A Year Down Yonder

A Year Down Yonder

4.0 134
by Richard Peck

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A Newbery Medal Winner

Richard Peck's Newbery Medal-winning sequel to A Long Way from Chicago

Mary Alice's childhood summers in Grandma Dowdel's sleepy Illinois town were packed with enough drama to fill the double bill of any picture show. But now she is fifteen, and faces a whole long year with Grandma, a woman well known for shaking up…  See more details below


A Newbery Medal Winner

Richard Peck's Newbery Medal-winning sequel to A Long Way from Chicago

Mary Alice's childhood summers in Grandma Dowdel's sleepy Illinois town were packed with enough drama to fill the double bill of any picture show. But now she is fifteen, and faces a whole long year with Grandma, a woman well known for shaking up her neighbors-and everyone else! All Mary Alice can know for certain is this: when trying to predict how life with Grandma might turn out . . . better not. This wry, delightful sequel to the Newbery Honor Book A Long Way from Chicago has already taken its place among the classics of children's literature.

"Hilarious and poignant." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

A Newbery Medal Winner
A New York Times Bestseller
An ALA Notable Book
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
A Booklist Best Book of the Year
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Richard Peck, whose hysterical historical novel, A Long Way to Chicago, was a 1999 Newbery Honor Book, does it again. This time out, Peck wins the 2001 Newbery Medal for A Year Down Yonder, the sequel to his 1999 award winner, which introduced the indomitable and fearsome figure of Grandma Dowdel as viewed through the eyes of her grandson Joey. Once again Peck takes his readers to the tiny Illinois town where this coolly conniving grandmother lives, but now we see her through the eyes of her granddaughter, 15-year-old Mary Alice.

It's 1937, and while rumor has it that the worst of the Depression is over, the "Roosevelt recession" is firmly in place. It's not bad enough that Mary Alice's dad has lost his job, or that her parents are being forced to move into a "light housekeeping" room, or that her older brother Joey has gone off to plant trees out west with the Civilian Conservation Corps. Now Mary Alice must spend a year living with her feisty and formidable grandmother in a hick town where the other kids in school think of her as the "rich Chicago girl." Grandma Dowdel is well known about town and most of the residents cower in fear at the mere sight of her. It's a fear well justified, for the woman has little tolerance for fools, a rifle she knows how to use, and a knack for cooking up outrageous schemes. At first, Mary Alice finds herself an unwitting (and often unwilling) accomplice to some of Grandma's more shocking manipulations, but as time goes by, Mary Alice discovers a knack of her own when it comes to conniving.

Peck evokes a wonderful sense of time and place, depicting the harsh realities and simple lifestyles of these Depression-era folk through catchy colloquialisms and delightful details. Grandma Dowdel is a truly unique and unforgettable character capable of generating awe as well as side-splitting laughter. The supporting cast is equally entertaining, from the bumbling antics of the local farm boys to the snooty-nosed members of the local DAR group. And as Mary Alice struggles to deal with some typical (and not so!) adolescent problems -- peer pressure, poverty, love pangs, and the indignities of using a privy -- Grandma Dowdel teaches her some of the larger lessons in life, including her own brand of justice and the real meaning of unconditional love.

--Beth Amos

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Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
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Penguin Group
Sales rank:
610L (what's this?)
File size:
153 KB
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt


It was a September morning, hazy with late summer, and now with all the years between. Mother was seeing me off at Dearborn Station in Chicago. We'd come in a taxicab because of my trunk. But Mother would ride back home on the El. There wasn't much more than a nickel in her purse, and only a sandwich for the train in mine. My ticket had pretty well cleaned us out.

The trunk, a small one, held every stitch of clothes I had and two or three things of Mother's that fit me. "Try not to grow too fast," she murmured. "But anyway, skirts are shorter this year."

Then we couldn't look at each other. I was fifteen, and I'd been growing like a weed. My shoes from Easter gripped my feet.

A billboard across from the station read:


This was to make us think the hard times were past. But now in 1937 a recession had brought us low again. People were beginning to call it the Roosevelt recession.

Dad lost his job, so we'd had to give up the apartment. He and Mother were moving into a "light housekeeping" room. They could get it for seven dollars a week, with kitchen privileges, but it was only big enough for the two of them.

My brother Joey -- Joe -- had been taken on by the Civilian Conservation Corps to plant trees out west. That left me, Mary Alice. I wished I was two years older and a boy. I wished I was Joey.

