The iconic start to the timeless, Newbery-winning series from Cynthia Voigt is repackaged with a fresh new look.
“It’s still true.” That’s the first thing James Tillerman says to his older sister, Dicey, every morning. It’s still true that their mother has abandoned the four Tillermans in a mall parking lot somewhere in the middle of Connecticut. It’s still true that they have to find their own way to Great-aunt Cilla’s house in Bridgeport. It’s still true that they need to spend as little as possible on food and seek shelter anywhere that is out of view of the authorities. It’s still true that the only way they can hope to all stay together is to just keep moving forward.
Deep down, Dicey hopes they can find someone to trust, someone who will take them in and love them. But she’s afraid it’s just too much to hope for....
About the Author
Cynthia Voigt won the Newbery Medal for Dicey’s Song, the Newbery Honor Award for A Solitary Blue, and the National Book Award Honor for Homecoming, all part of the beloved Tillerman cycle. She is also the author of many other celebrated books for middle grade and teen readers, including Izzy, Willy-Nilly and Jackaroo. She was awarded the Margaret A. Edwards Award in 1995 for her work in literature, and the Katahdin Award in 2004. She lives in Maine.
Read an Excerpt
The woman put her sad moon-face in at the window of the car. “You be good,” she said. “You hear me? You little ones, mind what Dicey tells you. You hear?”
“Yes, Momma,” they said.
“That’s all right then.” She slung her purse over her shoulder and walked away, her stride made uneven by broken sandal thongs, thin elbows showing through holes in the oversized sweater, her jeans faded and baggy. When she had disappeared into the crowd of Saturday morning shoppers entering the side doors of the mall, the three younger children leaned forward onto the front seat. Dicey sat in front. She was thirteen and she read the maps.
“Why’d we stop?” asked James. “We’re not there yet. We’ve got food. There’s no reason to stop.” James was ten and wanted everything to have a reason. “Dicey?”
“I dunno. You heard everything she said, same as I did. You tell me.”
“All she said was, We gotta stop here. She didn’t say why. She never says why, you know that. Are we out of gas?”
“I didn’t look.” Dicey wanted some quiet for thinking. There was something odd about this whole trip. She couldn’t put her finger on it, not yet. “Why don’t you tell them a story?”
“Cripes, James, you’re the one with the famous brain.”
“Yeah, well I can’t think of any stories right now.”
“Tell them anything. Tell them Hansel and Gretel.”
“I want HanselnGretel. And the witch. And the candy house with peppermint sticks,” Sammy said, from the backseat. James gave in without a quarrel. It was easier to give in to Sammy than to fight him. Dicey turned around to look at them. Maybeth sat hunched in a corner, big-eyed. Dicey smiled at her and Maybeth smiled back. “Once upon a time,” James began. Maybeth turned to him.
Dicey closed her eyes and leaned her head back. She put her feet on the dashboard. She was tired. She’d had to stay awake and read maps, to find roads without tolls. She’d been up since three in the morning. But Dicey couldn’t go to sleep. She gnawed away at what was bothering her.
For one thing, they never took trips. Momma always said the car couldn’t run more than ten miles at a stretch. And here they were in Connecticut, heading down to Bridgeport. For one thing.
But that might make sense. All her life, Dicey had been hearing about Momma’s aunt Cilla and her big house in Bridgeport that Momma had never seen, and her rich husband who died. Aunt Cilla sent Christmas cards year after year, with pictures of baby Jesus on them and long notes inside, on paper so thin it could have been tissue paper. Only Momma could decipher the lacy handwriting with its long, tall letters all bunched together and the lines running into one another because of the long-tailed, fancy z’s and f’s and g’s. Aunt Cilla kept in touch. So it made sense for Momma to go to her for help.
But driving off like that in the middle of the night didn’t make sense. That was the second thing. Momma woke them all up and told them to pack paper bags of clothing while she made sandwiches. She got them all into the old car and headed for Bridgeport.
For a third—things had been happening, all at once. Things were always bad with them, but lately worse than ever. Momma lost her checker’s job. Maybeth’s teacher had wanted a meeting with Momma that Momma wouldn’t go to. Maybeth would be held back another year. Momma said she didn’t want to hear about it, and she had ripped up every note, without reading any of them. Maybeth didn’t worry her family, but she worried her teachers. She was nine and still in the second grade. She never said much, that was the trouble, so everybody thought she was stupid. Dicey knew she wasn’t. Sometimes she’d come out and say something that showed she’d been watching and listening and taking things in. Dicey knew her sister could read and do sums, but Maybeth always sat quiet around strangers. For Maybeth, everyone in the world was a stranger, except Momma and Dicey and James and Sammy.
Momma herself was the fourth thing. Lately she’d go to the store for bread and come back with a can of tuna and just put her hands over her face, sitting at the table. Sometimes she’d be gone for a couple of hours and then she wouldn’t say where she had been, with her face blank as if she couldn’t say. As if she didn’t know. Momma didn’t talk to them anymore, not even to scold, or sing, or make up games the way she used to. Except Sammy. She talked to Sammy, but even then they sounded like two six-year-olds talking, not one six-year-old and his mother.
