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American Regional

Judy's Journey

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Judy lives in a tent with her family. Will they ever be able to afford a farm with a real house? Ten-year-old Judy and her family are migrants, moving from farm to farm with each new season. Starting in Alabama, they travel to Florida and up the East Coast all the way to New Jersey, always looking for steady work. Every time Judy feels as if they're beginning to put down roots, they have to move on. It's hard for her to catch up in school; it's hard to make and keep friends. Judy likes the people she meets along the way, but she longs for a real home. Will her family ever have a farm of their own? Judy's Journey is a realistic depiction of the life of migrant farm workers in the mid-1900s. "[C]hildren will draw . . . a valuable revelation of the deprivation and poverty of these homeless American workers who pick most of the vegetables that we buy." -The Horn Book Magazine Born in Springfield, Ohio, in 1893, Lois Lenski achieved acclaim as both an author and illustrator of children's literature. For her Regional America series, Lenski traveled to each of the places that became a subject of one of her books. She did meticulous research and spoke with children and adults in the various regions to create stories depicting the lives of the inhabitants of those areas. Her novel of Florida farm life, Strawberry Girl, won the Newbery Award in 1946. She also received a Newbery Honor in 1942 for Indian Captive, a fictionalized account of the life of Mary Jemison. Lenski died in 1974.

212 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1947

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About the author

Lois Lenski

242 books159 followers

Many of Lenski's books can be collated into 'series' - but since they don't have to be read in order, you may be better off just looking for more information here: http://library.illinoisstate.edu/uniq...

Probably her most famous set is the following:
American Regional Series

Beginning with Bayou Suzette in 1943, Lois Lenski began writing a series of books which would become known as her "regional series." In the early 1940s Lenski, who suffered from periodic bouts of ill-health, was told by her doctor that she needed to spend the winter months in a warmer climate than her Connecticut home. As a result, Lenski and her husband Arthur Covey traveled south each fall. Lenski wrote in her autobiography, "On my trips south I saw the real America for the first time. I saw and learned what the word region meant as I witnessed firsthand different ways of life unlike my own. What interested me most was the way children were living" (183).
In Journey Into Childhood, Lenski wrote that she was struck by the fact that there were "plenty of books that tell how children live in Alaska, Holland, China, and Mexico, but no books at all telling about the many ways children live here in the United States"

Bayou Suzette.
Strawberry Girl.
Blue Ridge Billy.
Judy's Journey.
Boom Town Boy.
Cotton in My Sack.
Texas Tomboy.
Prairie School.
Corn-Farm Boy.
San Francisco Boy.
Flood Friday.
Houseboat Girl.
Coal Camp Girl.
Shoo-Fly Girl.
To Be a Logger.
Deer Valley Girl.

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5 stars
132 (45%)
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111 (38%)
3 stars
41 (14%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 45 reviews
Profile Image for Judith.
4 reviews11 followers
September 9, 2013
The value of a book is more than the skill and creativity of the writer. It encompasses the value that it is given by its readers. A book has immeasurable value when it gives hope, comfort, and a sense of belonging to children.

I can't review Judy's Journey objectively because of my love for it as a child. Television was new then and I believed that it depicted a real world of perfect homes, fathers who always knew best, three perfect meals a day, and mothers who could hear and wore high heels. Families in other neighborhoods lived in that world, but my family could never gain admittance. Television confirmed that my family did not belong.

Then I read Judy's Journey and it was a revelation. Here was a world I knew and understood and that was as legitimate as any other. I'm sure I cried at the hailstorm that destroyed the farmer's crop because we had lost our Montana farm, three meals a day, and all sense of having a home to a short summer hailstorm. Few things are sadder than a farm auction where everything you know is sold to the highest bidder, with the bank taking the proceeds, and all that is left is the old truck and trailer.

When Judy said "You couldn't thank people for treating you like human beings" I knew the truth of it because the worst thing about poverty is not the homelessness or the hunger, but the contempt of people in that other world where a hailstorm is not the end of life as you know it.

My father had been abandoned early and educated only to the third grade. My mother was completely deaf in one ear and with limited hearing in the other with the use of a hearing aid. It is very hard for such people to start over. A reviewer of "Strawberry Girl" said that it was a story about White Trash. His statement illustrates the contempt with which we became familiar. Yet my parents were among the most honorable, honest, unbigoted, and generous people I've ever known.

