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Dicey's Song

Dicey's Song

by Cynthia Voigt

Dicey's Song Chapter 1 Summary

  • Dicey’s just finished painting the barn, and she’s lying in the front yard under the mulberry tree in only her shorts. Dicey don’t need no stinkin’ shirt. Instead, she’s just letting the paint dry on her skin.
  • She tells us where her siblings are: James and Gram have taken the motorboat to town, where they’re going to the grocery store and library. Maybeth’s in her room doing makeup homework so she won’t be held back in 3rd grade. Sammy’s in the backyard working on the garden because Gram told them they have to grow more food now that there are more mouths to feed.
  • Dicey recounts the day when she tried to take the sailboat out on the water and it started to sink. She decided to restore it, and James is getting her library books about how to do it. The boat’s back in the barn, and Dicey’s been scraping off the old layers of paint in her spare time.
  • She thinks about getting a job and wonders what kind of job she can get, since she’s underage. Even though Gram has told her not to worry, she wants to contribute to the household income.
  • When James and Gram get home, Dicey and Sammy help them carry in the groceries. Gram says Dicey’s too big to be running around without a shirt. Dicey asks James if that’s true, and he acts embarrassed. We'll take that as a yes.
  • Dicey washes off the paint with turpentine, goes for a quick swim with Sammy, puts on a shirt, and sits down for a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches and apples.
  • Maybeth comes downstairs for lunch and Gram asks how many assignments she finished. Maybeth says four. She says she’s having trouble with fractions and remembering vocabulary words.
  • Dicey tells Maybeth they’ll work on fractions after dinner and asks Gram if she can go downtown. Gram says yes. So Dicey finishes her lunch and rides to Millie Tydings’s grocery store to ask for a job.
  • Millie says she doesn’t make enough money to hire someone, but Dicey says if Millie will let her clean for seven hours a week and pay her a dollar an hour, she’ll snazz the place up so more people will shop there.
  • Millie agrees to give it a try for three weeks, and Dicey’s psyched. She can give herself and each sibling a buck a week for an allowance, and give the rest to Gram.
  • At dinner, Dicey tells the fam about her job. Gram says Millie’s not very smart, but gives Dicey permission to work anyways. Then Gram tells them she’s going downtown next week to apply for welfare and talk to a lawyer about adopting them.
  • Sammy asks about Momma, Dicey says Momma’s sick, and Sammy asks how Momma eats. Gram says they have her on a feeding tube. She tells Sammy that if Momma gets well, she can come and live with them, too.
  • After dinner, Gram and Sammy play checkers and Dicey tries to explain to Maybeth about fractions. but Maybeth doesn’t get it.
  • James is reading Gram’s big thick Bible, and he realizes there’s a family tree inside the cover. Everybody’s written into it up to Gram’s children. Dicey thinks she and her siblings should be written into it, too.
  • Which is exactly what Gram does. Sammy says, "Good-o," which he’ll say about a million more times throughout the book.
  • Dicey goes out on the dock, looks up at the stars, and ponders Life and Momma for a while. When she comes back inside, Gram has already put Maybeth and Sammy to bed, which upsets Dicey a little. 
  • But hey, at least James is still up. He tells Dicey he’s nervous about school, because he’s never fit in. He tells Dicey she doesn’t get it, because everything is easy for her. Dicey tells him not to worry and goes to read her boatbuilding book in bed.
  • Over the next week, Dicey settles into her routine of work and school. She hates home ec, where her teacher, Miss Eversleigh, teaches them girly stuff like cooking and sewing.
  • The following Wednesday, Dicey comes home and helps Gram shuck the last of the corn from the garden. Gram says Maybeth brought home a note from her music teacher asking for a conference.
  • Dicey starts to worry, but Gram tells her not to. According to Gram (and pretty much everyone who has read Homecoming), Dicey’s been responsible for a long time, and she needs to chill now. Dicey nods and goes out to the barn to work on her precious, the sailboat.
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