LOUISIANA’S WAY HOME
When Louisiana Elefante’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,
When Louisiana Elefante’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. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana’s and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.)
Called “one of DiCamillo’s most singular and arresting creations” by The New York Times Book Review, the heartbreakingly irresistible Louisiana Elefante was introduced to readers in Raymie Nightingale—and now, with humor and tenderness, Kate DiCamillo returns to tell her story.
From two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo comes a story of discovering who you are—and deciding who you want to be.
- Candlewick Press
- October 2018
- 240 Pages
“DiCamillo offers a master class in how to tell and shape a story once all fat has been cut away. Though set in the mid-1970s, there’s fairy-tale quality to this, with heroes, helpers, villains, and one princess looking for home.”—Booklist, starred review
“Readers who first encountered Louisiana in Raymie Nightingale (2016) will be heartened to learn more about her…For readers who relish thoughtfully constructed plots, well-developed characters, and carefully crafted language, this will be a special treat.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“DiCamillo builds a resilient and sympathetic character in Louisiana, and the juxtaposition of her down-to-earth observations with Granny’s capriciousness lightens the narrative and allows for a good deal of humor…The overarching themes addressing forgiveness, love, friendship, acceptance, home, and family (“Perhaps what matters when all is said and done is not who puts us down but who picks us up”) ring honest and true.”—The Horn Book, starred review
1. In the beginning of the book, when Louisiana warns that “a great deal of this story is extremely sad,” did you believe her (page 9)? What kind of story did you think you were about to read?
2. Louisiana tells herself that “there is goodness in many hearts. In most hearts. In some hearts” (page 18). Which feels the most accurate to you?
3. Louisiana says: “There are the rescuers in this world and there are the rescued. I have always fallen into the second category” (page 20). Which category do the other characters in the book fall into? Which category would you rather be in? Why?
4. Louisiana believes “there is a great deal of power in writing things down” (page 29). Do you agree? What are some important things that need to be written down? What would you like to write down? Can you think of anything that would lose its power if it weren’t written down?
5. Throughout the book, Louisiana references the story of Pinocchio. Why has it made such an impression on her? How is it similar to her own story?
6. At the dentist’s office, Louisiana engages in a battle of the wills with Mrs. Ivy, the receptionist. How did you feel about that scene when you read it? Why was Mrs. Ivy so unkind? Was Louisiana right to make up a fake person and address so they wouldn’t have to pay the bill?
7. Bernice tells Louisiana that she has no interest in hard-luck stories. Does Bernice have a hard-luck story of her own? What might make someone so unwilling to help out another person?
8. Louisiana used to keep a collection of the things she found under motel beds, but she threw it away when she thought she and Granny had finally settled somewhere for good. Have you ever collected anything? How would you feel if your collection disappeared?
9. What was your first impression of Burke Allen? How did it change as you read the book?
10. When Louisiana sings at the church for Bernice and Miss Lulu, they are both overcome with emotion. Did you expect them to treat Louisiana differently after that? Why are people with talents (like singing or being good at art) sometimes treated differently?
11. Burke never says why he wants to join a circus or what kind of circus performer he’d like to be. Why do you think he wants to run away? Which circus act would he be good at?
12. Do you believe Louisiana was cursed? What about Granny?
13. Is one type of lie different from another? What does Louisiana mean when she wonders, “If you are the kind of person who lies about something as small as bologna, what would stop you from lying about bigger, more important things?” (page 102).
14. After Louisiana gets to know Burke Allen better, she realizes he is “the kind of person who, if you asked him for one of something, gave you two instead” (page 108). What does that tell you about him?
15. What did you think Granny’s letter was going to say? How did you feel after you read it? Did Louisiana react the same way you would have if you had gotten a letter like that from the person who was supposed to take care of you?
16. In Granny’s letter, she writes, “Please remember this: someone put you down in that alley, but I picked you up. And perhaps what matters when all is said and done is not who puts us down but who picks us up” (page 123). What does Granny mean by that? Do you agree with her?
17. Granny’s letter is blown away and lost to Louisiana. Does that affect the power that Granny’s words have over her? If there’s power in writing things down, what happens if the writing is gone?
18. Reverend Obertask tells Louisiana that “it is a good and healing thing to tell your story” (page 164). How does sharing your story help to heal you? How does Louisiana feel once she finally does tell her story to Reverend Obertask?
19. Despite her situation, Louisiana thinks, “The world was beautiful. It surprised me, how beautiful it kept on insisting on being. In spite of all the lies, it was beautiful” (pages 169–170). What does it say about Louisiana that she is able to appreciate beauty even when she’s in despair?
20. The first time Burke tries to get Louisiana to climb the motel sign, she says no, but at the end of the story they climb to the top of a tree together. How has Louisiana changed from one scene to the other?