Dicey kept her feet on the dash, and her body slouched down. She looked out through the windshield, over the rows of parked cars, to where the sky hung like a bleached-out sheet over the top of the mall buildings. Bugs were spattered all over the windshield and the sky promised a heavy, hot day. Dicey slid still further down on the seat. Her skin stuck to the blue plastic seat covers.
James was describing the witch’s house, listing the kinds of candy used for various parts of the building. This was the part James liked best in Hansel and Gretel, and he always did it a little differently from the time before. Picturing the almond Hershey bar roof and the shutters made of cinnamon licorice sticks, Dicey did fall asleep.
She woke covered with sweat from the hot sun pouring in through the windshield. She woke hungry. Maybeth was singing softly, one of Momma’s songs, about making her love a baby with no crying. “I fell asleep,” Dicey said. “What time’s it?”
“I dunno,” James said. “You’ve been asleep a long time. I’m hungry.”
“I dunno. I’m hungry.”
“You’re always hungry. Go ask someone what time it is, okay?”
James climbed out of the car. He crossed to the walkway and stopped a man in a business suit. “Twelve thirty,” James reported.
“But that means I slept for more than two hours,” Dicey protested.
“I’m going to eat,” Sammy announced from the backseat. He opened the bag of food and pulled out a sandwich before Dicey could say anything.
“What do you want me to do?” James asked, looking into Dicey’s face. His narrow little face wore a worried expression. “Want me to go look for her?”
“No,” Dicey said. (Now what had Momma gone and done.) “Sammy, give Maybeth a sandwich too. Let her choose for herself. Then pass the bag up here.”
When everyone had a sandwich, and James had two, Dicey reached a decision. “We have to wait here for a while more,” she said. “Then we’ll do something. I’m going to take a walk and see if I can find her.”
“Don’t you go away too,” Maybeth said softly.
“I’ll be right where you can see me,” Dicey said. “I’ll stay on the sidewalk—see?—just like a path in front of the stores. Then maybe later we can all go into the mall and look in the stores. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Maybeth smiled and nodded her golden head.
Dicey did her best thinking when she walked. On this warm June afternoon, she walked so fast and thought so hard, she didn’t even see the people going past her. If Momma went past she’d say something, so Dicey wasn’t worried about that.
She was worried that Momma had wandered off. And would not come back.
(“You always look for the worst,” Momma had often told her. “I like to be ready,” Dicey answered.)
If Momma was gone . . . But that wasn’t possible. Was it? But if she was, what could they do? Ask for help, probably from a policeman. (Would he put them in homes or orphanages? Wouldn’t that be just what the police or some social worker would do?) Go back to Provincetown, they could go back home. (Momma hadn’t paid the rent, not for weeks, and it was almost summertime, when even their old cabin, set off alone in the dunes, could bring in a lot of money. Mr. Martinez wasn’t sympathetic, not when it came to money, not when it came to giving something away for free. He’d never let them stay there to wait for Momma.) They could go on to Bridgeport. Dicey had never seen Aunt Cilla—Great-Aunt Cilla. She knew the name and address, because Momma had made her write it down four times, on each paper bag, in case something happened: Mrs. Cilla Logan, 1724 Ocean Drive, Bridgeport, Connecticut. Aunt Cilla was family, the only family Dicey knew about.
The sun beat down on the parking lot and heated up the air so even in the shaded walkway Dicey was hot. The kids must be hot too, she thought, and turned to get them.
Momma must have gone away on purpose. (But she loved them, loved them all.) Why else the addresses on the bags? Why else tell them to mind Dicey? (Mothers didn’t do things like going off. It was crazy. Was Momma crazy?) How did she expect Dicey to take care of them? What did she expect Dicey to do? Take them to Bridgeport, of course. (Dump it all on Dicey, that was what Momma did, she always did, because Dicey was the determined sort. “It’s in your blood,” Momma said, and then wouldn’t explain.)
Anger welled up in Dicey, flooded her eyes with tears, and now she was swept away with the determination to get the kids to Bridgeport. Well, she’d do it somehow, if she had to.
Momma wasn’t at the car when Dicey returned, so Dicey said they’d wait for her until the next morning.
“Where’ll we sleep?” Sammy asked.
“Right here—and no complaints,” Dicey said.
“Then Momma will come back and we’ll go on tomorrow?” Sammy asked.
“Where is Momma? Why’s she taking so long?” James asked.
“I dunno, James,” Dicey answered. Maybeth was silent, staring.
After a few minutes, Dicey hustled them all out of the car and trailed after them as they entered the mall.
The mall was built like a fortress around a huge, two-story enclosed street, where store succeeded store, as far as you could see. At one end of the central section was a cage of live birds in a little park of plastic trees and shrubs. The floor of their cage was littered with pieces of popcorn and gum wrappers. At the other end, the builders had made a waterfall through which shone different colored lights. Outside, beyond the covered sidewalk that ran like a moat around the huge building, lay the huge, gray parking lot, a no-man’s-land of empty cars.
