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Cynthia Voigt

The Tillerman Cycle (Series)

YEAR:

COUNTRY: United States of America

Cateogry icon

Title of the work

The Tillerman Cycle (Series)

Country of the First Edition

Country/countries of popularity

United States of America; Worldwide

Original Language

English

First Edition Details

Cynthia Voigt, Homecoming, New York, NY: Atheneum, 1981, 388 pp. 

Cynthia Voigt, Dicey’s Song, New York, NY: Atheneum, 1982 [[pp]].

Cynthia Voigt, A Solitary Blue, New York, NY: Atheneum, 1983, 249 pp. 

Cynthia Voigt, The Runner, New York, NY: Atheneum, 1985, 225 pp. 

Cynthia Voigt, Come A Stranger, New York, NY: Atheneum, 1986, 248 pp. 

Cynthia Voigt, Sons From Afar, New York, NY: Atheneum, 1987, 280 pp.

Cynthia Voigt, Seventeen Against the Dealer, New York, NY: Atheneum, 1989, 233 pp. 

ISBN

9781442428782, 9781442428799, 9781442428805, 9781442428812, 9781442428829, 9781442428836, 9781442428843

Official Website

cynthiavoigt.com (accessed: March 12, 2020).

Awards

For Voigt:

Voigt was awarded the Margaret Edwards Award (1995) for a body of work including the first four Tillerman books.

For individual titles:

Dicey’s Song: Newbery Medal (1983)

A Solitary Blue: Newbery Honor Book (1984)

Come A Stranger: Judy Lopez Medal (1987)

Genre

Fiction
Novels

Target Audience

Young adults

Cover

Missing cover

We are still trying to obtain permission for posting the original cover.


Author of the Entry:

Sarah Hardstaff, University of Cambridge, sflh2@cam.ac.uk 

Peer-reviewer of the Entry:

Susan Deacy, University of Roehampton, s.deacy@roehampton.ac.uk 

Daniel Nkemleke, ENS, University of Yaoundé 1, nkemlekedan@yahoo.com

Female portrait

Cynthia Voigt , b. 1942
(Author)

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, sflh2@cam.ac.uk 


Adaptations

Homecoming was adapted as a 1996 made-for-television movie, directed by Mark Jean.

Some of the novels have been adapted as school study guides; this is especially the case for Dicey’s Song, as is typical for winners of the Newbery Medal.

Translation

Homecoming:

Chinese: Cynthia Voigt, Hui jia, You shi, 2004.

Dutch: Cynthia Voigt, Onder de blote hemel, transl. M Slagt-Prins, Querido, 1985.

French: Cynthia Voigt, C’est encore loin, la maison?, transl. Rose-Marie Vassallo, Flammarion, 1993.

German: Cynthia Voigt, Heimwärts, transl. Matthias Duderstadt, Bertelsmann, 1992.

Spanish: Cynthia Voigt, Los Tillerman encuentran hogar, transl. Anna Benet, Noguer y Caralt, 1995.

Swedish: Cynthia Voigt, Den långa vägen hem, transl. Rose-Marie Nielsen, Bonniers juniorförl. 1983.

Dicey’s Song:

Chinese: Cynthia Voigt, 黛西之歌 (Daixi zhi ge), transl. Zhaoyu Zhou, Hebei shao nian er tong chu ban she, 2015.

Dutch: Cynthia Voigt, Het verhaal van Dicey, transl. M Slagt-Prins, Querido, 1986.

Finnish: Cynthia Voigt, Tuulta purjeisiin, transl. Sirkka Salonen, WSOY, 1985.

French: Cynthia Voigt, La chanson de Dicey, transl. Rose-Marie Vassallo, Flammarion, 1993.

German: Cynthia Voigt, Wir Tillermans sind so, transl. Matthias Duderstadt, Sauerländer, 1987.

Japanese: Cynthia Voigt, ダイシーズソング (Daishīzu songu), transl. Shima Noriko & Hayashi Toyomi.

Korean: Cynthia Voigt, Disiga bureunun norae, transl. Kim Sang In & Kim Ok Soo, Seoul Education, 2008.

Norwegian: Cynthia Voigt, Det nye hjemmet, transl. Isak Rogde, Bokklubbens barn, 1990.

