A Year Down Yonder

by Richard Peck

Paperback, 2002

Call number



Puffin Books (2002), Edition: Reprint, 152 pages


During the recession of 1937, fifteen-year-old Mary Alice is sent to live with her feisty, larger-than-life grandmother in rural Illinois and comes to a better understanding of this fearsome woman.

User reviews

LibraryThing member rdg301library
This book will make you laugh out loud. It gives a wonderful view of small-town life during the 1937 recession following the Great Depression. It’s an uplifting story, one that doesn’t deny the hardships of the time, but doesn’t dwell on them either. Even though it’s set in southern
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Illinois, I feel the book could have been located in just about any rural small town in the country at that time. I think the book would be enjoyed by both boys and girls about age 9 and up (reading level is about grade 4.5-4.9).

American actress Lois Smith narrated the audiobook. She did a marvelous job creating unique voices for Grandma Dowdel and other interesting characters such as Wilhelmina Weidenbach, Mildred Burdick, Miss Butler, Effie Wilcox, and Aunt Mae Griswold. My only complaint was her voicing of Mary Alice – it sounded too whiny and too young for a 15-year-old.
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LibraryThing member Hamburgerclan
A Year Down Yonder is the tale of Mary Alice, a teenaged Chicago girl suffering from the recession of 1937. Her father has lost her job and the only way the family can make ends meet is if Mary Alice goes down to live with her Grandma in downstate Illinois. With a premise like that, one would
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envision a warm tale of discovery as the city girl discovers the wonder and beauty of rural life in the loving care of her kind and wise grandmother. Yes, that's quite a vision. In this tale, however, Grandma's a cantankerous old bird with a shotgun behind the woodbox and a reputation for causing trouble. It makes for an enjoyable book. Mr. Peck doesn't quite offer us a laugh riot, but there are plenty of chuckles, a few surprises and occasionally something that feels like a tug on the heartstrings. I probably should try to check out this book's predecessor.
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LibraryThing member BoundTogetherForGood
This is a lovely book which follows A Long Way from Chicago. I had our children read it in our study of Illinois state history as it added a bit of fun to fact!
LibraryThing member bibliophile26
Set in a rural Illinois town in the late 1930's, the book follows a year in fifteen-year-old Mary Alice's life, a year that is spent with her grandmother because her family is too poor to house and feed her. The novel obviously won the Newbery because of characterization. Grandma Dowdel is quite
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eccentric, and leads Mary Alice on many adventures, from a middle-of-the-night peacn robbery to dumping glue on Halloween pranksters. The book was a quick read, but the ending seemed a little tacked on...I guess I was expecting more depth, but young adult books typically have tidy endings.
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LibraryThing member cmiller05
Mary Alice is forced to live with her crazy grandmother when times are hard in Chicago. She then learns a lot about her grandmother and a lot about herself.
LibraryThing member goodnightmoon
Strong, believable characters (except Mary Alice; didn't get a sense of her personality at all) and a few peaks of action, but not really a strong storyline. Enjoyable enough, but not memorable.
LibraryThing member simss
This book is about a 15 year old girl who talks about her life in a small rural area in the depression time. She has a grandmother who is michivvious and a real boot.

My personal experience is when my grandmother tells about the time that my dad grew up how she would always joke and was real serious
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half the time.