21. Louisiana realizes that she took her fear of heights for granted — and when she puts it to the test, she discovers a bravery within herself. What other things do we take for granted about ourselves without always checking if they’re still true? What else might Louisiana discover about herself now that she is questioning everything?
22. If you were to ask Louisiana the difference between being left behind and being the one doing the leaving, what would she say? Would she think one is better than the other?
23. Louisiana experiences a lot of kinds of loss over the course of the story: losing things, losing people, getting lost in the woods, and feeling lost in her own life. How does she react to them differently? How do different types of loss affect us in different ways?
24. Did you think Louisiana would decide to stay with the Allens? How did you feel about her decision?
25. Were you glad when you read that Louisiana had been telling her story for Granny the whole time? If telling your story is healing, what about hearing someone else’s? How could that be its own kind of healing?
I am going to write it all down, so that what happened to me will be known, so that if someone were to stand at their window at night and look up at the stars and think, My goodness, whatever happened to Louisiana Elefante? Where did she go? they will have an answer. They will know.
This is what happened.
I will begin at the beginning.
The beginning is that my great-grandfather was a magician, and long, long ago he set into motion a most terrible curse.
But right now you do not need to know the details of the terrible curse. You only need to know that it exists and that it is a curse that has been passed down from generation to generation.
It is, as I said, a terrible curse.
And now it has landed upon my head.
Keep that in mind.
We left in the middle of the night.
Granny woke me up. She said, “The day of reckoning has arrived. The hour is close at hand.
We must leave immediately.”
It was three a.m.
We went out to the car and the night was very dark, but the stars were shining brightly.
Oh, there were so many stars!
And I noticed that some of the stars had arranged themselves into a shape that looked very much like someone with a long nose telling a lie — the Pinocchio constellation!
I pointed out the starry Pinocchio to Granny, but she was not at all interested. “Hurry, hurry,” said Granny. “There is no time for stargazing. We have a date with destiny.”
So I got in the car and we drove away.
I did not think to look behind me.
How could I have known that I was leaving for good?
I thought that I was caught up in some middle-of-the-night idea of Granny’s and that when the sun came up, she would think better of the whole thing.
This has happened before.
Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas.
I fell asleep and when I woke up, we were still driving. The sun was coming up, and I saw a sign that said GEORGIA: 20 MILES.
We were about to change states, and Granny was still driving as fast as she could, leaning close to the windshield because her eyesight is not very good and she is too vain to wear glasses, and also because she is very short (shorter, almost, than I am) and she has to lean close to reach the gas pedal.
In any case, the sun was bright. It was lighting up the splotches and stains on the windshield and making them look like glow-in-the-dark stars that someone had pasted there as a surprise for me.
I love stars.
Oh, how I wish that someone had pasted glow-in-the-dark stars on our windshield!
However, that was not the case.
I said, “Granny, when are we going to turn around and go back home?”
Granny said, “We are never going to turn around, my darling. The time for turning around has ended.”
“Why?” I said.
“Because the hour of reckoning has arrived,” said Granny in a very serious voice, “and the curse at last must be confronted.”
“But what about Archie?”
At this point in my account of what became of me, it is necessary for you to know that Archie is my cat and that Granny has taken him from me before.
Yes, taken! It is truly a tragic tale. But never mind about that.
“Provisions have been made,” said Granny.
“What sort of provisions?”
“The cat is in good hands,” said Granny.
Well, this was what Granny had said to me the last time she took Archie, and I did not like the sound of her words one bit.
Also, I did not believe her.
It is a dark day when you do not believe your granny.
It is a day for tears.
I started to cry.
I cried until we crossed over the Florida-Georgia state line.
But then something about the state line woke me up. State lines can do that. Maybe you understand what I am talking about and maybe you don’t. All I can say is that I had a sudden feeling of irrevocableness and I thought, I have to get out of this car. I have to go back.
So I said, “Granny, stop the car.”
And Granny said, “I will do no such thing.”
Granny has never listened to other people’s instructions. She has never heeded anyone’s commands. She is the type of person who tells other people what to do, not vice versa.
But in the end, it didn’t matter that Granny refused to stop the car, because fate intervened.
And by that I mean to say that we ran out of gas.
If you have not left your home in the middle of the night without even giving it a backward glance; if you have not left your cat and your friends and also a one-eyed dog named Buddy without getting to tell any of them good-bye; if you have not stood on the side of the road in Georgia, somewhere just past the irrevocable state line, and waited for someone to come along and give you a ride, well, then you cannot understand the desperation that was in my heart that day.
Which is exactly why I am writing all of this down.
So that you will understand the desperation — the utter devastation — in my heart.
And also, as I said at the beginning, I am writing it down for somewhat more practical matters.
And those more practical matters are so that you will know what happened to me — Louisiana Elefante.