Lois Lenski wrote about people who lived in the world of my childhood. I will always love her for reassuring me that I was as valid a human being as anyone.
Profile Image for Judy.
1,675 reviews280 followers
August 3, 2010
I missed this one back when I was reading the list for 1947. It is the fourth volume in Lois Lenski's American Regional Series and I read it many times as a child. Being published in the year of my birth and having my name in the title made it special to me.

But this book also had a large effect on my life. Judy is the oldest child of a migrant worker family. They follow the crops, live in a tent and are often hungry. Judy longs to go to school and live in a real house. Near the end of the book, the family picks crops in New Jersey, the state where I grew up.

During high school, I had a summer job two years in a row as a teacher's assistant at a facility for migrant worker's children. Our goal was to help them catch up on missed schooling. It was a defining experience for me in terms of life choices and beliefs, but I hadn't realized until I re-read the book this time how it had steered me to take that job. Reading is so amazing!

I learned at the job how things really were for these kids. Of course, it was 15 years later and most of the children were Black, while Judy's family was white; sharecroppers trying to better themselves. In Judy's Journey, her wishes come true but I am quite certain the kids I met were not so lucky.
Profile Image for Mandi Ellsworth.
Author 15 books30 followers
April 15, 2011
This is a story of a very poor migrant family from Alabama that bought a truck and traveled from their home to Florida. From Florida they went up the coast of the eastern states to New Jersey following the crops being harvested. I had no idea there were so many people who lived like that. I realize this book is old, but even as a slice of history, I didn't know about it. The children and I read this and there's a fantastic map in the front that shows what was grown in which state and where it is in relation to other states.

More than anything, this book made me grateful for our house.
Profile Image for Rachel Meyers.
48 reviews
June 27, 2022
A slice of American history that makes me realize how little we are taught about what life looked like for many families not so very long ago. I highly recommend Lenski for the intimate pictures of our past even if her stories are not always flowing perfectly, her heart for people and her painting their lives in words so we don’t forget them certainly is beautiful. Thankful she made the efforts to find out how people lived in places that might be forgotten. Great opening for many discussions with children too.
Profile Image for Melody.
2,629 reviews258 followers
December 6, 2014
Relentlessly sad, this is the story of another Pa not unlike Pa Ingalls. A Pa who can't catch a break, who starts out a sharecropper and ends up midway through the book on his hands and knees with his eldest daughter, picking potatoes. Judy's fierce and proud and smart, of course. One assumes there will be a happy ending. But the road is long and hard. Not to mention dirty and humiliating. Nicely done.

I just can't warm up to Lenski's illustrations. Never have liked 'em. Never will.
Profile Image for Elizabeth .
1,012 reviews
February 16, 2017
I do not believe that I shall ever read this book again but I give it five stars for the following reasons:
*It was one of the most stirring, saddest, most raw portraits of childhood in America that I have ever read. Lenski did not miss any angle in telling Judy's story which is the story of a child in a migrant family during the 1930's in America.
*This book will remain in my head for a long time to come-- the vivid imagery of the struggles of this child and her family brought me to tears multiple times and I will not soon forget them.
*Judy is a little heroine. She wanted to be a nurse. She wanted education. She had a craving to learn and make her life better. She did not understand the "rules" of social life but she wanted to learn. She loved her family with a fierceness but at the same time, she began to understand that their position was not improving despite her father's continual declaration that one day he'd have a farm of his own.
*Lois Lenski left this nation a real true treasure trove in these American Regional children's stories and I only hope that more people will rediscover them--especially this one.
Profile Image for Lora.
632 reviews24 followers
September 13, 2017
Lois Lenski was one of my favorite authors from elementary school, and I decided to read one of her books for old times sake. I was not disappointed.

"Judy's Journey" (1947) is about a sharecropper family from Alabama that gets thrown off their land and into the migrant worker way of life. They have more than their share of hardship during their journeys from job to job, but they learn a lot (how to use a faucet), experience a lot (eating their first apple!) and meet lots of people (both good, bad and well-intentioned but respectless). The book has some outdated language (Negro/colored), but the story is anti-racist at heart.