Swedish: Diceys sång: det nya hemmet, transl. Rose-Marie Nielsen, Bonniers juniorförl. 1984.

A Solitary Blue:

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.

The Runner:

Dutch: Cynthia Voigt, De hardloper, transl. M Slagt-Prins, Querido, 1987.

French: Cynthia Voigt, Samuel Tillerman, transl. Rose-Marie Vassallo, Flammarion, 1993.

German: Cynthia Voigt, Samuel Tillerman, der Läufer, transl. Matthias Duderstadt, Sauerländer, 1989.

Swedish: Cynthia Voigt, Bullet, transl. Hans-Jacob Nilsson, Bonniers juniorförl, 1986.

Come A Stranger:

Dutch: Cynthia Voigt, Wilhemina Smiths, transl. M Slagt-Prins, Querido, 1989.

French: Cynthia Voigt, Une Fille Im-pos-sible, transl. Rose-Marie Vassallo, Flammarion, 1993.

German: Cynthia Voigt, Mina, Dicey Tillermans Freundin, transl. Matthias Duderstadt, Sauerländer, 1989.

Swedish: Cynthia Voigt, Minas Kärlek, transl. Rebecca Alsberg, BTJ, 1989.

Sons From Afar:

Dutch: Cynthia Voigt, De verloren vader, transl. M Slagt-Prins, Querido, 1989.

Finnish: Cynthia Voigt, Isän jäljillä, transl. Sirkka Salonen, WSOY, 1989.

French: Cynthia Voigt, L’Enquête, transl. Rose-Marie Vassallo, Flammarion, 1990.

German: Cynthia Voigt, Der Schatten des Vaters: James und Sammy Tillerman, transl. Matthias Duderstadt, Sauerländer, 1991.

Swedish: Cynthia Voigt, Spåren efter Frank, transl. Rebecca Alsberg, Bonniers juniorförl, 1989.

Seventeen Against the Dealer:

Dutch: Cynthia Voigt, Alles op één kart, transl. M Slagt-Prins, Querido, 1990.

Finnish: Cynthia Voigt, Vaarallisilla vesillä, transl. Sirkka Salonen, WSOY, 1991.

French: Cynthia Voigt, Dicey Risque Tout, transl. Rose-Marie Vassallo-Villaneau, Flammarion, 1994.

German: Cynthia Voigt, Dicey Tillerman: Bindungen, transl. Eckart Meissenburg and Matthias Duderstadt, Sauerländer, 1991.

Swedish: Cynthia Voigt, Noll gånger insatsen, transl. Rebecca Alsberg, Bonniers juniorförl, 1990.

Summary

The Tillerman Cycle follows the lives of four siblings – Dicey, James, Maybeth and Sammy Tillerman – abandoned by their parents and in search of a new home. Over the course of seven novels, spanning nearly a decade in the children’s lives, Voigt explores themes of family, home, resilience, and the relationship between individuals and society. Brief summaries of the novels are included below; for more detailed summaries, see the individual entries elsewhere in the OMC survey.

Homecoming opens with the abandonment of the Tillerman children by their mother. Led by the eldest, Dicey, the children make their way mostly on foot down the east coast of the United States. Eventually the children arrive at their mother’s hometown and must convince their grandmother Abigail that she should let them live with her on her farm in Crisfield, Maryland. As the novel ends, the children have started school and are starting to settle in at their grandmother’s home. 

Dicey’s Song shows Dicey and her siblings adapting to their new home with their grandmother. Abigail takes on much of the responsibility for the younger children, leaving Dicey feeling useless. As the novel goes on, Abigail continues to encourage Dicey to stop mothering her siblings, but also seeks Dicey’s help to deal with the problems that they face in adjusting at school. Readers are introduced to Dicey’s future love interest Jeff and her friend Mina. Abigail and Dicey travel to Boston together to see the Tillermans’ mother Liza, now a patient in a psychiatric hospital. Liza dies and her mother and daughter bring her remains home.

A Solitary Blue tells the story of Jeff. 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. After an illness, Jeff has contact with his mother for the first time in several years, staying with her family in South Carolina for two summers, eventually becoming. depressed and isolated. He and his father move to Crisfield to aid his recovery. There he meets Dicey and the rest of the Tillermans.

