Raymie Nightingale

Kate DiCamillo

When 10-year-old Raymie Clarke’s father runs off with a dental hygienist, she hatches a desperate plan: She will take baton-twirling lessons and win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire 1975 contest. When her dad sees her picture in the paper, he’ll be so impressed that he’ll come home.

Fans of the Kate DiCamillo, a two-time Newbery Medalist, will recognize elements of her beloved Because of Winn-Dixie: the absent parent, the dream of reconciliation, the dusty small-town setting suffused with workaday wonder. There’s even a larger-than-life animal — in this case, a big black cat named Archie. But while Winn-Dixie is complex and contemplative, Raymie is fleet — a crystalline ode to childhood friendship.

Raymie meets her rivals Beverly Tapinski and Louisiana Elefante at baton class, where Louisiana faints in a whirl of pink skirts, recovering only long enough to shout “Archie, I’m sorry! I’m sorry I betrayed you!” Bursting with unexpressed emotion, Raymie is drawn to Louisiana’s dramatic pronouncements. Beverly, a hard-nosed cop’s daughter, is skeptical, but she’d rather be doing anything than twirling a baton.

Soon the “Three Rancheros” are bonding over shared secrets and secret plans. The action is exciting, the text shimmers and the threads of the plot come together for an ending of undeniable power.

— Nara Schoenberg

Chicago Tribune

Cleopatra

The Lumineers

Before going straight to Billboard’s No. 1 album spot with this sophomore release, the usually chipper, now moody Colorado campfire folk-rock band was known as the headlining act for HBO’s fictional Girls duo Desi & Marnie. The Lumineers had a cheerful demeanor and jumpy, rustic aesthetic on singles such as Ho Hey.

Things changed, however, for this second record. Outside of the strummy title track and the swivel-hipped Shakespearean twist on Ophelia, it’s as though the Denver trio refused to look backward (except in anger).

Part of that holy-rolling thought process — their country-gospel lean — was nicely apparent on their eponymous first record. This time out, singing songwriters Wesley Schultz (lead vocals, guitar) and Jeremiah Fraites (drums) with cellist Neyla Pekarek find churchy, atmospheric swells and funereal tempos on mournful tunes such as the apolitical Gun Song and the aptly titled Patience, with Schultz occasionally sounding like a Nico-era Jackson Browne.

There’s room for love (Angela) and weird lust (the blue Sick in the Head) on Cleopatra, but mostly what there’s room for within its sonic palette is … more room — a spacious, spare quality that sneaks up on you with every listen.

— A.D. Amorosi

Philadelphia Inquirer

Extreme Prey

John Sandford

Detective Lucas Davenport has retired from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, but he isn’t slowing down — and neither does the action in this fast-paced thriller.

During the presidential primaries, a candidate hears a rumor that rogue members of an anti-government group are planning to assassinate one of his opponents. But when he tries to alert people, everyone shrugs it off as a scare tactic. So he enlists Davenport to verify the rumor and track down the would-be killers. We readers are being updated on the assassins’ activities, and we also know that Davenport is running out of time to stop them.

Sandford sprinkles in just enough character development that someone encountering Davenport for the first time can get a feeling for him, but the narrative doesn’t get waylaid by extensive backgrounding, which would be unnecessary for the regular readers of the Prey series. As usual, the author’s primary focus is on keeping the plot zipping along. It’s a quintessential summer read.

— Jeff Strickler

Minneapolis Star Tribune