The author biography at the end of the book sums it up best:

"Lenski was unparalleled in the diversity of American lifestyles that she documented, the combination of research, interviews, and drawings that she utilized, and the empathy and honesty that she employed in recording people's lives." "She collected stories from children and adults in each area, documenting their dialect, learning about their way of life, and otherwise getting to know the people who would become the characters in her books."

The "Regional America" series consists of 17 books.
94 reviews6 followers
September 14, 2016
A little rough given our current family situation -- but interesting about a former share cropper turned migrant family following the harvest season along the east coast. but funny that they live in a chicken coop at the end which made us all laugh:) Some political correctness editing since written in the '40's:) But a newbery award winning author nonetheless for good writing.
Profile Image for Wendy.
951 reviews137 followers
September 14, 2007
My favorite Lois Lenski book. It still breaks my heart, and I've gotten something new from it in every reread.
Profile Image for Katrina.
834 reviews25 followers
June 17, 2021
This is one of those children's books that's both quite hefty but easy to read, which is an impressive feat. A lot happens over the course of 212 pages - Lenski really packs in the action, populating her story with a cast of characters so expansive that I had to keep flipping back to remember who everyone was.

Ten year old Judy starts out in Alabama, where she's been living with her family on a cotton farm for the past three years. I'm not sure what they were doing before that, but when the crop goes bad and the landowner kicks them off his property in retribution, the Drummonds pack up an old jalopy and a handmade trailer and head off on the titular journey.

And for the next 200 pages, they travel South, then North, following harvesting seasons and chasing dreams of "big money" that always seems to be just out of their reach. When I read this as a kid, I mostly absorbed the excitement of all those new places, without fully grasping the misery of those extended months on the road.

Looking back, it's interesting to align this with my own experiences of moving cross-country at age 10 - something that I found exciting, and my brother (14) was old enough to absolutely hate. The parallels don't stretch terribly far, though: like Judy, I struggled with new schools and new friends and places where I didn't fit in because I was too different from the locals and "didn't belong" there. But I always had running water, a roof over my head, and plenty to eat. Judy's family suffers.

As an adult, it's pretty hard for me to read this without thinking badly of her father. The ending honestly didn't feel all that realistic to me; Lenski needed to wrap it up with a sense of positivity and hope and the message that if you're kind to others, they'll be kind to you in turn, and you'll wind up with near-strangers who'll lend you money to buy land and build a new house.

In reality, Judy's family probably would've been on the road for many, many years, constantly scraping by and possibly even losing a family member. Her little brother's junkyard gash, for example, which swelled up and went hot and angry and infected, wouldn't have been fixed by a school nurse washing it out and stitching it up and bandaging it. He would've needed some medicine and some booster shots.

But I do like how this incident was set up so Judy could develop an interest in medicine, and a dream of becoming a nurse. Unlike her father, who drifts from place to place, dragging his sick wife and four (then five!) kids along, and periodically whines about how he's a useless lump of a man who doesn't care for his family, Judy's a hard worker who actively wants to educate herself and do something tangible with her future.

I guess the older I get, the less sympathy I have for men who would rather see their kids starve and live in dirt than suck up their pride and work in a factory for a while to earn a decent living. He is a very realistic character, and that makes it tougher, I think. I was as furious as Judy this time around, when her father sold her mother's sewing machine for ten dollars because he couldn't commit to staying in one place for long enough to scrape out the money to live on.

That's one flaw in the storytelling; a fair amount of the Drummonds' difficulties seemed self-imposed. They ran into runs of bad luck, with storms and late harvests and things they definitely couldn't control, but the overall framework of the story made it seem like everyone else was doing ok in comparison. They kept running into other families who'd "figured out the system" and were able to earn a steady living throughout the year. Lenski would drop in occasional mentions about illnesses from playing or working in the Florida swamp-muck, but everyone was always pretty cheerful and optimistic.

I guess this is the children's book version of The Grapes of Wrath, so it can't get too dismal, but it's clear Lenski did her research - and then softened up a lot of it to make it more palatable and a more engaging read.

