Apparently, the Tillerman series by Cynthia Voight is quite well known and has been enjoyed by generations of young (and not so young) girls. I knew none of that, only that the second book in the series, Dicey’s Song, had won the Newberry Medal and that the series had been recently re-released by Simon & Schuster’s Atheneum imprint. So I read this warm and tender novel with few expectations and was pleasantly surprised.
In the first book of the series, Homecoming, the four Tillerman children are abandoned by their mother, who is lost in her own misery, so they set off from Rhode Island and make their way all the way to Maryland, to a grandmother they’d never met. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the first book; the relevant details are woven into this story seamlessly. Twelve-year old Dicey is the oldest of the four children and has gotten used to being responsible for…well, for everything. So, though they are all happy to be living with Gram, it is a big adjustment for Dicey to go back to being a kid and to share the heavy load of her responsibilities with someone else.
The novel begins the day before school starts, so all four children have a lot of new things to adjust to – new school, new classmates, and new challenges. Things are difficult at first; each of them has his or her own problems that they must work together as a family to solve. Besides all this newness, Dicey is facing the additional changes of growing up and entering adolescence.
I really loved this gentle, well-written story with surprising emotional depth for a teen novel. I think this novel will appeal to older middle-grade readers as well (not to mention adults like me!). Though it seems set slightly in the past, the issues and challenges that the children face are relevant to today’s kids. I am looking forward to reading more about the Tillerman’s.