In the early pandemic times, when I had that “new pandemic energy,” I started reading the first books of The Babysitter’s Club series on Facebook live, adding in my own color commentary. It was a hit, I mean TENS of people tuned in (heh). Like a lot of new quirky pandemic hobbies (I’m looking at you, sourdough starter) it soon lost it’s luster and I only made it like 2 and a half books in, and I stowed the books on my book shelf in an appropriate section, right next to my Cynthia Voigt collection. I remember really loving Voigt and thought a revisit could be fun but hesitated because I have trouble allowing myself to read Young Adult books. I’m sure this isn’t uncommon, but as an adult I have a hang-up where I feel like I should be reading adult books (not as much of a hang-up as when I try to read romance, but that’s another review) but I definitely feel a stigma. But if I have learned anything during the pandemic it’s that I should care less about what I “should” be doing and instead focus on doing things that bring joy, so I finally gave myself permission to revisit this series and I’m amped about it.
This book is the first in the “Tillerman cycle” the seven books about the Tillerman family, two of which were awarded the Newbery award. I remembered only the broadest strokes about this story, so jumped in with mostly fresh eyes. Dicey, James, Maybeth and Sammy are traveling with their momma from their home in Massachusetts to visit their great Aunt Cilla in Connecticut, who they have never met. When Momma abandons them in a shopping mall parking lot they have no plan and no where to turn, but are determined to stay together. Dicey, the oldest at 13, decides that they should travel on to Aunt Cilla’s where momma could be waiting. Armed with a basically only their wits and a few bucks, these four kids leave the safety of the car to venture into the unknown, together.
That’s a heck of a start, and I can see why I liked these books. Voigt’s writing style is plain and straightforward: these are real kids are having to deal with real life hard circumstances. Though written in the 1980s I see a connection between this book and Koningsburg’s 1967 classic From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler which I also recently revisited. Both authors write children that are believable and having to deal with the often unkind realities of their lives, and of the real world. I’ve got the next book “Dicey’s Song” in the queue and am excited to re-remember how things turn out for the Tillerman’s.
It was interesting to read this book as an adult, especially considering my own kiddo just turned 12. It serves another uncomfortable reminder that he’s not a kiddo anymore, and though I won’t be abandoning him in a parking lot, I can’t always be there to give him the answers, and he’s going to have to sometimes find his own way.