Title: Judy’s Journey
Author: Lois Lenski
Major Themes: Migrant Workers, Farming, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Delaware, New Jersey
Synopsis: After Judy and her family leave the place in Alabama where they have been sharecropping, they find themselves following crops up the Atlantic seaboard.
Some of my children have really enjoyed Lois Lenski’s books. Whenever they earn a book (by reading a specified number of books on their own), one of them asks for a book by her. Another, when asked what he wanted for Christmas, requested older, hardcover copies of her books. Judy’s Journey was one that I was able to find for him, and when it was his turn, soon after that, to choose a read-aloud, this was what he picked.
Judy’s family have always been sharecroppers in Alabama, but now they are being kicked out of their house. Papa has managed to get an old jalopy and a trailer, so they load their few belongings onto it and set out for Florida to find work, so they can buy their own piece of land. On the way, they pick up a goat for a dime. They find, however, when they reach Florida, that it is not the Promised Land they were looking forward to, and end up leaving with less than they arrived with.
On they go to Georgia, which is wonderful until a freak storm destroys the crops the family was supposed to help with. Then, they proceed to the Carolinas, Virginia, Delaware, and New Jersey, with varying experiences along the way. Every place they stop, Judy looks up the state in the geography book she found at the dump and learns what she can. Will the family ever be able to make enough money to buy their own farm and settle down—or will they be like the other families they learn to know along the way and follow the crops every year?
For the most part, I like this story. There are a few things I don’t care for, especially the fortune-teller that shows up several times. She was important to the plot, as she was an inspiration to Judy’s father, but fortune-telling is condemned in the Bible. One thing I really did like was that Judy’s father took his place as the head of the family; so many children’s books have the children being the heroes and saving the day, which is rather unrealistic, as well as not in God’s order. I also liked the conclusion that Judy came to at the end of the story, that she was a part of everything she had experienced. There were some good thoughts about how life experiences shape us.
WARNING: The fortune-teller reads Judy’s palm in chapter 2. Judy gets into a fist fight in chapter 12. Language—Chapter 2: danged. Chapter 3: blamed, golly, mention that a man swore. Chapter 7: doggone. Chapter 9: gosh almighty. Chapter 10: cussed
Read Aloud—Ages 5 – 8, 8 – 12, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12