But I wasn't, so I had to go down to live with Grandma Dowdel, till we could get on our feet as a family again. It meant I'd have to leave my school. I'd have to enroll in the hick-town school where Grandma lived. Me, a city girl, in a town that didn't even have a picture show.

It meant I'd be living with Grandma. No telephone, of course. And the attic was spooky and stuffy, and you had to go outdoors to the privy. Nothing modern. Everything as old as Grandma. Some of it older.

Now they were calling the train, and my eyes got blurry. Always before, Joey and I had gone to Grandma's for a week in the summer. Now it was just me. And at the other end of the trip -- Grandma.

Mother gave me a quick squeeze before she let me go. And I could swear I heard her murmur, "Better you than me."

She meant Grandma.

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A Year Down Yonder 4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 134 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While this is a sequel to A Long Way from Chicago, it can easily be read and enjoyed on its own. Richard Peck writes the adventures of Mary Alice, spending a year away from her home in depression-era Chicago at her grandmother's house in the country. While grandma is gruff and no-nonsense, she soon enlists Mary Alice in her schemes to influence neighbors - some who are friends, some who are enemies. This hilarious book is great to read aloud, and will leave both moms and daughters in stitches.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is told from the perspective of fifteen-year-old Mary Alice, a city girl from Chicago in 1937. After Mary Alice's dad loses his job, Mary Alice is sent to her "trigger-happy" Grandma's house for a whole year- how will she ever survive? Stealing pumpkins, driving tractors into trees, and so much more- packed into one phenominal book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mary Alice, a 15 year old Chicago girl, has to live with her grandmother for a year, because in the "Roosavelt Recession," her father loses his job and has to sell their apartment. Her brother would come with, but he is in a tree planting program. Her grandmother's town is small, and unlike Chicago, everyone seems to know everyone else. The school is small, too, as is every other buliding there. At school, Mary Alice doesn't have any friends except for Ina-Rae Gage and Royce McNabb, a new student mentioned later in the book. The whole story is about the year that Mary Alice spends with her sour grandmother. There are a lot of surprising twists and turns in the book. It shows that small town life can be fun. I liked this book, and I think that it was very interesting, but I also think that the author didn't describe everything very well. But it was also very unpredictable, and there were a lot of different, smaller events that kept the story going. It was a lot of fun to read. Over all, A Year Down Yonder was a really good book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story is about a 15-year old girl named Mary Alice. Her parents send her to live with her grandma because her Dad needs a job. It is in the time of the Great Depression. Times are tough in Chicago where her parents live, and her Grandmother lives in a small, country town. It's difficult for Mary Alice to get used to living in the small little town. Grandma is zany and harsh. Most people try to steer clear of that old lady. If someone needs to be put in their place, Grandma will see to it. But underneath she has a heart. Mary Alice goes through wild adventures with Grandma. Once she has to run home from school in a tornado because she had to make sure her Grandma was okay. The wild adventures include guns, traps, odd people, and even turkeys. Mary Alice lives with Grandma for one whole year. Her relationship with her Grandmas starts out with cold and distant. But by the end of the story, they have a touching relationship. It's a very good book and an even greater adventure. I love how the author describes the characters and tells the story. Richard Peck is an awesome author. He tells the story so clearly, you feel like you are in the room with Grandma Dowdel and Mary Alice. The humor in this book makes it easy to read because you really feel like you are connected to the characters. This book is a sequel to Long Way to Chicago, but it is a great book to read by itself. I hope you love it as much as I did.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lois Smith is perfect as the reader of this book. The story has just the right mix of fun, trickery, and empathy. My kids from 7 years to 15 years all enjoyed it. One time I started the tape mid story while taking three 13 year old boys to the beach and when we got home they didn't want to get out of the car because they wanted to hear more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. I found it funny and delightful. I loved to see the generation gap close between Mary Alice and her grandmother. This is a good book for children of all ages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mary Alice is a 15-year-old girl from Chicago whose family is getting hit hard by the Roosevelt recession. this causes her dad to lose his job. as a result, Mary Alice has to go down to her grandmothers house for a year until her dad can get his job back. all she brings with her is her cat bootsie and her portable radio, along with every stitch of clothing she owns. Mary Alice thinks going to her grandmothers house will be !#$%@ because there is nothing modern. however, Mary Alice starts to respect her grandma while she dumps glue on the heads of halloweners. i give this book 5 stars because it was really fun to read. it had a great story plot, and you didn't have to read the prequel for it to make sense. it tells about the ups and downs of living in small towns. for example, you know everybody by name, but you can't avoid the bullies.