But here inside was a fairyland of colors and sounds, crowded with people on this Saturday afternoon, artificially lit and planted. Inside was a miniature city where endless diversions from the work-day world offered everything delightful. If you had money, of course. And even without money, you could still stare and be amazed.
They spent a long time wandering through stores, looking at toys and records and pianos and birthday cards. They were drawn to restaurants that exuded the smell of spaghetti and pizza or fried chicken, bakeries with trays of golden doughnuts lined up behind glass windows, candy stores, where the countertop was crowded with large jars of jelly beans and sourballs and little foil-covered chocolates and peppermints dipped in crunchy white frosting; cheese shops (they each had two free samples), where the rich smell of aged cheeses mingled with fresh-ground coffee, and hot dog stands, where they stood back in a silent row. After this, they sat on a backless bench before the waterfall, tired and hungry. Altogether, they had eleven dollars and fifty cents, more than any one of them had ever had at one time before, even Dicey who contributed all of her babysitting money, seven dollars.
They spent almost four dollars on supper at the mall, and none of them had dessert. They had hamburgers and french fries and, after Dicey thought it over, milkshakes. At that rate, they could have one more meal before they ran out of money, or maybe two more. It was still light when they returned to the car. The little ones horsed around in the back, teasing, wrestling, tickling, quarreling and laughing, while Dicey studied the map. People walked by their car, vehicles came and went, and nobody paid any attention to them. In parking lots, it’s not unusual to see a car full of kids waiting.
At half-past eight, Dicey herded everybody back into the mall, to use the bathrooms they had found earlier. Later, Sammy and Maybeth fell asleep easily, curled up along the backseat. James moved up to the front with Dicey. Dicey couldn’t see how they were both to sleep in the front seat, but she supposed they would manage it. James sat stiffly, gripping the wheel. James had a narrow head and sharp features, a nose that pointed out, pencil-thin eyebrows, a narrow chin. Dicey studied him in the darkening car. They were parked so far from the nearest lamppost that they were in deep shadows.
With her brothers and sister near, with the two youngest asleep in the backseat, sitting as they were in a cocoon of darkness, she should feel safe. But she didn’t. Though it was standing still, the car seemed to be flying down a highway, going too fast. Even the dark inside of it was not deep enough to hide them. Faces might appear in the windows at any time, asking angry questions.
“Where’s Momma gone?” James asked, looking out at the night.
“I just don’t know,” Dicey said. “Here’s what I think, I think if she isn’t back by morning we ought to go on to Bridgeport.”
“On our own?”
“How’ll we get there? You can’t drive. Momma took the keys.”
“We could take a bus, if we have enough money. If we don’t, we’ll walk.”
James stared at her. Finally he spoke. “Dicey? I’m scared. I feel all jiggly in my stomach. Why doesn’t Momma come back?”
“If I knew, James, I’d know what to do.”
“Do you know the way?”
“To Bridgeport? I can read a map. Once we get there, we can ask directions to Aunt Cilla’s house.”
James nodded. “Do you think she’s been killed? Or kidnapped?”
“Rich people get kidnapped; not Momma. I’m not going to think about what might have happened to her, and I don’t think you should, either.”
“I can’t help thinking about it,” James said in a small voice.
“Don’t tell Sammy or Maybeth,” Dicey warned.
“I wouldn’t. I know better. You should know I’d know better than that.”
Dicey reached out and patted him on the shoulder. “I do know,” she said.
James grabbed her hand. “Dicey? Do you think Momma meant to leave us here?”
“I think Momma meant to take us to Bridgeport, but—”
“Is Momma crazy?”
Dicey turned her head to look at him.
“The kids said so, at school. And the way the teachers looked at me and loaned me their own books and talked to me. And Maybeth. Craziness can run in families.”
Dicey felt a great weight settle on her shoulders. She tried to shrug it off, but it wouldn’t move.
“She loves us,” Dicey muttered.
“But that’s the only reason I can think of that might be true.”
“There’s nothing wrong with Maybeth. You know that.”
“It runs in families. Hereditary craziness.”
“Well, you don’t have to worry about it, do you? You’re the smart one, with A’s in school and the science projects that get entered in the state contest.”
“Yeah,” James said. He settled his head back on the seat.
“Listen, I’m going to go to a phone and see where the bus station is and call them up to find out how much tickets cost. You lay low.”
Dicey decided to tell him the truth. “Just in case. I mean, three kids in a car in a parking lot at night . . . See, James, I think we’ve got to get to Bridgeport and I just don’t know what would happen if a policeman saw us. Foster homes or something, I dunno. I don’t want to risk it. But one kid . . . and I’m pretty old so it doesn’t look funny.”
“Okay. That sounds okay.”
“We’ve got to get to Bridgeport.”