The Runner is a prequel to the other Tillerman books. Set in 1967-68, the novel focuses on Samuel ‘Bullet’ Tillerman in his final year at high school before signing up to go and fight in the Vietnam War. When he is asked to coach a black student called Tamer Shipp, Bullet finds his prejudices and ways of thinking challenged. The novel ends with Abigail turning up unexpectedly to see Bullet run for his school, followed by a final chapter set in 1969 in which she is informed of his death in Vietnam.

Come A Stranger tells the story of Mina. The novel starts a couple of years before Mina and Dicey meet, with Mina finding out she has been awarded a scholarship to a prestigious ballet summer camp. She loves her time at the camp, despite being the only black student, but the following summer, she is sent home early. On her way home, Mina meets Tamer Shipp (from The Runner). Mina meets and befriends Dicey, and engineers a meeting between Tamer and Bullet’s mother (Dicey’s grandmother). The novel ends with Mina meeting a boy her own age and considering a future as a lawyer.

Sons From Afar is the only Tillerman novel that focuses on two main characters, with the perspective alternating between James Tillerman and his younger brother Sammy. As they go through adolescence, the brothers struggle to cope with the lack of a father figure and begin a quest to find out more about their father, Francis Verricker. The boys’ investigations lead them to a Baltimore bar, where the revelation that they are Francis’s sons leads to them being beaten up by one of his creditors. 

Seventeen Against the Dealer centres on Dicey, now aged twenty-one and working obsessively at her own boat-building business. After Jeff breaks up with her, and her grandmother Abigail becomes seriously ill with pneumonia, Dicey’s attention is brought back to her family. Meanwhile a mysterious drifter and gambler called Cisco (implied to be Francis Verricker) squats at Dicey’s workshop and helps her with her work. Cisco leaves suddenly after stealing a large sum of money from Dicey, the latest in a series of disasters for her business. The novel ends with Dicey and Jeff getting engaged, with Dicey closing the business while still planning to build a boat.

All the novels contain references to Greek and Roman history, culture and mythology, except Dicey’s Song, which nonetheless maintains the intertextuality of the series as whole through references to literature, folk songs and the Bible. Figures such as Odysseus, Icarus and Sisyphus, and stories from antiquity are often named and discussed by characters as they work through questions of identity, family and community. Throughout the series, classical history and mythology feature both in formal, classroom education and in less formal interactions that nonetheless contribute to self-discovery and relationship-building.

Analysis

Throughout the series, classical inspirations appear as touchstones, ways of understanding the world and other people. In particular, the recurring references to the myth of Sisyphus reflect tensions about the desire for progress and the search for stability that underscore the whole series. Other recurring classical themes relate to education, philosophy, history and ways of living with others in society while developing as individuals. Voigt frequently uses classical stories and characters which highlight family relationships, such as Daedalus and Icarus. She also uses classical references to make connections between societies, cultures and over long periods of history. This might suggest a belief that certain aspects of human nature are universal and unchanging, or, alternatively, reflect Voigt’s ability to make readers think differently and more deeply about a character or situation.

Please see the entries on the individual volumes elsewhere in this database for more detailed analyses.

Further Reading

Clark, Dorothy G. “Edging toward Bethlehem: Rewriting the Myth of Childhood in Voigt’s Homecoming,” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 25.4 (2000):191–202.

Digilio, Alice, “What Makes Bullet Run? The Runner by Cynthia Voigt,” The Washington Post, (accessed: October 16, 2019)

Fraustino, Lisa Rowe, “Abandoning Mothers,” in Lisa Rowe Fraustino and Karen Coats, eds, Mothers in Children’s and Young Adult Literature: From the Eighteenth Century to Postfeminism, Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2016, 216-232.

Greenway, Betty, ““Every Mother’s Dream”: Cynthia Voigt’s Orphans,” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 1991 Proceedings (1991): 127-131.

Hardstaff, Sarah, “Economies of Childness in Cynthia Voigt’s Homecoming,” Children’s Literature in Education, 50.1 (2019): 47-59.

Hardstaff, Sarah, “From the Gingerbread House to the Cornucopia: Gastronomic Utopia as Social Critique in Homecoming and The Hunger Games,” The Looking Glass: New Perspectives on Children’s Literature, 19.1 (2016) (accessed: August 5, 2019).