NataliePhillips More than 1 year ago
I would highly recommend the chapter book A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck, to be used by teachers in a fourth or fifth grade classroom. This story is the sequel to Peck's A Long Way From Chicago. This realistic fiction story takes place in a rural town in Illinois during the Great Depression. Fifteen-year-old Mary Alice is the main character. At the beginning of the story, her parents send her on a train from her home in Chicago to the rural town where her grandmother lives. Her parents take a hard hit from the Depression and can't afford to feed her and take care of her while they look for work in Chicago, so Mary Alice is forced to live with Grandma Dowdel for one year. At first, Mary Alice dreads the thought of living in Grandma Dowdel's farming town for an entire year without her older brother and with no friends. This town could not be any more different than Chicago. However, she takes her journey with a grain of salt. Throughout the story, Mary Alice goes through many ups, downs, and more downs, as she learns to deal with bullies at school, her one-of-a-kind grandmother, and most importantly, surviving the Great Depression. From a teacher's perspective, I would use this book as a history lesson. I think this book is a great resource to use when teaching older elementary students about the Great Depression. It is easy to teach children endless facts from textbooks about this life-changing time period in America, but I think that students would be able to get a true glimpse of the lifestyle during this time. Although it is not a true story, many aspects of Mary Alice's journey could be deemed as realistic, from her struggling school life to the uncertainties that food would be on the table each evening for dinner.
Abigail Miller More than 1 year ago
if you want a book wih some humor and a little bit of serious you read this book. the girl mary alice is dragged around by her grandmother in all kinds of funny adventures. you need to read this book.
tobyeyre101345 More than 1 year ago
Mary Alice has to live with her grandma for a whole year. The main characters are Mary Alice and grandma Dowdel .The story is about the trials and tribulations of Mary Alice as she lives with her grandma for a year, they have many fun times as well as hard times. She falls in love with a boy named Royce and he asks her if he can write to her from college. It was an extremely entertaining story with humor and romance too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very funny! I liked this book better than Long way from Chicago because it's written from Mary Alice's perspective instead of Joey's. Grandma is my favorite character. She's is so hillarious!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
when i read this book my favorite charcter is mary alice and her grandma especially her grandma
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿A Year Down Yonder¿ by Richard Peck was published in 2000, and it won the Newbery Medal award in the year of 2001. Peck was born on April 5, 1934 and was born and raised in Decatur, Illinois. He has written over 25 novels, and is known for his contributions to modern young adult literature. Peck currently lives in New York. ¿A Year Down Yonder¿ is about a fifteen year old girl named Mary Alice Dowdel who is from the windy city, Chicago. She is forced to live with her grandmother in a small ¿hick¿ town, because of bad situations during the Great Depression, such as ¿Dad lost his job, so we¿d had to give up the apartment.¿ Not only did Mary Alice have to leave her old school and enroll in a new one, but she also was going to live in her grandmother¿s house with nothing modern, ¿no telephone, of course¿ and ¿everything as old as Grandma.¿ When she arrived at her grandmas, she didn¿t receive a warm welcome and things were uneasy between the two. Mary Alice had to go to her new high school when she first arrived, and on her first day, she gets in trouble with the school bully, Mildred, who calls her a ¿rich Chicago girl.¿ As you can see, things for Mary Alice weren¿t easy for her in her new environment at first. Will she ever adapt to her new environment in the so-called ¿hick¿ town? Will she make new friends? Will her relationship with her grandmother grow, or will things between them remain uneasy? You will have to read to find out, and trust me, this is one humorous, heartwarming story you will not want to miss out on. This book is filled with tons of adventures and surprises. This books genre is historical fiction. Subjects touched in this book include the Great Depression, families and social structures, and extended family. I also think many young adults can relate to this book in several ways, for instance, having to transition to a new school and/or environment. I really enjoyed this book. Each chapter tells its own amusing anecdote, which I think is wonderful. I would recommend this book because it was very intriguing and kept my attention. This books age range is 12 and up. Peck, Richard. A Year Down Yonder. New York: Dial Books, 2000.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You will love this story of a grandmother who is full of surpries!! Richard Peck writes a very visual story of a grandmother and her grandaughter set in the time of the depression.