Dicey Tillerman is the eldest of four children who have been on the run, but have now found a home with their grandmother in the family home beside the Chesapeake Bay. Dicey had been watching over her siblings since their mother had been committed to an asylum up in Boston, and had been responsible for them during the long and dangerous trip to Maryland. Now she was happy to give up some of that responsibility to Gram.
In school, Dicey soon finds out Gram is considered an eccentric and a loner, but she really does want her grandchildren, and the bond between them grows as the fall progresses. Dicey’s pet project is trying to restore an old sailboat in the shed out back of the house. She doesn’t have much time for school or making friends, but when the chance for an after-school job comes along, she’s happy to take it. And when some of the other kids in school start acting friendly, despite her rebuffs, she finds friends anyway. It’s a good thing, because her sister Maybeth and her brother Sammy are having school trouble, and she and her wise brother James need any help they can get. Gram helps, too, of course, gradually coming out of the shell she’s made of her life. All their lives are changing, and Dicey isn’t happy about that. She doesn’t want to grow up, to put on girly clothes and take on adult responsibilities. Dicey can soon see life is going to force that on her. Especially when the call comes from Boston that her Momma needs them again.
This is an excellent book, beautifully written, insightful, and never preachy. The characters are as real as real. There’s no melodrama. If anything, it’s the opposite of that. It feels like the truth, and spending time with some fine people who are finding their way in a difficult world. The book is a sequel to Voigt’s first book, “Homecoming,” which I haven’t read, but this story is complete and well-rounded as is, nothing important is missing. I can see why it was a Newbery Award winner.