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The Vine: January 3, 2014

Submitted by on January 3, 2014 – 7:51 AM17 Comments


I could use some help finding a YA series from you and your readers.

It was mostly about two friends, and some of the books were about their friendship and others were about their families and lives in general. The books were always written from one of the girls' perspectives. One of the girls was white and the other was African-American.

The white girl had been orphaned and was caring for her younger siblings (two brothers, I think) until they eventually found an aunt or grandmother that they didn't know and moved in with her. Once she moved in with the older female relative, she started school and met the other girl. The African-American girl was a ballet dancer when she was younger but later quit and was a tennis player in high school. I also have a memory of the white girl building a boat with her boyfriend when she was older. I think it was a dory boat.

I think my 7th-grade English teacher was in the process of purchasing these books new while I was in her class in 1996-1997, but they read like they were re-releases of something published earlier. They took home ec and it was actually called "home ec." It also felt like a point was being made by having a white girl and a black girl from different backgrounds be friends.



I'm looking for the title of a film set in England in the '80s. The protagonist is a hapless but well-intentioned youth who has loads of friends but ultimately wants to straighten out his life and find a job. He somehow secures himself an interview, but for some reason has no shoes to wear — either because his were stolen or he just doesn't own any, I can't recall why.

The entire rest of the film is a kind of meandering montage of life in the Thatcher era, the emergent counter-culture, working-class issues, and this spirited young man who needs to find a pair of shoes and get himself to his interview in spite of parties, art shows, women, and other interesting distractions. Towards the end of the film, he does find footwear, and makes a happy little rhyme about them: "The boot is cute! The boot's a hoot!" That sort of thing.

Anyway, I loved the film, studied it in film school, but would rather not re-open a dialogue with my beloved professor 10 years on with such frivolity.

Can anyone help?


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  • MeganT says:

    Emily, the series sounds like Cynthia Voigt's (forgive me, that may be misspelled) YA novels about the Tillerman family–Dicey's Song, among others. Weirdly, even though it's a number of books about continuing characters, I never really thought of it as a series.

  • Judy says:

    Yes, it sounds like the Tillerman books by Cynthia Voigt ( The first is "Homecoming" when the children travel, often on foot, from southern Massachusetts to eastern Maryland to find their grandmother in the hope that she will take them in. The rest of the books follow both the Tillermans and some of their friends through the next decade or so. I love these books and have reread them several times.

  • Emily says:

    MeganT, those are totally the books. I think I read the books all out of order and actually started with one of the later ones that was from Mina's perspective so I also didn't quite think of them as a series but it was the best way I could think to describe them. Thanks!

  • Gemma says:

    Oh, my goodness, when I was in elementary school I read the Tillerman books and for years was extremely anxious whenever my Mom left me in the car when she was running errands. I still think of them from time to time, though I'd forgotten the titles years ago. I'll definitely have to look them up!

  • Jen S 1.0 says:

    Yes, the Tillermans! I was so excited that I knew it but knew that other TNers would beat me to it.

    Now somebody find that movie, I wanna watch it!

  • RachelG says:

    I'm with Jen S 1.0. I was stoked that I knew the answer but y'all beat me to it! I re-read those books every once in a while, and I'm excited to pass them on to my son.

  • Maggie says:

    Jackie, the movie you're looking for is "London Kills Me" from 1991. I know 1991 is not the 80s, but I promise that's it.

  • TexasAnnie says:

    I didn't know there were more books in that series! I remember reading Homecoming and Dicey's Song in 7th grade (uh, a few years before Emily) and liked them a lot, but our library just had those two. Now I have to track them all down!

  • Michelle says:

    Jackie, I'm pretty sure it's London Kills Me, a film by Hanif Kureshi (who also did My Beautiful Launderette, also a great movie). My friends and I used to love this movie back in the early 90s.

  • Mairead says:

    For the movie, London Kills Me?

  • Allie says:

    Cynthia Voigt is AMAZING. I saw her speak last year and got a book signed and it was pretty much the best book-related experience of my life. The person ahead of me was like, "My kids love your Bad Girls series!" and so when I stepped up, I said, "My daughter did too" and she said, "Am I signing this to her?" and I'm like "OH HELL NO, this is all for me. You were my FAVORITE when I was growing up" and she laughed and thought it was great.

  • Lizard says:

    Definitely the Tillerman books (they call it the Tillerman cycle, I think?). Homecoming, Dicey's Song, Come a Stranger, A Solitary Blue, Sons from Afar, Seventeen Against the Dealer. Maybe The Runner as well. Not sure if I left one out, but – YA literature nerd alert!

  • Wehaf says:

    I read all of the Dicey books and the Jeff books, but I had no idea there were Mina books! As soon as the temperature outside hits positive numbers again, I am off to the library. Thank you, Nation!

  • Zoe says:

    I will third the "I totally knew the Tillerman books but was sure someone else would answer first." I read and loved ALL of them.

  • SolitaryBlue says:

    I can't believe I didn't see this question until today. I love those books so much that one of them is my screen name.
    I think it's time for another re-read…

  • Meredith says:

    I only read Homecoming! I didn't know there were more! Wow, that book scared the crap out of me.

  • Jackie says:

    You people are incredible. Thank you! Mystery solved…

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