James thought about that, then nodded his head. “I never listened much to Momma’s talk about her. What will she be like, Aunt Cilla?”
“Rich,” Dicey said.
“It would be a long walk,” James said.
“Long enough,” Dicey agreed. She got out of the car fast.
It was full dark, an overcast night. The parking lot was nearly empty; only two cars besides theirs remained. Dicey wondered how many cars were left in the other three parking lots that spread out from the other sides of the building. It felt as empty as all of space must be. She hoped there were cars in each lot. The more cars there were, the safer their car was for them.
Dicey headed confidently for the walkway, as if she had every right to be where she was, as if she had an important errand to run, as if she knew just where she was going. She remembered a telephone at the far end of the building. It wasn’t a real phone booth, but a kind of cubicle hung up on the wall, with an open shelf underneath to hold the directory. James could probably see her from the car, if he looked for her. From that distance, she would look small.
The walkway was lit up, and the store windows were lit, so she moved through patches of sharp light. At the phone, she took out the directory to look up bus companies in the yellow pages. She ran her finger down the names, selected one that sounded local and reached into her pocket for change.
She heard footsteps. A man approached her, in a uniform like a policeman’s, but tan not blue, and without the badge. He took his time getting to her, as if he was sure she’d wait, sure of his own strength to hold her, even at that distance. He moved like he thought she was afraid of him, too afraid to run.
“Hey,” the man said. His shirt had the word “Security” sewn onto it. Where his belly sagged, the shirt hung out over his pants. He carried a long-handled flashlight. He wore a pistol at his belt.
Dicey didn’t answer, but she didn’t look away.
“Hey kid,” he said, as if she had shown signs of running and he needed to halt her. He was heavy, out of shape. He had a pig-person face, a coarse skin that sagged at the jowls, little blue eyes and pale eyebrows, and a fat, pushed-back nose. When he came up next to her, Dicey stepped back a pace, but kept her finger on the number in the book.
“Naw. I’m making a phone call.”
“Where do you live?”
“Just over there,” Dicey said, pointing vaguely with her free hand.
“Go home and call from there. Run along now. If you were a girl, I’d walk you over, but—”
“Our phone’s broken,” Dicey said. “That’s why my mom sent me here.”
The guard shifted his flashlight, holding it like a club. “Phones don’t break. How’s a phone break?”
“We’ve got this dog that chews things up. Slippers, papers, you know. He chewed the phone. The cord, actually, but it’s all the same—the phone’s broken.”
“Are you bulling me?”
“I wish I was.”
“What’s your name, kid?”
She felt funny, strange, making up lies as quickly and smoothly as if she’d been doing it all her life.
The man took a piece of gum out of his pocket, unwrapped it, folded it in half and stuck it into his mouth, chewing on it a couple of times.
“Tillerman.” Dicey couldn’t make up a new last name, except Smith, and nobody would believe that even if it was true.
“You don’t look more than ten. Isn’t it late to be out?”
The guard grew suspicious. “Who’re you calling?”
“The bus company. My sisters and me are going down to Bridgeport some time soon, to stay with my aunt.”
He chewed and thought. “Sometime soon wouldn’t send you out after ten at night to phone. What’s the rush?”
“My mom just got back from the clinic and she’s gonna have her baby, any day now the doctor said, and my aunt needs to know what time the buses arrive so she can meet us on Monday. So’s we can take a bus it’s good for her to meet. My mom asked me to come find out so’s she can call first thing in the morning, before my aunt goes to church. It’s hard for my mom to get around now—you know.”
“Where’s your father?”
“Dunno. He just up and went, way back, last winter.”
The guard nodded. He reached in his pocket and pulled out the pack of gum. He offered a piece to Dicey, but she shook her head.
“Can I call now, mister?”
“Sure thing,” he said. “I wouldn’t have bothered you except that there’ve been some windows broken around here. We think it’s kids. I’m the security guard. I’ve got to be careful.”
Dicey nodded. She inserted the coins and slowly dialed the numbers, hoping he’d go away. But he stood there and listened. Behind him lay the parking lot, a vast open space where occasional clumps of planted bushes spread long shadows over the ground.
An impersonal voice answered. Dicey asked about tickets to Bridgeport, how much they cost.
“From where to Bridgeport.”
Dicey grabbed at a name. “Peewauket.” That was what the map said. She pronounced it Pee-Walk-It. The guard, listening narrowed his eyes.
“From Peewauket?” the voice asked, saying it Pwuk-it.
“Two dollars and forty-five cents a person.”
“What’s the rate for children?”
“The same. The charge is for the seat. Unless you’ve got a child under two.”
“What time do buses run?”
“Every other hour, from eight to eight.”
Dicey thanked the voice and hung up the phone. She stood with her arms hanging down at her sides, waiting for the guard to leave.
He was studying her with his little piggly eyes. He held his flashlight now in one hand and slapped it into the palm of the other. “You better get back now,” he said and then added, “You didn’t write anything down.”