It's definitely effective; she paints wonderful pictures and creates memorable characters. And I don't object to happy endings; I'm glad Judy ultimately found a way to thrive, and to be true to herself. Even if I don't totally believe her family would've wound up with such a nice house. (Also, aren't oleanders poisonous? Why would you be giving sprigs to a child?)
Profile Image for Ellen.
568 reviews1 follower
June 25, 2019
It’s interesting how reading circumstances can have such an impact on a book—I started this about six months ago and was enjoying the story, but then I got busy and had a several month gap before finding time to finish it. Had I read it in one go, I probably would have enjoyed it more, but due to the lapse in reading, it was really hard for me to get back into the story.

Judy’s Journey is a valuable book in that it sheds light on the experiences of migrant workers and their families in the 1900s. It’s told from the perspective of Judy, a kid. It was interesting learning about a new experience and perspective; however, it wasn’t the most intriguing writing. All in all I’d give it 2.5 stars, so I rounded up to three.
Profile Image for Stasia.
854 reviews10 followers
July 9, 2022
Well, this one tugged at your heart strings for sure!! You find yourself unsure of whose side to take... The migrants were such a mixture of both proud, but also always daydreaming that there were better things ahead...

I have 'The Grapes of Wrath' pulled already to hopefully read soon, but this also reminded me of 'The Velvet Room' , and one of the Dear America diaries, 'Survival in the Storm', both of which talk a bit about the lives of migrant workers in the 1930's.
Profile Image for Catherine  Mustread.
2,442 reviews85 followers
June 2, 2021
Loved this book about a migrant farm family who cover most of the east coast from Florida to New Jersey following the harvest work. Judy learns a lot about adapting, getting along and geography. Set in the 1940s. Part of Lenski's American Regional series.
Profile Image for Jess Dollar.
631 reviews19 followers
May 24, 2023
Bookseller rule #485: When you find a bunch of Lois Lenski books at an estate sale, you read them before you sell them.
2,269 reviews5 followers
September 4, 2012
This is not as famous as "Strawberry Girl", but it is a much better book, in my opinion. Its heart is in the right place. It is not mean-spirited like "Strawberry Girl" could sometimes be.

This is about a white family that leaves their "home" (actually owned by the wealthy landowner whom they work for) and set out to make money in order to achieve their dream of owning their own land. They find it difficult to get ahead, although it has a happy ending (although probably very unlikely.)

Nowadays it is mostly hispanic families who do this sort of migrant farmwork, I think? There will be the same issues. Judy finds it hard to get to school, though at one point her teacher points out that she has learned a lot from experiencing life. While Judy's family is white, this book frequently points out that black families (this book says "Colored" or "Negroes") are also migrant workers. I think it is fairly realistic in its treatment. The dad does say at one point that he does not like Yankees because they ended slavery, but other than that never really gets offensive in its portrayals of black families. Also, Judy at one point meets an Italian American girl, a Japanese American girl, and I think an Hispanic boy.
782 reviews2 followers
December 6, 2016
It's best to read Lois Lenski's Regions of America books as historical fiction -- the second quarter of the 20th century is far enough away to be "historical." When the cotton crop fails the Drummond family -- Judy, her parents, and her three siblings -- leave their sharecroppers' shack in Alabama in an old jalopy. They head to Florida where they camp out by the orange groves, then pick beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Papa wants to work outside, not indoors in a cannery or a factory. Going up the Atlantic coast they harvest potatoes in the Carolinas and more beans in Delaware. Eventually they arrive in southern New Jersey for the apple harvest. (Judy had never eaten an apple before.) They go back to Florida with the prospect of settling down

I understand the details now (fifty-plus years after I first read the book): the "cotton planted all the way up to the house" and no land for a garden (a diet of molasses and cornbread--no green vegetables--led to malnutrition). Buying feed for their goat and keeping the floral feed sack to make a dress. Mama isn't well, takes to her bed -- and there's a new baby. Judy's generation are the people who went to work in factories in Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago.

108 reviews2 followers
April 7, 2018
This book seemed familiar to me, and there were points when I wondered whether I had read the book as a child. That's possible, but it's more likely that it reminded me of Blue Willow (Doris Gates), The Velvet Room (Zilpha Keatley Snyder), and Lenski's own Strawberry Girl, but was somehow more raw and heartbreaking than any of those.