Hardstaff, Sarah, “Money and the Gift in the Novels of Mildred Taylor and Cynthia Voigt,” Barnboken, forthcoming.

Hardstaff, Sarah, ““With special obligations”: Constructions of young adulthood and caregiving in The Road to Memphis and Seventeen Against the Dealer,” in Jutta Ahlbeck, Päivi Lappalainen, Kati Launis and Kirsi Tuohela (eds), Childhood, Literature and Science: Fragile Subjects, New York, NY: Routledge, 2018, 141-152.

Henke, James T., “Dicey, Odysseus, and Hansel and Gretel: The Lost Children in Voigt’s Homecoming,” Children’s Literature in Education 16 (1985): 45-52.

Hoffman, Mary, “Growing Up: A Survey,” Children’s Literature in Education, 15.3 (1984): 171-185.

Hylton, Jaime, “Exploring the ‘Academic Side’ of Cynthia Voigt,” The ALAN Review, 33.1 (Fall 2005).

Lesley, Naomi, Fictions of Integration: American Children’s Literature and the Legacies of Brown v. Board of Education, New York, NY: Routledge, 2017.

Nikolajeva, Maria, The Rhetoric of Character in Children’s Literature, Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2002.

Pearce, Elizabeth A., Limitation, Subversion, and Agency: Gendered Spaces in the Works of Margaret Mahy, Cynthia Voigt, and Diana Wynne Jones, unpublished PhD dissertation, Illinois State University, 2014.

Pearson, Lucy, “Family, Identity and Nationhood: Family Stories in Anglo-American Children’s Literature, 1930-2000,” in Catherine Butler and Kimberley Reynolds (eds), Modern Children’s Literature: An Introduction, London: Palgrave, 2nd edition, 2014, 89-104.

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, Suzanne 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.

Wolf, Virginia L., “The Linear Image: The Road and the River in Children’s Literature,” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 1986 Proceedings, (1986): 41-47.

Zoppa, Linda J., “Color and Class: An Exploration of Responses in Four African-American Coming-of-Age Novels,” in Karen Patricia Smith (ed.), African-American Voices in Young Adult Literature: Tradition, Transition, Transformation, Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1994,169-192.

Addenda

Other tags:

Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus;

Common points between Rome and USA;

Roman occupation of Britain.

Yellow cloud
Leaf pattern
Leaf pattern

Title of the work

The Tillerman Cycle (Series)

Country of the First Edition

Country/countries of popularity

United States of America; Worldwide

Original Language

English

First Edition Details

Cynthia Voigt, Homecoming, New York, NY: Atheneum, 1981, 388 pp. 

Cynthia Voigt, Dicey’s Song, New York, NY: Atheneum, 1982 [[pp]].

Cynthia Voigt, A Solitary Blue, New York, NY: Atheneum, 1983, 249 pp. 

Cynthia Voigt, The Runner, New York, NY: Atheneum, 1985, 225 pp. 

Cynthia Voigt, Come A Stranger, New York, NY: Atheneum, 1986, 248 pp. 

Cynthia Voigt, Sons From Afar, New York, NY: Atheneum, 1987, 280 pp.

Cynthia Voigt, Seventeen Against the Dealer, New York, NY: Atheneum, 1989, 233 pp. 

ISBN

9781442428782, 9781442428799, 9781442428805, 9781442428812, 9781442428829, 9781442428836, 9781442428843

Official Website

cynthiavoigt.com (accessed: March 12, 2020).

Awards

For Voigt:

Voigt was awarded the Margaret Edwards Award (1995) for a body of work including the first four Tillerman books.

For individual titles:

Dicey’s Song: Newbery Medal (1983)

A Solitary Blue: Newbery Honor Book (1984)

Come A Stranger: Judy Lopez Medal (1987)

Genre

Fiction
Novels

Target Audience

Young adults

Cover

Missing cover

We are still trying to obtain permission for posting the original cover.


Author of the Entry:

Sarah Hardstaff, University of Cambridge, sflh2@cam.ac.uk 

Peer-reviewer of the Entry:

Susan Deacy, University of Roehampton, s.deacy@roehampton.ac.uk 

Daniel Nkemleke, ENS, University of Yaoundé 1, nkemlekedan@yahoo.com

Female portrait

Cynthia Voigt (Author)

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, sflh2@cam.ac.uk 


Adaptations

Homecoming was adapted as a 1996 made-for-television movie, directed by Mark Jean.

