I’m enjoying my revisit to The Tillerman Cycle books, which were a favorite when I was a youth/teen. Though categorized as children’s books, they tackle adult themes with care and nuance that gives them a timeless quality. This book is the 5th in the 7 book series. Though the series is centered on the Tillerman family with teenaged Dicey as our protagonist, in this installment we get a deep dive into the life of Dicey’s best friend, Nina.
We first met Mina in “Dicey’s Song,” book two, when she wears down Dicey into being her friend. Mina is outspoken and confident; she is intrigued by Dicey’s attitude and intelligence, and her complete disregard for what other people think about her. Dicey starts out resistant to Mina’s overtures, moving toward reluctant and finally accepting, and a friendship is forged. None of the Tillerman’s come by friends easily, but once they open up, they make a lasting impression and are loyal to the core. This brings us back to this book.
Tamer Shipp is Mina’s adult crush, a traveling preacher, and she spends the summer helping his family while nursing her unrealistic first love. She also is dealing with an abrupt entry into adulthood as she begins to understand what her blackness means both to her opportunities, and to the world at large. We met Tamer in the 4th book “The Runner” where he befriends a reluctant Bullet as Bullet was forced by their track coach into helping Tamer learn how to run cross country in high school. And thus, in this book, we see how the Tillerman family’s reluctance to rely on others has echoes across time.
My upbringing was pretty racially homogenous as most of the people in my community and circle were also white and I am certain that these books gave me valuable exposure to others’ perspectives and voices. I would recommend this series to an adult as a primer for children and would recommend this book to anyone looking for something for a kiddo to give them a look at real-world topics that still resonate today. Though a bit dated, the themes are still impactful.