Well, this is the Tillerman family we’re talking about: Gram is a sharp-tongued, eccentric woman who is considered mad by the local gossip mill; James, the second-oldest, is a gifted child who hides his intelligence in order to fit in; shy, quiet Maybeth works hard in school but has so much trouble reading and doing math that her teachers think she is retarded; baby of the family, Sammy, keeps getting into fights; and eighth-grader Dicey doesn’t even have herself figured out yet.
So they have problems. By working together to stay together, they try to begin to make their problems better. But it isn’t easy, especially when they are so poor, so proud, and so far out of the habit of reaching out to other people. They begin, though, with a portly piano teacher… an air-headed lady butcher…Dicey’s gifted classmate Mina, whose father and Gram have some kind of grudge between them…and a guitar-picking 10th-grader named Jeff, who wants to break through the wall of unfriendliness Dicey often hides behind.
Meanwhile, they have day-to-day challenges, such as sanding down the old sailboat Dicey wants to use, keeping a schoolyard bully from causing Sammy to lose his marbles, coping with a Home Ec class Dicey doesn’t want to be in, and an English teacher who gives her an F because her essay was too good. With these and other little hurdles in their way, Gram and Dicey learn to understand each other and to keep the family together–which comes in handy when the time comes to go to Boston to bring Momma home…
This sequel to the novel Homecoming won the 1983 John Newbery Medal. It is part of a series about the Tillerman family, which also includes the Newbery Honor Book A Solitary Blue. Other books in the series include The Runner, Come a Stranger, Sons from Afar, and Seventeen against the Dealer. If this smart, surprising, moving, and thoughtful novel is typical of Ms. Voigt’s work, I look forward to reading more of it.