Classroom extension have students think of a time period that they would like to live in and share with the class.
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LibraryThing member lianedewan
This is a story of a 15 year old girl, who because of her family’s financial predicaments, has been sent from her home in Chicago to live with her eccentric grandmother in a small Mid-Western town. From the moment she arrives at the station Mary Alice face many trials from having to attend a
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“hick” school to not having indoor bathrooms. But the biggest trial Mary Alice faces is the crazy antics her grandmother includes her in. Through it all, or maybe because of it all, Mary Alice develops a deep respect and appreciation for her grandmother.
I really enjoyed this book. I thought it was a wonderful story of family relationships and overcoming hard times.
Classroom Extensions:
1) I think this book would be great to use in conjuction with a mini-lesson about dialogue and dialects. We would compare the dialogue in this book to another book set in another region and discuss the differences in dialogue.
2) I think its important for students to understand what it was like to live in different time periods. I would have students interview someone who experience the Great Depression first hand so they could better understand the difficulties people went through.
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LibraryThing member reneefletcher
This is a story of a 15 year old girl, who because of her family’s financial predicaments, has been sent from her home in Chicago to live with her eccentric grandmother in a small Mid-Western town. From the moment she arrives at the station Mary Alice face many trials from having to attend a
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“hick” school to not having indoor bathrooms. But the biggest trial Mary Alice faces is the crazy antics her grandmother includes her in. Through it all, or maybe because of it all, Mary Alice develops a deep respect and appreciation for her grandmother.

Even though I haven’t read “A Long Way from Chicago” which this book is a sequel, I felt like I knew the characters immediately. Mary Alice is depicted as a typical teenager, no matter the time period. And, Grandma Dowdel has the personality and spirit every child wants in a grandma. The author has done a great job in drawing a picture with words of the time and place. The setting helps complete the story. It makes the story believable. I really enjoyed this book.

To get a better understanding of the terminology to the time period, the teacher could choose words from the story that the students might not understand. The students would use the words to do a word sort. This would help them have a better understanding of the different lifestyles that people lead.
In the story, Mary Alice was very attached to her portable radio. It would be fun to find music of the time period and a replica of the radio. Then have the students listen to the music. They could then write a paragraph on the differences between the music that teenagers listen to now and then.
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LibraryThing member kerrik
This is about a teenage girl who has to go live with her grandmother because depression in the world. Her parents had to downsize and move to smaller living conditions. The girl is not excited about going to live in the country because she is a city girl. She learns to be grateful for what she has,
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and becomes closer with her grandmother. When times get better, her parents tell her they are sending means for her to come home, but she doesn't want to leave. She ends up going home, but always returns to grandma's to visit. That is also where she gets married.

I liked this story. I felt like I was in this small country town while I was reading. It was neat to see how she and her grandmother got closer.

I would have my students share with the rest of the class three things they would not want to give up if they were to go through hard times like this story. If they had to give up everyhting else and could only keep three things, and why.
I could have my students write to a child who is less fortunate than them- a pen pal. This would be forming a relationship throughout the year.
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
In this delightfully funny 2001 Newbery Award winning book, 15 year Mary Alice moves from city life in Chicago to backward, small-town country Illinois to live with her big, burly grumpy grandmother.

In 1937 times were tough and a recession following the depression meant unemployment and down and
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out difficult living conditions. When Mary Alice's father is unemployed, her parents can no longer afford to feed and clothe her and temporarily house her with her paternal grandmother.

While, in my opinion, this isn't one of the better Newbery award books, it is worth the read. What it lacks in depth, it gains in humor.

Mary Alice discovers the quiet joys of small town life and the deep abiding way in which people help each other through the difficult economic times.

The grandmother truly is a hoot and there were many instances when I laughed right out loud by her antics. There is a simple beauty in the way in which Richard Peck developed the relationship between Mary Alice and her grandmother -- who proved not to be so grumpy and cold afterall.
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LibraryThing member lindyvee
This Newberry Award Winner is the sequel to "A Long Way from Chicago". It continues the story of Mary Alice, a young girl, who has spent the last several summers with her grandmother in a small town in rural Illinois. However, due to hard times, Mary Alice is sent to Grandma Dowdell for an entire
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year. Along with her eccentric grandma, Mary Alice has many zany and memorable experiences and realized she is becoming mor and mor like her grandmother. By the time the year comes to an end, the two have formed a strong, lasting bond.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. As in the previous book, I could see myself as a young girl with my own grandmother who taught me to sew and cook as well. I could relate well to the unspoken bond between the two characters. I had a hard time putting the book down until it was finished!