“I’ve got a good memory.”
“Yeah? I’ll give you a test.” His body blocked the way to the safe darkness of the parking lot. “You don’t remember anything about broken windows in the mall, do you? For instance, just one for instance, at Record City.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I wonder about that. I really wonder, Danny. You said Danny, didn’t you? Tillerman, wasn’t it? You see, we figure it was probably kids did it, account of nothing’s been stolen. Or maybe just one kid did it, that’s what I’m thinking.”
Dicey glared at him. “I said I don’t know anything about that.”
He put one arm out to bar her in, resting his hand against the side of the phone. “I can’t think of why I should believe you. Nope, now I come to think of it, I don’t think I do believe you. The only question in my mind is, what do I do with you?”
Dicey thought fast, then acted just as fast. She lifted her right knee as if to hit him in the groin where she knew it would hurt bad. He lowered his arm and stepped back, to protect himself. In that one second while he was off balance, Dicey took off. She sprinted into the darkness of the parking lot. As soon as she was in the cover of the shadows, she turned left around the corner of the building, away from their car. He thundered after her.
Dicey ran smoothly. She was used to running on beaches, where the sand gave way under your feet and each thrust of your legs was hindered. Running over asphalt was easier. Dicey pulled away from her pursuer. His steps were heavy and his breathing was heavy. He was out of shape and too fat to catch up with her. She had time to crouch behind one of the little islands of green that decorated the parking lot. She had on a dark shirt and jeans, her face was tanned and her hair brown; she was confident nothing would give her away.
He stopped by the front entrance shining his flashlight out over the parking lot, like one bright eye. Dicey watched him. He listened, but his chest was heaving so much that she was sure he couldn’t hear anything but the blood pounding in his ears. She smiled to herself.
“You haven’t got a chance,” he called. “You better come out now, kid. You’re only making it worse.”
Dicey covered her mouth with her hand.
“I know you now. We’ll find you out,” he said. He turned quickly away from the parking lot and looked farther along the front of the mall. He hunched behind the flashlight. He used the beam like a giant eye, to peer into the shadows. “There you are! I can see you!” he cried.
But he was looking the wrong way. Dicey giggled, and the sound escaped her even though she bit on her hand to stop it.
He turned back to the parking lot, listening. Then he swore. His light swooped over the dark lot, trying to search out her hiding place. “Danny? I’m gonna find you.”
Dicey moved softly away on soundless sneakers through the covering shadows. He continued to call: “I’ll remember your face, you hear? You hear me? Hear me?”
From halfway across the parking lot, safe in her own speed and in shadows, Dicey stopped. Her heart swelled in victory. “I hear you,” she called softly back, as she ran toward the empty road and the patch of woods beyond.
Much later, when she returned to the car, James awoke briefly. “Everything’s okay,” Dicey whispered, curling down onto the cold seat to sleep.
Reading Group Guide
A Reading Group Guide to
The Tillerman Cycle
By Cynthia Voigt
About the Books
The four Tillerman children—Dicey, James, Maybeth, and Sammy—have always presented a unified front to the world in spite of the troubles they encounter. Even when they are abandoned by their emotionally ill mother, they find strength in each other as they search desperately for a place to call home. As they build a new life with their grandmother, however, they must learn how to remain a close-knit unit under very different circumstances than those they had previously known. And as they grow up and begin to follow their own separate dreams, it becomes more and more difficult to remember just how important family can be. Cynthia Voigt's moving Tillerman books—which trace journeys both physical and emotional—have garnered many honors, including a Newbery Medal for Dicey’s Song and a Newbery Honor for A Solitary Blue.
1. When their mother leaves, Dicey takes responsibility for the younger children and becomes, in effect, the head of their family. How does she feel about having this much responsibility? In what ways is she prepared for this change, and in what ways is it apparent that she is still a child herself? How does Dicey’s role within the family change as the children move in with their grandmother and get older?
2. James is considered “the smart one” in the family. How does this affect the way he fits in with the other Tillerman children? With the rest of the world? Are there times when he would be a more effective leader than Dicey?
3. Why does everybody think that Maybeth is mentally disabled, and why does her family disagree? What other gifts does she possess that make her an integral part of the Tillerman family? Why does she try so hard at school, even though she isn't very good at it? What do you think the future holds for Maybeth?
4. Sammy is still very young when their mother abandons them. How does this change the way that he deals with their family situation? Why does he find it so difficult to control his anger? Why do you think that Dicey likes to remember how happy he was as a baby?
5. Discuss Gram and the role that she plays in the Tillerman family. How does her past change the way she deals with the present? What qualities does she possess that make her particularly well suited to be the children’s guardian? Is her reputation for eccentricity well deserved?
6. The Tillerman children met many different people during the summer they spent traveling in search of a home. Who was most helpful to the children? Does the fact that these people were only in their lives for a short time make them any less important? Why do you think the Tillermans enjoy their time with the circus?
