Children's Lit Book Reviews

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Year Down Yonder
By: Richard Peck
Publisher: Puffin
Copyright: 2001
Pages: 144
Reading Level: 9-12
Genre: humorous fiction
Award: Newbery
"Again, Peck has created a delightful, insightful tale that resounds with a storyteller's wit, humor, and vivid description. Mary Alice's memories capture the atmosphere, attitudes, and lifestyle of the times while shedding light on human strengths and weak- nesses."
-School Library Journal

Summary: In 1937 the Depression has taken it's toll on the Dowdel family. Mary Alice is sent downstate to live with Grandma Dowdel while her a and pa eke out a meager living in Chicago. Mary Alice is less than thrilled with the arrangement. Grandma's Hicksville farming community couldn't be more different from Chicago if it tried, and the grandmother,Mary Alice remembers from childhood is a multi-chinned, no-nonsense country gal. However, Mary Alice has no choice in the matter. Mary Alice arrives by train in September with her beloved cat, Bootsie. Day one in the new high school finds Mary Alice getting on the wrong side of the local bully, Mildred Burdick. Mildred brazenly follows Mary Alice home, demanding a dollar, but Grandma Dowdel turns the tables on the tyrant, slyly untying Mildred's horse. Faced with a barefoot 5-mile-hike home, Mildred loses interest in making trouble for Mary Alice. October brings plenty of other trouble, however, when another teen hooligan, August Fluke Jr., gets in the habit of knocking down privies for pre-Halloween amusement. With the help of a strategically strung wire and a pan of glue, Grandma Dowdel trips up Augie's trickery. Luckily, Grandma's treats prove far sweeter than her tricks. At the school Halloween party, Mrs. Dowdel dishes up home-baked pies made with borrowed pecans and pumpkins. Then in the spring, Grandma takes in a New York artist as a boarder, and Mary Alice invites Royce over for a study-date. Grandma cameos as matchmaker, introducing the boarder (Arnold Green) to Mary Alice's English teacher, Miss Butler. Mary Alice survives her first tornado, and the school year wraps up with a hayride that finds Royce and Mary Alice promising to exchange letters. A year down yonder leaves Mary Alice with a more tender-hearted view of country-life and Grandma Dowdel, and she hesitates to head back to Chicago. Wedding bells ring when World War II ends, and Mary Alice returns to tie the knot with Royce McNabb on Grandma's front porch.
Who would benefit from reading this book? This is a great book, and I think that anyone who takes the time to read this great book will benefit from it. The pages within the cover pages are filled with humor and will cause one to laugh, even out loud. I think that every student in a middle school setting should read it. It does contain some history in showing what kind of life people lived during the Great Depression.
What problems/concerns could this book potentially cause? I don't think that there are any problems or concerns that this book could potentially cause. However, some might find it somewhat sensitive when the postmistress runs down the stairs completely naked in front of the teenagers.
My reaction: I found this book quite funny and enjoyed reading it. I thought that Richard Peck did a great job describing life during the Great Depression. I also think there are great lessons that are taught within these pages. I will recommend this book to everyone in need of a good laugh in children's literature.
posted by Jon Dale at 10:30 AM


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