As an extension, children could learn how to gather and crack pecans like Mary Alice did in the book. Then, maybe an adult could even bake them into a pecan pie! If the time of year is right, the children could also visit a local county fair and experience first-hand a pie judging contest.
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LibraryThing member MaeBHollie
A Year Down Yonder
This is a quick and funny book to read. The story takes place right after the depression in 1937. Mary Alice's father has lost his job in Chicago and her parents have to get a new apartment. Mary Alice, 15, is sent to live with her Grandma Dowdel because money is tight. She used
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to come one week each summer with her brother Joey. But he is off planting trees for the government. When Mary Alice gets to her grandmother's hick town in Southern Illinois he has to learn to make new friends in the local high school. She has a rough start because all the girls think that she is the "rich girl from Chicago". Mary Alice states, "If I am so rich, why am I here. Mary Alice goes through different adventures with her crazy grandmother. They steal pecans and pumpkins to make pies for the school Halloween party, they booby trap the backyard so that the local boys can't knock down the outhouse, or "privy", and they rent the extra room to a starving artist from New York City. Mary Alice even goes through her first tornado. But aside from the adventures, she sees that her grandmother cares about the people in her town. Grandma Dowdel does what she can to make sure that no one goes without.

This book was a very quick and enjoyable read. It picked up right where A Long Way From Chicago left off. I would recommend this book to anyone needing a historical fiction book or just a good laugh regardless of whether or not they had read the prequel! I would like to have this in my collection of reading selections for both my fifth and sixth graders because it is easier to read and yet has great literary and historical value. This would even been a great book for teachers to read aloud to fourth graders with much emphasis on the funny "hick" style language. I also wanted to note that this was one of the three books that I chose as a Reader Choice Book for my Cameron university Intermediate Literature class. I selected fifth grade as the grade most desirable to present it.
Extension Activities in the classroom or at home can include naming at least 5 real people found in the story (examples: Kate Smith; Admiral Byrd). Have the student find out more information on these real folks. Have your students do a mini-report. Also there were several references on
such things as the CCC; WPA; Depression, etc. that students could report on or do a collage on or poster. ALSO: Keep a list of similes/metaphors found in the book (Example: cool as a cucumber; like a woodpecker with palsy). Several things could then be done
with the list. Collect some from the class members. Have them use the sayings
in a story or list how many things could be "cool as a cucumber'). RESEARCH THE GOODS: A question I had as I was reading the book was: "Were there sneakers (tennis shoes?) in those days?" If so, did they call them sneakers? My mother grew-up in that time frame and she never mentioned it. There are also several other things I questioned (Lane Bryant; paper plates; switchblades; paper doilies). Have the students check some of these questions out on the Internet or in the library or by interviewing seniors who were alive during that time frame.
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LibraryThing member BoundTogetherForGood
This is a lovely book which follows A Long Way from Chicago. I had our children read it in our study of Illinois state history as it added a bit of fun to fact!
LibraryThing member megmcg624
In 1937, Mary Alice leaves Chicago to spend a year with her ornery grandmother in a small town. Effects of the Great Depression are deftly woven into a bildungsroman, in which Mary Alice learns to care for other people (while still demonstrating 15-year-oldness by choosing the Cuban heeled shoes
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from Sears-Roebuck).

The engaging story draws the reader into small town 1930s American life. This would be a good recommendation for later elementary readers, but frankly, many of Peck's other works may be preferred by young readers.
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LibraryThing member Chiree
“A Year Down Yonder” is a Newbery Honor, contemporary realistic fiction set in the time period of the American Great Depression. The story is told by a 15 year old girl, Mary Alice. Mary Alice’s father has lost his job. Mary Alice, her brother Joey, and their parents had to move into a
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“light housekeeping” room which was only large enough for two people. Joey was sent out west to the Civilian Conservation Corps to work and Mary Alice was sent to live with Grandma Dowdel in a “hick-town.” Grandma didn’t have a telephone and you had to go outdoors to the “privy.” Mary Alice develops a special relationship with her trigger-happy, out spoken, no nonsense grandmother. After a year with her grandmother, Mary Alice no longer wanted to go back to the city when her mother and dad sent for her. She had found the charm in the small country town through its people and its customs. She had discovered the special love she and her grandmother had for each other.