7. Bodies of water and boats both come up often in the Tillerman books. Find examples of these references. In what ways are they good metaphors for the Tillerman family? Why is Dicey, especially, drawn to the water?
8. What does it mean to the various characters to be part of a family? What obligations and responsibilities go along with this? Does it take a blood relation to be a family member?
9. In Seventeen Against the Dealer, Dicey thinks that Sammy “took his knocks standing up” and that Maybeth “endured failures like a patch of marsh grass.” What does Dicey mean by this? How do Dicey and James handle adversity? Does each child's method of dealing with trouble fit their personality?
10. Cisco believes the time to gamble is when you can’t afford to lose. Do the other characters agree with this philosophy? Can you think of a circumstance in which they followed this advice? Do you think that there is anything that Cisco can’t afford to lose?
11. The Tillerman family seems to have a legacy of poverty, mental illness, and failure. Do Dicey, James, Maybeth, and Sammy share in this legacy? How does each of them attempt to rise above this?
Activities and Research
1. Using a map, trace the route the children took in Homecoming. Can you find an alternate route they could have taken? Research bus and train routes from Bridgeport to Crisfield and determine if the children could have gotten closer to their destination with the money they had.
2. When their mother abandons them, the children are afraid they will be separated and put into foster care. Research the foster care system—when it was started, how it works, and if it is likely that the children would have been separated. Have a debate or mock trial to determine what will be done about the Tillerman children, with one side arguing that they should all stay with Gram and one side arguing that they should enter the foster care system.
3. Music plays an important role in the children’s lives, and they are particularly fond of folk music. Find recordings of some of the songs the children liked to sing and listen to them. Learn to sing or play on an instrument one of the songs. Perhaps you could even write a folk song about the Tillermans.
4. Dicey wants to support herself by building boats. Write a report on modern shipbuilding—what materials and techniques are used, do small shops like Dicey’s exist, etc. Design your own boat and build a model of it.
5. Maybeth needs special help from James and Dicey in order to advance in school, and she spends much of her time being tutored by her family members. Do you know a younger person who needs some special help with their schoolwork? Set aside an hour or two a week to tutor them.
6. There are many things Dicey doesn’t think of when she starts her own business, and they cause her trouble later on. Pretend that you are starting a business of your own. Create a business plan that includes information such as where the start-up money will come from, the steps you need to go through before starting, a list of all the materials you will need, etc. Discuss these business plans and see if other people can think of issues you forgot to address.
About the Author
Cynthia Voigt’s many honors include the Newbery Medal for Dicey’s Song, a Newbery Honor for A Solitary Blue, and, in 1995, the Margaret A. Edwards Award for excellence in young adult writing. In addition to her books in the award-winning Tillerman cycle, she is the author of four highly acclaimed books about the Kingdom: The Wings of a Falcon, On Fortune’s Wheel, Jackaroo, and Elske. Ms. Voigt lives in Deer Isle, Maine, where she no longer teaches English but misses it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This novel is all about four kid's journey to find where they belong in the world. It all starts when their mother, Mrs. Tillerman, leaves them behind in their family's car as she walks away into their crowded local mall's parking lot. They are now left to survive with the guidance of their oldest sister, Dicey, who is thirteen. All they have to live off of for several weeks is the seven dollars Dicey had in her pocket, one bagged lunch for each child, and a small suitcase that their mother packed them before she left. Because Dicey's parents were divorced when she was very young, Dicey is only aware of one living family member. This is her Aunt Cilla, who she knows nothing about. With the help of her Aunt's address that Dicey's mom made her memorize, the Tillerman children travel for weeks in search of their future guardian. This book is very good,and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading realistic books.
I'M 12 And I used to HATE reading But When I Read This Book For My 7th grade Class I Fell In LOVE with it! TOTALLY RECOMEND IT!
Homecoming was an intersting book to read. It's about four children being abandoned by their mother at a mall parking lot, as the story progresses we learn more aboout the Tillermans and thier journey to thier Aunt Cilla's house, but when they get to her house they learn that their aunt has died and living with thier cousin isn't what they hope for but I won't tell you the rest of the story because you need to read this book to find out. I recommend this book to everyone who needs a good book to read
This is a wonderful story of a family coming together. I first became introduced to the Tillerman family in "Come a Stranger" through a young girl name Mina (that had high hopes of becoming a ballerina) who sought out Tillermans because of a deep crush on the summer pastor. The intriging relationship between the summer pastor and "Bullet Tillerman" made me want to read more about the Tillerman family. I really admired the way Dicey held her family together on their long Journey. This was a good read!
Well... I had to read Homecoming for one of the three books I had to read for the seventh grade. It got pretty borring in the middle cause their just walking then camping, walking then camping. I mean, come on. A good book should be interesting all the way through.
Read this book during the first months I went into foster care with my younger siblings I found the characters all very relatable and the story resonated with in me to a degree I can not fully express. I didn't like to read before this book, but after it, my entire expirence changed. The book really captured the idea of family unity and child parentism. It was from books like this that I found out you can gain tremendous wisdom, insight and perspective from written stories, and which you can apply to your own life. Changed my perspective entirely.
