A Year Down Yonder review

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2000. 978-0-8037-2518-8

Synopsis: With Joey going west to work at a camp and her parents unemployed, sixteen-year-old Mary Alice Dowdel is sent to live with her Grandma Dowel for a year while her parents look for work in Chicago. 1937 looks like it is going to be a dismal year and Mary Alice doesn’t know how she is going to survive, especially without her brother. Mary Alice can’t predict how life with her grandmother will be, but it is never dull. She doesn’t start out liking living in the small community where everyone knows your business, but Grandma Dowdel is there to show her how to best the neighbors, pull the best Halloween pranks, hold an unconventional Daughters of the American Revolution tea, become the most stand-out character in the Christmas pagent, squeeze money out of a renter, and survive a tornado. After a year down yonder, will Mary Alice ever be the same?

Why I picked it up: I enjoyed A Long Way From Chicago so much I wanted to read the sequel.

Why I finished it: I liked that Peck chose to tell this second story about Grandma Dowdel from Mary Alice’s perspective and that although grandma is the same, the world around her is continually changing as the world draws closer to the start of World War II. The plot is fun, engaging, and funny, largely because of the small-town antics and Grandma Dowdel’s ability to shock and awe the reader and her granddaughter. Like many teenagers, Mary Alice just wants things to be normal and for people to like her, but gradually over the year, she learns to be more of her own person, even if that person is a little bit more like her grandmother with each passing day. Town and family drama are at the center of the story, and while there is no real moral to any of the situations, there will always be taught a creative way out of everything. And one thing is always for sure: life with Grandma Dowdel is full of surprises.

Other related materials: Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath; Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm; Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet; Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park; Moonshiner’s Son by Carolyn Reeder; Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff; Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool; One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia; The Wheel on the School by Meindert Dejong; The River Between Us by Richard Peck; A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard; Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer

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