Some of the novels have been adapted as school study guides; this is especially the case for Dicey’s Song, as is typical for winners of the Newbery Medal.

Translation

Homecoming:

Chinese: Cynthia Voigt, Hui jia, You shi, 2004.

Dutch: Cynthia Voigt, Onder de blote hemel, transl. M Slagt-Prins, Querido, 1985.

French: Cynthia Voigt, C’est encore loin, la maison?, transl. Rose-Marie Vassallo, Flammarion, 1993.

German: Cynthia Voigt, Heimwärts, transl. Matthias Duderstadt, Bertelsmann, 1992.

Spanish: Cynthia Voigt, Los Tillerman encuentran hogar, transl. Anna Benet, Noguer y Caralt, 1995.

Swedish: Cynthia Voigt, Den långa vägen hem, transl. Rose-Marie Nielsen, Bonniers juniorförl. 1983.

Dicey’s Song:

Chinese: Cynthia Voigt, 黛西之歌 (Daixi zhi ge), transl. Zhaoyu Zhou, Hebei shao nian er tong chu ban she, 2015.

Dutch: Cynthia Voigt, Het verhaal van Dicey, transl. M Slagt-Prins, Querido, 1986.

Finnish: Cynthia Voigt, Tuulta purjeisiin, transl. Sirkka Salonen, WSOY, 1985.

French: Cynthia Voigt, La chanson de Dicey, transl. Rose-Marie Vassallo, Flammarion, 1993.

German: Cynthia Voigt, Wir Tillermans sind so, transl. Matthias Duderstadt, Sauerländer, 1987.

Japanese: Cynthia Voigt, ダイシーズソング (Daishīzu songu), transl. Shima Noriko & Hayashi Toyomi.

Korean: Cynthia Voigt, Disiga bureunun norae, transl. Kim Sang In & Kim Ok Soo, Seoul Education, 2008.

Norwegian: Cynthia Voigt, Det nye hjemmet, transl. Isak Rogde, Bokklubbens barn, 1990.

Swedish: Diceys sång: det nya hemmet, transl. Rose-Marie Nielsen, Bonniers juniorförl. 1984.

A Solitary Blue:

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.

The Runner:

Dutch: Cynthia Voigt, De hardloper, transl. M Slagt-Prins, Querido, 1987.

French: Cynthia Voigt, Samuel Tillerman, transl. Rose-Marie Vassallo, Flammarion, 1993.

German: Cynthia Voigt, Samuel Tillerman, der Läufer, transl. Matthias Duderstadt, Sauerländer, 1989.

Swedish: Cynthia Voigt, Bullet, transl. Hans-Jacob Nilsson, Bonniers juniorförl, 1986.

Come A Stranger:

Dutch: Cynthia Voigt, Wilhemina Smiths, transl. M Slagt-Prins, Querido, 1989.

French: Cynthia Voigt, Une Fille Im-pos-sible, transl. Rose-Marie Vassallo, Flammarion, 1993.

German: Cynthia Voigt, Mina, Dicey Tillermans Freundin, transl. Matthias Duderstadt, Sauerländer, 1989.

Swedish: Cynthia Voigt, Minas Kärlek, transl. Rebecca Alsberg, BTJ, 1989.

Sons From Afar:

Dutch: Cynthia Voigt, De verloren vader, transl. M Slagt-Prins, Querido, 1989.

Finnish: Cynthia Voigt, Isän jäljillä, transl. Sirkka Salonen, WSOY, 1989.

French: Cynthia Voigt, L’Enquête, transl. Rose-Marie Vassallo, Flammarion, 1990.

German: Cynthia Voigt, Der Schatten des Vaters: James und Sammy Tillerman, transl. Matthias Duderstadt, Sauerländer, 1991.

Swedish: Cynthia Voigt, Spåren efter Frank, transl. Rebecca Alsberg, Bonniers juniorförl, 1989.

Seventeen Against the Dealer:

Dutch: Cynthia Voigt, Alles op één kart, transl. M Slagt-Prins, Querido, 1990.

Finnish: Cynthia Voigt, Vaarallisilla vesillä, transl. Sirkka Salonen, WSOY, 1991.