This would be a great book on its own, but you grow to care about all the characters and follow all their activiites and growth throughout the series. It appeals to adult readers as well as young adults. It is not all cheeriness and light, but is not overly grim. I strongly recommend it.
I read this book when I was about 11, and it's still one of my favorites. Homecoming is an intensley captivating tale of the 4 Tillerman kids who walk from Rhode Island to Connecticut. Their unstable single mother finally loses it on a trip to visit their distant aunt, but this "visit" included leaving in the middle of the night, and packing all of their clothes. Dicey is shouldered with the weight of caring for her 3 younger siblings who range from 10 years old to 6 or 7 years old. They have seven dollars, no map, and only an inkling of who this aunt is. Dicey can't go to the cops because she fears that her family will be split up, and that is the last thing she wants. They finally make it to the aunt's only to find out it's not what they thought it would be. They then find out that their grandmother is still alive, so they take a huge chance and go to her for help. The novel is really about finding your family again, and the interactions with the grandmother are the most touching parts of the book. I still have the urge to the read this book from time to time even almost 15 years after the first time. Parents: if you child is reading this book, read it with them, you won't be disappointed. I recommend the rest of the Tillerman series, especially A Solitary Blue. Also, check out the movie version as well, they cut alot out, but Anne Bancroft is amazing.
For my school we had to pick 3 books out of a list to read for the summer. I picked this book as one of them. It was ok. It gets VERY slow, but once you get through it, it's over. Overall, I did not like this book.
At my school we have to read four books over the summer, so I chose this one. It was pretty good, but towards the middle/end, it got slow. I actually put the book down for two weeks. It was that bad. So I finally finished it. I thought that was a terrible ending. I would recomend this book to people that could easily read through slow parts. I dont plan on reading the second book because it'll probably be worse.
First of all, anyone who thinks this book is boring is crazy! sure there is alot of details..... but how is there ever too much detail.... it just made me wanna read the rest of it twenty times faster.... and if ur someone that can relate... like me.... then you'll love the book 1,000 times more... i promise! READ THIS BOOK!!!
I think that it started off pretty good but then after a while when they keep walking on the highway it bored the living garbage out of me.
I wonder how many children living in the United States today could do what Dicey and her family does? Both in terms of the children knowing how to survive on their own, and also being able to avoid the attention of adults as they traveled. I really liked how Dicey was torn between wanting to care for her family and also feeling burdened. I liked that she wasn't satisfied to just "make do" but kept searching until she found the right place for herself and her brothers and sisters.
Written in first person, Dicey and her three siblings are abandoned by their mother. Dicey, who is 14years old, leads the children to a cousins home where she fears they will be separated.When this does not work out, Dicey then leads her siblings on another journey to find their grandmother and ultimately their home.
an awsome adventure of kids lost but found there way to their aunts house.
First of the Tillerman series, this is the story of eldest child Dicey and her siblings James, Maybelle and Sammy. The book opens with their mother leaving them in a mall parking lot, and we follow them as they set out to figure out where their mother is. They encounter many challenges along the way, and also meet several meet family they never knew.
I thought this book was really good, but depressing at the same time. I love this author and hope to read the rest of this series.
This story of the Tillerman kids, abandoned by their mother in a carpark, was gripping from the first page. Thirteen-year-old Dicey immediately sees that they have to avoid notice, so the four siblings won't be taken into custody and split up. She has a few dollars, an address, and a family to hold together, until they can find their mother again.The sibling's trip is exciting, and enough to keep the pages turning rapidly - by the time they reach Great Aunt Cilla's house, I really cared about each character so much that the moments of their lives were more engrossing than the action.But things continued to be hair raising after they reach Cilla's - it was great to read something as evenly divided between action and mystery.I was often reminded of the V.C. Andrews books I read a long time ago - just the determination of the family to stay together, not the incesty bits. And that family gothic staple of madness running in a family, and the family trying and failing to outrun it. I will be eagerly reading my way through the rest of the books in this series.I'd give this to readers who like gritty family stories, urban adventure stories, stories about runaways, and to any lingering VC Andrews fans, as an example of a well written and intelligent family gothic.
