Title of the work
Country of the First Edition
Country/countries of popularity
First Edition Date
First Edition Details
Cynthia Voigt, A Solitary Blue, New York, NY: Atheneum, 1983, 249 pp.
cynthiavoigt.com (accessed: 25 February, 2020).
Newbery Honor Book (1984)
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Author of the Entry:
Sarah F. Layzell, University of Cambridge, sarahlayzellhardstaff@gmail.
Peer-reviewer of the Entry:
Susan Deacy, University of Roehampton, email@example.com
Elżbieta Olechowska, University of Warsaw, firstname.lastname@example.org
, b. 1942
Cynthia Voigt is an American author best known for the Tillerman family novels. She is the author of 33 books for children and young people, and two books for adults, spanning a range of genres and audiences. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Voigt graduated from Smith College in 1963 and later became a secondary school English teacher. Her novels have won numerous awards, including the prestigious Newbery Medal for Dicey’s Song in 1983. The first Tillerman novel, Homecoming, was nominated for a National Book Award in 1982.
Official Website (accessed: 04 September, 2019).
Bio prepared by Sarah Hardstaff, University of Cambridge, email@example.com
Chinese: 孤单的蓝色 (Gu dan de lan se), transl. Xiaoyi Wang, Bei jing yan shan chu ban she, 2014.
Dutch: Cynthia Voigt, Niemand anders dan ik, transl. M Slagt-Prins, Querido, 1990.
French: Cynthia Voigt, Le Héron Bleu, transl. Rose-Marie Vassallo, Flammarion, 1989.
German: Cynthia Voigt, M wie Melody: die Geschichte von Jeff, Dicey Tillermans Freund, transl. Cornelia Krutz-Arnold, Taschenbuch-Verl, 1997.
Swedish: Cynthia Voigt, Solo för gitarr, transl. Harriet Alfons, Bonniers juniorförl, 1985.
Sequels, Prequels and Spin-offs
The other titles in the Tillerman Cycle are: Homecoming (1981), Dicey’s Song (1982), The Runner (1985), Come A Stranger (1986), Sons From Afar (1987) and Seventeen Against the Dealer (1989).
A Solitary Blue tells the story of Jeff Greene, a character first introduced in Dicey’s Song (1982). When Jeff is seven, his mother Melody abandons him, purportedly to devote herself to helping others. Meanwhile Jeff’s father, an academic known as the Professor, is distant and seemingly uncaring. From an early age Jeff is accustomed to feeding both himself and his father, experiencing extreme anxiety lest his father become unhappy. Jeff becomes ill as a result of being neglected by his father, who is encouraged by Brother Thomas, a close friend, to send Jeff to the doctor. After this illness Jeff has contact with his mother for the first time in several years, staying with her family in South Carolina for the summer. Jeff is enamoured with his mother, despite heavy hints that she is selfish and emotionally abusive. The following summer, Jeff realises how cruel his mother is to him and becomes depressed and isolated. He and his father eventually move to Crisfield to aid his recovery. There he meets his future romantic partner Dicey and the rest of the Tillermans, the main characters of Voigt’s Tillerman Cycle.
Towards the end of Part One of the novel, whilst staying with his mother, Jeff confronts her about her dishonesty and lack of interest in him. He later returns to an island he has found, a place where he can be alone with his feelings. But while on the island, Jeff also becomes disconnected from society, in a nod to Robinson Crusoe and other island narratives. Prior to his encounter with the solitary blue heron of the novel’s title, Jeff sleeps out on the beach under “millions of stars”, waking to see only “Venus, the morning star, low on the eastern horizon, large and white” (Voigt 1983, 118). Venus, named after the Roman goddess of beauty and love, dominates the sky as Melody dominates Jeff’s thoughts, but is ultimately a distant and fleeting presence. Moreover, the time of day (morning) and position of Venus (in the east), both imply beginnings: Melody may be Jeff’s first love (see also Plotz 1988, 76; Watson 2003, 96-98), but now he has to move on.
Names often convey important meanings in Voigt’s work. Melody’s name suggests individualism; meanwhile, Jeff’s father, known always as ‘the Professor’, is called Horace, recalling the Roman poet. Associated initially with emotional distance and academic solitude, the Professor later wins public acclaim for his book of historical biographies.
The Professor meets Brother Thomas when they both take a class in Greek together (19). Brother Thomas represents a link between the intellectual knowledge of the Professor and awareness of the care and attention that Jeff desperately needs (see also Reid 1995, 49). This is emphasised again at the end of the novel when Brother Thomas translates the word ‘fideles’ as ‘trustworthy’ in a Christmas card to Jeff (Voigt 1983, 229).
Plotz, Judith, “The Disappearance of Childhood: Parent-Child Reversals in After the First Death and A Solitary Blue,” Children’s Literature in Education, 19.2 (1988): 67-79.
Reid, Susan E., Presenting Cynthia Voigt, New York, NY: Twayne Publishers, 1995.
Watson, Victor, “The Tillerman Series,” in Margaret Meek and Victor Watson (eds), Coming of Age in Children’s Literature: Growth and Maturity in the Work of Philippa Pearce, Cynthia Voigt and Jan Mark, London: Continuum, 2003, 85-124.