French: Cynthia Voigt, Dicey Risque Tout, transl. Rose-Marie Vassallo-Villaneau, Flammarion, 1994.

German: Cynthia Voigt, Dicey Tillerman: Bindungen, transl. Eckart Meissenburg and Matthias Duderstadt, Sauerländer, 1991.

Swedish: Cynthia Voigt, Noll gånger insatsen, transl. Rebecca Alsberg, Bonniers juniorförl, 1990.

Summary

The Tillerman Cycle follows the lives of four siblings – Dicey, James, Maybeth and Sammy Tillerman – abandoned by their parents and in search of a new home. Over the course of seven novels, spanning nearly a decade in the children’s lives, Voigt explores themes of family, home, resilience, and the relationship between individuals and society. Brief summaries of the novels are included below; for more detailed summaries, see the individual entries elsewhere in the OMC survey.

Homecoming opens with the abandonment of the Tillerman children by their mother. Led by the eldest, Dicey, the children make their way mostly on foot down the east coast of the United States. Eventually the children arrive at their mother’s hometown and must convince their grandmother Abigail that she should let them live with her on her farm in Crisfield, Maryland. As the novel ends, the children have started school and are starting to settle in at their grandmother’s home. 

Dicey’s Song shows Dicey and her siblings adapting to their new home with their grandmother. Abigail takes on much of the responsibility for the younger children, leaving Dicey feeling useless. As the novel goes on, Abigail continues to encourage Dicey to stop mothering her siblings, but also seeks Dicey’s help to deal with the problems that they face in adjusting at school. Readers are introduced to Dicey’s future love interest Jeff and her friend Mina. Abigail and Dicey travel to Boston together to see the Tillermans’ mother Liza, now a patient in a psychiatric hospital. Liza dies and her mother and daughter bring her remains home.

A Solitary Blue tells the story of Jeff. 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. After an illness, Jeff has contact with his mother for the first time in several years, staying with her family in South Carolina for two summers, eventually becoming. depressed and isolated. He and his father move to Crisfield to aid his recovery. There he meets Dicey and the rest of the Tillermans.

The Runner is a prequel to the other Tillerman books. Set in 1967-68, the novel focuses on Samuel ‘Bullet’ Tillerman in his final year at high school before signing up to go and fight in the Vietnam War. When he is asked to coach a black student called Tamer Shipp, Bullet finds his prejudices and ways of thinking challenged. The novel ends with Abigail turning up unexpectedly to see Bullet run for his school, followed by a final chapter set in 1969 in which she is informed of his death in Vietnam.

Come A Stranger tells the story of Mina. The novel starts a couple of years before Mina and Dicey meet, with Mina finding out she has been awarded a scholarship to a prestigious ballet summer camp. She loves her time at the camp, despite being the only black student, but the following summer, she is sent home early. On her way home, Mina meets Tamer Shipp (from The Runner). Mina meets and befriends Dicey, and engineers a meeting between Tamer and Bullet’s mother (Dicey’s grandmother). The novel ends with Mina meeting a boy her own age and considering a future as a lawyer.

Sons From Afar is the only Tillerman novel that focuses on two main characters, with the perspective alternating between James Tillerman and his younger brother Sammy. As they go through adolescence, the brothers struggle to cope with the lack of a father figure and begin a quest to find out more about their father, Francis Verricker. The boys’ investigations lead them to a Baltimore bar, where the revelation that they are Francis’s sons leads to them being beaten up by one of his creditors. 

Seventeen Against the Dealer centres on Dicey, now aged twenty-one and working obsessively at her own boat-building business. After Jeff breaks up with her, and her grandmother Abigail becomes seriously ill with pneumonia, Dicey’s attention is brought back to her family. Meanwhile a mysterious drifter and gambler called Cisco (implied to be Francis Verricker) squats at Dicey’s workshop and helps her with her work. Cisco leaves suddenly after stealing a large sum of money from Dicey, the latest in a series of disasters for her business. The novel ends with Dicey and Jeff getting engaged, with Dicey closing the business while still planning to build a boat.

