The Tillerman cycle

And now for a pause in the pregnancy and baby talk! We’ll hop back on that train first thing next week, but in the meantime I have more fabulous books to share with you.

For the first few months of 2012, I was absolutely caught up in a series of books by Cynthia Voigt called the “Tillerman Cycle” (alternately called “series” or “saga”). These books are technically young adult literature, but I believe they are literature for all. They have made a huge impression on me. And yes, this is the same author who wrote Jackaroo, but these books couldn’t be more different.

The first book, which won the Newberry prize, is called Homecoming. When I jumped into these books, I vaguely wondered if they were going to be the kind of like the Boxcar children series, since the premise of the first book is similar: a group of 4 siblings (2 girls, 2 boys) making it on their own. In Homecoming, the 4 Tillerman kids are waiting in the car for their mom to return from her shopping trip at the mall. As they wait in the hot parking lot and the hours slip by, they start to wonder what might have happened to her. After spending the night there, they realize they’ve been abandoned. The oldest girl, pre-teen Dicey, hatches a plan to travel to their great aunt’s house, and with only a few dollars to their name, the kids set out walking cross-country on a long journey, struggling to feed themselves along the way for as little money as possible, finding places to sleep where they won’t be bothered or picked up by the police (who–they’re convinced–would send them straight into the foster-care system and split them up). Let me assure you–these books are nothing like the Boxcar children series. Voigt delves deeply into the minds and characters of these kids. Their bravery, their mind-games, their frustrations, thoughts, struggles for control–it’s about the human experience, and how we relate to each other. It’s about love, compromises, determination, hard work, failure.

The following books in the series each center on a character who in some way or another is related to the Tillermans. Dicey’s Song continues the series with a focus on Dicey’s new life on their grandmother’s farm, her foray into school as a bright but sullen loner, her belief that hard work will make everything okay, and her efforts to keep her siblings on track. A Solitary Blue tells the story of Dicey’s friend/boyfriend Jeff, whose mother left him and his father to go save the world, and whose betrayal has left deep scars. The Runner goes back in time to the 60s, telling the story of uncle Bullet’s high school years as a cross-country runner, who went on to die in Vietnam. Come a Stranger focuses on Mina, Dicey’s high school friend, and her struggles and triumphs as an African-American woman who wants to be a dancer in the mostly white world of classical ballet, and her efforts to understand her place in history and as a unique individual. Seventeen Against the Dealer returns to the character of Dicey, now 21 years old and a college drop-out, as she tries to start her own business and become a boat-builder.

Each book is a treasure. Each book is a window into a soul, the story that shaped that soul, and the history of a family you will seriously love.

I only have one book left to read–Sons from Afar–and I can’t wait!

8 thoughts on “The Tillerman cycle

  1. Veronica

    These books sound perfect for me. Our library has the first one on cassette but I’ll have to continue the series with my eyes.

    The situation of them being left in a car at the mall reminds me of my own childhood b/c Mom would leave us in the car for hours and hours while she shopped in the mall. One time, I had to pee really bad but was too scared of getting lost if I left the car so I eventually found a big cup and peed in it! LOL! Another time, she went to the mall after grocery shopping and my sisters and I ended up eating an entire half gallon of ice cream so it wouldn’t completely melt and go to waste. We weren’t to unhappy about that particular predicament, though. :)

    I loved the box car children and although this isn’t related except that you mentioned the series, I have to tell you that ever since I read those books, I’ve always wanted to make soup with baby onions and potatoes like I remember them doing in one of the books. I finally bought some “onion sets” which I believe are meant for planting but I saw those tiny onions and knew I was finally going to have my boxcar children soup. Don’t ever buy tiny onions that aren’t already peeled! Even after blanching them, it took foreeeeever to get them all peeled. Next time, I will just buy the frozen pearl onions-lol.

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  2. Sydney

    I started reading Homecoming once and can’t remember why I didn’t finish it! Must have been a good reason, though… I’m glad for your review and will go dig it up and add to my “queue.” :)

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  3. Veronica

    I just finished listening to Homecoming, which I LOVED!!!! Loved. I was so happy with the ending. :) Also, very sad about their mother, makes me thankful mine never went that far off the deep end. This first on in the series is the only one available on audio format at my library so I don’t’ know when I’ll get to the others, which is almost tragic. I’m already reading another book with my eyes right now but Dicey’s song is next on my eye-reading list. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  4. Mo

    One of my favourite series. Sons from afar was my fav because I related to main charchter a lot. What makes it such a good series is how real the charachters are.

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