This book started out with two strikes against it. It is numbers 2 in a "cycle" and it was in the teen section of the library. I don't have anything against the teen zone per se, but I think the Newbery target audience is not teens. I am happy to say, though, that Dicey's Song did not strike out. :)
We learn enough about book one that we know 13-year-old Dicey and her 3 siblings, James, Maybeth and Sammy, were abandoned by their mother and that they made their way on their own a couple hundred miles to their grandmother's farm. Gram took them in and the story begins about when school starts in the fall.
The Tillermans are a quirky family. Most of the people in Gram's little town think she is a bit crazy. Dicey and her siblings are prickly as well. Their mother had never married and people in the town they came from had taunted them for that. Add to that their mother had a nervous breakdown and was basically catatonic in a hospital bed in Boston and you see that the children could very well have troubles.
Dicey gets a job helping at a local grocery store cleaning and helping the owner, Millie, with odd jobs around the store. Dicey feels responsible for the younger kids and wants to contribute to the upkeep as their Gram doesn't have enough to care for them.
The story tells of trouble in school, making friends, learning to look past people's differences, holding on to family. It was really quite good. I would recommend it for older elementary and middle school age kids.
"The sadness of Momma lost to them, maybe forever, was something Dicey carried around deep inside her all the time, and maybe that explained her edginess. Dicey wasn't used to carrying sadness around. She was used to seeing trouble and doing something about it. She just didn't know anything to do about Momma." (p. 21)
Gram to Dicey. "But I'll tell you something else, too. Something I've learned, the hard way...You've got to hold on. Hold on to people. They can get away from you. It's not always going to be fun, but if you don't--hold on--then you lose them." (p. 88)
Dicey to her friend Mina. "If you think about it, everybody has something--wrong about them. I mean, some flaw, or something you just don't like. But some people, it doesn't seem to matter so much. You know there're things wrong, but it's just part of them and you like them." (p. 193)
When Dicey and Gram went to see Momma in Boston for the last time before she died, Gram took care of everything. On the way home, on the train, Dicey found out that Gram had never left Maryland before that. She said, " 'Gram, but you know how to do everything.'
'I knew how to do nothing. I just did everything. There's a difference. You should know that.'" (p. 231)
Dicey trying to figure out what she should do. "The confusion was like a windy storm. And then she smiled to herself, because she had a suspicion that the confusion wasn't a storm that would blow itself out, it was going to be a permanent condition...She might as well try to like it, she thought, since it wasn't gong to go away." (p. 246)
Voigt, Cynthia. Dicey's Song. Atheneum, 1982.