To all those who felt at a disadvantage while reading this week’s Newbery winner (Dicey’s Song by Cynthia Voigt) please stand.
Once I got a grasp of the characters and the feel of the story I did just fine but, seriously? Why do they choose winners that are sequels? It makes it difficult for those of us who are reading through the Newbery list and don’t really have time to read all the preceding novels in a series. Thankfully, Dicey’s Song is only the second in the series and not the fourth or fifth. But, still… it’s the principal of the thing.
I read this book almost entirely over the weekend in three different locations. The first was at a coffee shop over a bagel and latte, the second was in bed prior to falling asleep for the best nap I’ve had in ages and the third was this morning cuddled up on the couch with two dogs. All three provided the right atmosphere to slip into the world of the Tillermans: Gram, Dicey, James, Maybeth and Sammy. From what I can gather from the hints dropped by the author, the first book was about four kids who traveled all summer to get to their Grams because their mom went crazy and had to be hospitalized. So, the second book is about how these kids settle into life at their new home, adjust at school and form deeper bonds with one another and their Gram. It’s easy to get attached to each one of them and identify with their idiosyncracies. The Grandmother reminds me a little bit of the one in Richard Peck’s Winner, A Year Down Yonder. She does her own thing, and while the town thinks her somewhat crazy she actually proves to be pretty awesome. The story is unique in that it picks up where the previous one left off (I’m assuming) and the conclusion is extremely open-ended since there are at least four more books to go in the series. When I’ve read series before (Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, etc) I get tired of the way the author always has to give background. I always feel like, “get on with the new stuff already! all of us reading this have already read the previous stories and don’t need a refresher course.” But in this case I was desperate for one! Unfortunately, the flashbacks or background set up in Dicey’s Song were brief and hazy at best. Apparently Voigt assumed everyone had read her first one thereby knowing all there was to know about the history of the Tillerman kids.
Dicey is the oldest and has felt responsible for their well-being her entire life. But when they arrive in the safe haven of Gram’s Dicey is freed somewhat from the heavy load she’s been carrying and is free to start taking care of herself and fashioning her own ideas. She learns how to let go of the past but also how to embrace and hold on to what is dear to her (lessons from Gram.) She learns to open up her hand and let people other than her family in. With the death of her mother near the end of the story all these lessons she’s in the process of learning come to the forefront, and as the reader I was thankful to witness the development of her character.
Looking ahead at next week’s book I think that my disadvantage felt this week will be relegated to a distant memory. No need to worry about it being another sequel considering it’s another book of poetry. It’s called, A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers. Would anyone want to take a stab at reading it this week also? It would be a good excuse to visit your library and I’d love the company. Reply to this post if you so choose to take up the quest with me even if it’s only for the week.
Also, this week’s winner was from my birth year, which is kind of fun. If you feel so led take a look at the Newbery list and let me know which book falls on your birth year. http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/newberymedal/newberywinners/medalwinners.cfm
Till next time…