Stories about migrant families longing to find a permanent home are always compelling (Blue Willow and The Velvet Room were both childhood favorites of mine), and this one was particularly good. The writing was sometimes a bit clumsy, and a couple of the plot devices fell flat for me (e.g. I could have done without the fortune teller who kept reappearing). But I loved the vivid details, the perfectly flawed characters, and the underlying love of humanity written into the story. I loved the way Lenski makes us confront, over and over again, our own possible prejudices against the poor. (e.g. Would we welcome a girl with no shoes into our home for a birthday party? Do we judge the choices that poor people make, having never lived in their circumstances?)
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Elizabeth S.
1,737 reviews71 followers
May 18, 2019
Surprisingly fun, and not surprisingly well done. I've enjoyed Lois Lenski's picture books, and I've enjoyed her illustrations for other middle-grade novels, and now I get to enjoy her own middle-grade book.

This book follows Judy and her family as they travel through various states looking for work to earn enough money to get a little farm of their own. We see how easy it is to slip into the grind of just getting by, and how hard to work out of it. But it is possible. We also see that some families have made a success out of being migrant workers and enjoy continuing to work that way. Whether you are saving up for a farm or for a house trailer, you have to budget your money, work hard, and know where your work is needed.

I like that we see good, kind people as well as prejudiced people. I like that we see kids learning from each other. And I like how Judy grew and how her story ended.
212 reviews
January 16, 2018
Lois Lenski has a gift for helping the reader understand the emotions of her characters. Judy is a young girl who desperately wants to go to school, but her family's poverty forces all of them to become migrant pickers. Following the crops as they ripen, Judy meets lots of people very different from herself. Published in 1947, the book uses the term "colored" to apply to black people, and segregation is evident throughout. However, when the family is fortunate enough to arrive in a place where facilities for children of migrant families exist, and when she and her siblings don't have to be in the fields, Judy gets to attend school with children of all backgrounds. By the end of the book, she is able to set her prejudices and hot temper aside and make friends with all kinds of people, even "Yankees." She and her family finally are able to find a home, but luck, friends and opportunity figure greatly into the happy ending.
606 reviews
April 22, 2019
The time was the 40's in America, when migrant families roamed all over the country working in fields or warehouses so that they could to keep food on the table. Judy, age 11, is the main character. She learns a lot during her travels and makes friends wherever she goes. She does act out and fight at times until she learns to treat others the way that she wants to be treated, thus making friends.
Her family traveled from Alabama to Florida, then up the East Coast to New Jersey, stopping along the way to work in any job that they could find. They are close knit, happy, and industrious people who end up with a home of their own in the end.
Profile Image for Mary.
994 reviews426 followers
August 8, 2016
I had no idea this was part of a series. Judy's Journey is absolutely a favorite childhood book for me. So much that my copy has just about fallen apart after many rereads. Judy's adventures across America were intriguing to me as a child, when I loved reading historical fiction. I was always fascinated by how different lives were from mine with several decades between us. Here's to me not knowing, for the longest time, how to pronounce jalopy!
Profile Image for Leah.
394 reviews4 followers
August 4, 2014
A great book about how good we have it! I did not read it to my kids, but still enjoyed it as an adult. Childhood has not always been easy and I loved how Judy had authentic reactions that were not always perfect to her circumstances.
Profile Image for Anna.
159 reviews7 followers
November 16, 2014
I've been reading these on my Kindle, as sadly, most of these are out of print. As an adult, I'm struck by the compassion Lenski shows, giving her subjects such quiet dignity. I hope I can interest Henry in her books.
Profile Image for Joanne.
7 reviews
March 12, 2015
I got this book for Christmas when I was ten years old. It changed the way I looked at the world. I realized what a struggle life can be for so many people. It has become one of my favourite books. I read it to my own daughter when she was ten.
Profile Image for Clara.
22 reviews
April 1, 2008
Lunch-time read-aloud. I enjoyed re-reading this book, especially because in spite of all of the hard times that Judy's family faces, it ends happily!
Profile Image for Karen.
1,820 reviews35 followers
January 16, 2012
It is so good to read a Lenski I hadn't read before.
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