, “ 'I am going to write it all down so that you will know what happened to me,’ showed up again and again” in her notebooks, DiCamillo said that she had written next to the sentence, ‘Louisiana?’ “And it was Louisiana. It was her voice.”
Although DiCamillo initially did not intend to write a companion novel to Raymie Nightingale, “Louisiana’s voice was so strong and insistent,” she said. “And her need to tell her story was so profound, that I gave in. And boy, am I ever glad that I did. I loved spending time with her again.”