I thought this book was very deserving of the Newbery Medal. The story is told in the first person with a definite tone for the time period and “country style” of living. The conflicts between Mary Alice and her schoolmates, between Mary Alice and loneliness, between Mary Alice and the world created by the Great Depression, are all treated with the seriousness in which they are felt. However, the author manages to introduce humor through out the story to allow the reader to laugh and feel a sense of hope. Just as the book’s ending was a perfect ending so was the resolution to every conflict.

In a classroom a teacher can use the book to demonstrate the different life styles and cultures within a small towns and city located in same state. The students could tell about their own family’s customs and how they are different to other families they know. The book could be used to support discussion about extended members of a family and how they can be an important part of the students’ lives. Each student could draw a picture of the members of their families with whom they live. The picture could also show other extended family members that are important to the student but may not live with them.
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LibraryThing member mixona
A Year Down Yonder is about Mary Alice. She is 15 years old and living just after the Great Depression of the 1930's. Mary Alice lives in Chicago with her mother, father, and older brother. The economy in Chicago is still doing badly, so Mary Alice is sent to live with her grandmother in the
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country in Illinois. Lots of things happen to Mary Alice and her grandmother is always in the middle of it. Crazy antics ensue and Mary Alice learns many lessons.

I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. I wonder why I haven't found it sooner. The wild and funny things that happen will keep readers laughing and wanting more. I couldn't wait to turn the page to find out what Grandma Dowdle had up her sleeve next. From keeping a snake in the attic to catch the birds to pouring glue on the Principal's son's head, Mary Alice and her Grandmother never seem to have a dull moment and readers will enjoy that.

This book mentions the Great Depression. Being from Oklahoma, we have learn at an early age how the Great Depression affected us, but this book can provide us a look at how other places were affected as well. This book also talks about how Mary Alice and her Grandmother shop for clothes out of a catalog. You could talk to students about the way things have changed since the 1930s. Clothing was shopped for out of catalogs, people rode on trains instead of in cars, and letters were written instead of text messages sent.
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LibraryThing member shellsie88
Great historical fiction book. The author Richard has really done an awesome job with creating unique characters that match with the time setting of the depression. Mary Alice and Grandma Dowdel make a good team in overcoming all obstacles.
LibraryThing member debnance
Mary Alice goes to stay with her eccentric grandmother who lives in a small town during the Great Depression. She dreads staying in the small town, but comes to love the town and her grandmother so much that she begs to stay. Grandma is the highlight of the story. She seems like a prickly
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character, never one for hugging, but through the stories Peck tells about her, we grow to learn the softer side of Grandma, a side she doesn’t really like others to see. Grandma and Mary Alice have a whole series of adventures including Halloween pranks with a privy and middle-of-the-night visits to a pecan tree and a cherry pie social with the DAR.
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LibraryThing member jessica.kohout
Fifteen year-old Mary Alice is sent to live with her grandmother in the country during the recession and must adjust to rural life, a new school and peers, and her tenacious grandmother, whose stubborn reputation is known all over town. Although she fears her grandmother at first, she comes to
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appreciate her many attributes and hesitates to leave her new life and return to Chicago.

Mary Alice tells of her experience moving in with her grandmother in rural Illinois and initially worries about moving from city life to a small "hick-town" where the toilets are outside. Richard Peck succeeds in hooking the reader in the prologue, as he creates a mysterious picture of Grandma Dowdel by painting her as a person that even Mary Alice's mother fears. As Mary Alice is leaving for the country, her mother whispers under her breath, "better you than me," referring to living with Grandma Dowdel. The reader is pulled in and wonders what this character must be like where even an adult would want to avoid her. However, as Mary Alice learns over time, her grandmother has many sides to her, as she is not just intimidating, but is caring, strong, funny, and generous. Mary Alice's experience shows the reader that people and situations are not as they seem, which is one of the themes of the story. Young adult readers will find this book humorous and entertaining, as well as touching when they learn more about the relationship Mary Alice and Grandma Dowdel.