All the novels contain references to Greek and Roman history, culture and mythology, except Dicey’s Song, which nonetheless maintains the intertextuality of the series as whole through references to literature, folk songs and the Bible. Figures such as Odysseus, Icarus and Sisyphus, and stories from antiquity are often named and discussed by characters as they work through questions of identity, family and community. Throughout the series, classical history and mythology feature both in formal, classroom education and in less formal interactions that nonetheless contribute to self-discovery and relationship-building.

Analysis

Throughout the series, classical inspirations appear as touchstones, ways of understanding the world and other people. In particular, the recurring references to the myth of Sisyphus reflect tensions about the desire for progress and the search for stability that underscore the whole series. Other recurring classical themes relate to education, philosophy, history and ways of living with others in society while developing as individuals. Voigt frequently uses classical stories and characters which highlight family relationships, such as Daedalus and Icarus. She also uses classical references to make connections between societies, cultures and over long periods of history. This might suggest a belief that certain aspects of human nature are universal and unchanging, or, alternatively, reflect Voigt’s ability to make readers think differently and more deeply about a character or situation.

Please see the entries on the individual volumes elsewhere in this database for more detailed analyses.

Further Reading

Clark, Dorothy G. “Edging toward Bethlehem: Rewriting the Myth of Childhood in Voigt’s Homecoming,” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 25.4 (2000):191–202.

Digilio, Alice, “What Makes Bullet Run? The Runner by Cynthia Voigt,” The Washington Post, (accessed: October 16, 2019)

Fraustino, Lisa Rowe, “Abandoning Mothers,” in Lisa Rowe Fraustino and Karen Coats, eds, Mothers in Children’s and Young Adult Literature: From the Eighteenth Century to Postfeminism, Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2016, 216-232.

Greenway, Betty, ““Every Mother’s Dream”: Cynthia Voigt’s Orphans,” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 1991 Proceedings (1991): 127-131.

Hardstaff, Sarah, “Economies of Childness in Cynthia Voigt’s Homecoming,” Children’s Literature in Education, 50.1 (2019): 47-59.

Hardstaff, Sarah, “From the Gingerbread House to the Cornucopia: Gastronomic Utopia as Social Critique in Homecoming and The Hunger Games,” The Looking Glass: New Perspectives on Children’s Literature, 19.1 (2016) (accessed: August 5, 2019).

Hardstaff, Sarah, “Money and the Gift in the Novels of Mildred Taylor and Cynthia Voigt,” Barnboken, forthcoming.

Hardstaff, Sarah, ““With special obligations”: Constructions of young adulthood and caregiving in The Road to Memphis and Seventeen Against the Dealer,” in Jutta Ahlbeck, Päivi Lappalainen, Kati Launis and Kirsi Tuohela (eds), Childhood, Literature and Science: Fragile Subjects, New York, NY: Routledge, 2018, 141-152.

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Hoffman, Mary, “Growing Up: A Survey,” Children’s Literature in Education, 15.3 (1984): 171-185.

Hylton, Jaime, “Exploring the ‘Academic Side’ of Cynthia Voigt,” The ALAN Review, 33.1 (Fall 2005).

Lesley, Naomi, Fictions of Integration: American Children’s Literature and the Legacies of Brown v. Board of Education, New York, NY: Routledge, 2017.

Nikolajeva, Maria, The Rhetoric of Character in Children’s Literature, Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2002.

Pearce, Elizabeth A., Limitation, Subversion, and Agency: Gendered Spaces in the Works of Margaret Mahy, Cynthia Voigt, and Diana Wynne Jones, unpublished PhD dissertation, Illinois State University, 2014.

Pearson, Lucy, “Family, Identity and Nationhood: Family Stories in Anglo-American Children’s Literature, 1930-2000,” in Catherine Butler and Kimberley Reynolds (eds), Modern Children’s Literature: An Introduction, London: Palgrave, 2nd edition, 2014, 89-104.

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, Suzanne 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.

Wolf, Virginia L., “The Linear Image: The Road and the River in Children’s Literature,” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, 1986 Proceedings, (1986): 41-47.

Zoppa, Linda J., “Color and Class: An Exploration of Responses in Four African-American Coming-of-Age Novels,” in Karen Patricia Smith (ed.), African-American Voices in Young Adult Literature: Tradition, Transition, Transformation, Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1994,169-192.

Addenda

Other tags:

Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus;

Common points between Rome and USA;

Roman occupation of Britain.

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