Homecoming by Cynthia Voight is the story of four children on their own. The oldest, Dicey Tillerman who is still young enough to pass as a boy when she needs to, leads her three siblings on a cross country journey in search of a home. They must face this journey alone after their unstable mother abandons them in a car outside of a large shopping mall while on the way to the home of their great aunt. She never returns. It's clear that Dicey has been covering for their mother for some time. She immediately takes charge of the situation, keeping the younger children in line, dividing tasks between herself and her brother James who's just a year or so younger than she is. Dicey hopes that their mother will return as soon as this latest spell is over, but she also fears that the police will find them and separate them. She wants her mother back, but even more than that she wants to keep her family together. So when it begins to get dark and her mother still has not returned, she decides to abandon the car and walk to their great aunt's house, though it's a trip that will take several weeks and they have just over ten dollars between them.What follows is a terrific survival story. Ms. Voight knows what she is talking about here. The details of how the children survive, earn money, get food, find shelter and eventually find their great aunt's home are completely realistic. (If you had to run away from home with only a few dollars to you name in 1981 when the book was written this book could have been your field guide.) There are no flights of fancy here, no unexplained or surprise rescuers, no helpful coincidences that appear out of no where to save the day. Dicey is simply too determined to fail. Her siblings recognize this and stick to her side through thick and thin. She does not disappoint them.Homecoming is more or less officially a young adult novel, but it should be seen as a young adult novel in the same sense that To Kill a Mockingbird is a young adult novel. Put a more sophisticated cover on it, take off the references to the Newberry Medal and you have a novel about children written for all audiences. Ms. Voight never talks down to her audience, never makes things easy for them, but she does write a compelling tale. All of the characters, even the minor ones, are as richly drawn as any you'll find in an "adult" novel. Motivations are complicated here. People try to do the right thing by each other only to find both the giver and the receiver of charity are too complicated to make even the most generous act go smoothly. It's not that no good deed goes unpunished, but no good deed is easy to swallow.One thing that sets Homecoming above other novels like this is that once the children find a home, their great aunt's house, they also find that it is not really what they were looking for. Most writers would end their stories at the doorstep of their destination with a happy and satisfying reunion. Ms. Voight could have done so and still had an excellent novel. Instead, Dicey, her sister and her brothers find they have such a difficult time fitting in that they must consider taking to the road again, this time to look for the grandmother they never knew, one whom their mother rarely had a kind word for.
Voigt, Cynthia. Homecoming. NY: Atheneum. 1981.Never before have I read a classic children¿s story that felt so fresh and relatable as this one. Cynthia Voigt has crafted a novel with such an exciting plot, empathetic characters, and universal themes that I couldn¿t put it down. In this story, the four Tillerman children lose their mother when she abandons them in a mall parking lot. The oldest, Dicey, realizes that their mother is profoundly mentally ill, and decides to take charge of her younger siblings and march them to Aunt Cilla¿s house, hundreds of miles away in Connecticut. On their journey, they encounter many characters, some helpful, some frightening, and they learn some hard lessons about resilience and perseverance.This is a typical quest story, only the children aren¿t seeking treasure or glory, but simply a place of belonging. Every child can relate to that need to belong and feel at home, even if it isn¿t on the same epic scale as the Tillermans. Kids will also enjoy reading this book for the tightly crafted plot, to see if the Tillermans survive their journey, and to find out what they will gain at the end.Even though this novel was written in 1981, its theme that growing up is like being on a quest will resound for today¿s readers.For ages 10 and up.
307/402 pages read, The book is about four kids who were left behind with no one watching after them. They go looking for releatives to live with, any way for them to just settle down. The main character is Dicey, who is the oldest sister of the four kids who is trying to some what take the place of their mom since she can no loner be around. She is a real leader for her age, she seems nice and caring but she can be tough when she needs to be to stick up for her family. She is a hard worker and someone who has a good head on their shoulders and knows what she is trying to do. There were alot of times when dicey made decisions that i would have done as well. Also when she watchs out for her family, I know that I would do the same if it were me and my sister. The one thing that i didnt like most about this book was that it started to get boring which is why I lost interest and ended up not finishing the book. I would recomend this book to someone who enjoys reading the fews of a early teen. Not like what they think about clothes or girls/boys but how the act in a time of crisis.
A heart-warming story about 4 abandoned children bonding together during their search for a new home.
I have such a soft spot for this book. It stands out as my favorite from the early teen years. Can't say why, as I truly can't relate to 4 kids who are all on their own, but I just love it.
I've read Dicey's Song and enjoyed already, and when I spotted this book at the store, I grabbed it, as it's the prequel. Dicey's mom leaves the four kids in the car in a parking lot in CT, and disappears. Dicey has to get her two brothers and her sister to a new home, so they set off walking. She's 13, can read a map, and is determined to take care of her siblings. It's the sort of book that if I read it as a kid, I probably wouldn't have day dreamed so much about running away, it's hard to keep yourself fed and sheltered and out of trouble if you're not an adult. The kids encounter some helping hands along the way, and some adults that want to bend them to their own ends, but all along the spectre of their mom's behaviour haunts them. It was neat getting the details of their journey, the family is made up of compelling characters, I enjoyed reading this part of their story, too.
13-year-old Dicey and her three siblings are abandoned by their mentally ill mother in the parking lot of a mall in Connecticut. It's the middle of summer and they only have $14. Since they were all originally on their way to stay with a "rich" aunt in Bridgeport, CT, Dicey decides to continue on foot. Unfortunately, They are miles away from their destination. When they finally arrive in Bridgeport, the aunt has died and they are left in the care of a rather odd cousin. The journey doesn't end there. A story of survival and perserverance in the face of adversity.