Honors and Awards: Newbery Medal Winne
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LibraryThing member mscoopsyalist
The Depression was a difficult time for families all across the country. In 1937 Mary Alice's family is forced to send her to live with her eccentric grandmother in another part of Illinois. The last thing a teen age girls wants to do is live with her crazy, eccentric grandmother in a country town.
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Mary Alice finds that with her grandmother, there is more than meets the eye and the year she had dreaded becomes the most entertaining and enlightening one of her life.
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LibraryThing member stuwilab
Pair this book with nonfiction text about the Great Depression. Compare and contrast information from both sources.

Pretend to be Mary Alice and write diary entries for different events from the story, starting with her finding out her parents' plan to send her to live with her grandmother.

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one of the scenes from the book.

Write and perform or create an advertisement for one of Grandma Dowdel's products.

Complete an in-depth character study of one of the story's characters. Find descriptions within the text.
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LibraryThing member ptnguyen
“I can’t fight all your battles for you…”

However, Grandma Dowdel continues to fight for Mary Alice, her granddaughter, and becomes her savior.

When the Great Depression in 1937 causes Mary Alice Dowdel’s father to lose his job in Chicago, Illinois, Grandma Dowdel opens her door and her
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heart to Mary Alice. Thus, a touching and beautiful relationship between the larger-than-life grandmother and her fifteen-year-old granddaughter unfolds in the countryside of St. Louis.

Grandmother Dowdel, Mary Alice, and all their neighbors gather at the Abernathy farm to celebrate Armistic Day, a holiday that commerates soldiers who died during the war. Peck mentions that people in Chicago take this holiday very seriously; they still do. In addition, many women characters are in the Legion Auxiliary, an organization that helps veterans through. This organization still exists. In addition, Grandma Dowdel laments when Mary Alice wants to spend $2.75 on a pair of new shoes: "I remember when you could shoe a whole family and the horse for that money." This provides readers with a clear view of how the Great Depression affected everyone's survival.
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LibraryThing member meaghanJ
A very cute and touching story about a wild grandmother and her young and careful granddaughter. This story takes place in the year 1937 when everyone was feeling the great depression. The young grandaughter, Mary Alice, is sent to live with her grandma,Grandma Dowdel, when her parents don't have
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the money to take care of her. This story, a sequel to "A Long Way From Chicago" is a story that will warm the heart.
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LibraryThing member chelsea.sellers
This is a book about a young girl who goes to a small town where she thinks is a hick-town. The girl comes to realize why her grandmother loves her small town and how she has come to enjoy it. After visiting her grandmother the young girl is told by her mother that she must return home for school.
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I can connect with this book because as a small child I too was skeptical about spending time with my grandmother in a small town that I was not familiar with.

A discussion can be made with students about why we should not form opinions about somethings before we know about them or experience them.
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Sequoyah Book Award (Nominee — Children's — 2003)
Kentucky Bluegrass Award (Nominee — Grades 6-8 — 2002)
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award (Nominee — Grades 6-8 — 2002)
Buckeye Children's & Teen Book Award (Nominee — Grades 3-5 — 2003)
William Allen White Children's Book Award (Nominee — Grades 6-8 — 2002-2003)
Newbery Medal (Medal Winner — 2001)
Nēnē Award (Nominee — 2002, 2003, 2004)
Grand Canyon Reader Award (Nominee — Teen — 2003)
Colorado Blue Spruce Award (Nominee — 2003)
Flicker Tale Award (Nominee — Juvenile Books — 2005)
Volunteer State Book Award (Nominee — Young Adult — 2003)
Best Fiction for Young Adults (Selection — 2001)
Great Reads from Great Places (Illinois — 2003, 2004)


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