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck deserves 4 stars with its humorous and exciting plot. After a Chicago girl is sent to live with her tough Grandma in the country. She is enrolled into school on her first day and gets into trouble with the school bully at the same time. Her Grandma takes her on many amusing adventures which include riding a tractor into a tree, causing someone to go bald, and making oodles of pies. She makes a few good friends and meets a cute boy. Her whole life is changed by this experience that was caused by the great depression. Her mother sent her on a train to Grandma¿s because the great depression had drained them of money. Almost all of the money they had was spent on her ticket to the country. She despised the idea at first, but after a year of bonding with her Grandma and meeting all of the interesting country folk she never wants to leave. This book well deserves its 4 stars and has an excellent thought out plot and I would recommend it to anyone. I am a seventh grader in North Carolina and enjoyed reading this great book. I would also like to recommend The Giver and Kira Kira which are both exceptional books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This Newberry award winner is a very touching story about a teenage girl from the city who is forced to live with her grandmother in the country. She is very quiet at first because she knows she¿s different from her other peers. This book would be age appropriate for ages twelve and up. This novel is something that middle school grade students can relate to in many ways. For instance, transitions to a different school, family, income, or even city or state. The classification for this novel would fall into the fantasy genre because it contained at least one impossible element. It was realistic during the most part except for the ending. The author of this book is Richard Peck which has written over twenty-five novels. Mr. Peck grew up in Decatur, Illinois, and now resides in New York City. Peck, Richard. A Year Down Yonder. New York: Scholastic Inc. 2000.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This 2001 Newberry Medal winner is a sequel to A Long Way to Chicago, which was the Newberry Medal winner in 1999. Richard Peck has produced over twenty-five acclaimed novels, and he has received numerous awards. This book deserves the Newberry award because it is full of life lessons and values. Mary Alice¿s father loses his job, and things get bad. Mary Alice has to live with her feisty hicktown, and all the children in school think of her as a ¿rich Chicago girl¿. Mary Alice¿s visit if full of schemes, romances, and a whole parade of fools made to suffer in unusual ways. Peck, Richard. A Year Down Yonder. New York: Dial books, 2000. Reading level: Ages 12 and up
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is very well written in all aspects. It has scenes of mischef, funny parts, and romance. All together it is a touching story, and I would recomend this book to anyone who likes history, or just a good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I think this book was well-writen. It was funny, old fashioned, and just plain awsome!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Year Down Yonder is an excellent book to be presented and discussed in class. It describes life in 1937 and the depression as vividly as a photograph. The humor is of a genuine nature and the lessons learned are of great value. The parts of the story discribing how people of 1937 held the value of money is something people of today need to read and talk about. There is great humor in the character of the grandmother and her actions. As you read on, you will be caught by surprise several times. A very interesting, enjoyable story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A Year Down Yonder, by Richard Peck. I think this book deserves four stars because it¿s a very good book to read for people who enjoy stories of the old times. These four stars can represent many things about the book. I gave the stars to the book because it can be real serious at times, and then funny at others, which I think makes a book good. All of this is done while teaching a lesson somewhere in the story. Another good thing about it is it¿s all appropriate material. I would suggest it to kids around the ages of 9-12. That doesn¿t mean that most of the younger kids will understand it though. It may be a little confusing at first (especially if you haven¿t read the first one), but you will eventually come to like it. Now, there are some things in the book I wouldn¿t suggest other people doing in there (like some of the ¿adventures¿ that the main character, Mary-Alice, and her grandma have). The book is mainly about ¿adventures¿ that Mary-Alice and her grandma have. Mary-Alice visits her grandma for a short period of time during the summer, so of course they¿ve got to have some excitement in their time together. This book is also filled with things that kids could take home with them that wouldn¿t be too bad (lessons to be learned). These things include: hard work, helping out other people, taking responsibilities for themselves (things they don¿t normally do), and things like that. I think responsibility is definitely one of the main themes in the book. Most things have to do with this theme. Some examples from the book, there¿s supposed to be a party held for members of a certain group that traces their ancestry all the way back to the Civil War (the DAR). They need to make cherry tarts for the party (they don¿t know how). Mary-Alice¿s grandma takes the responsibility to make the cherry tarts, and even holding the party at her house. Mary-Alice helps make them and even some punch for the party. If you ask me, that¿s a lot of responsibility. I wish that I could do something like that at my grandma¿s house!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I was not forced to read it like others. I was just hooked as soon as i read the summary! This is a humorous, sad and all around teriffic book. don't listen to those who say it stink because as soon as you start to read it you'll be hooked.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I liked that it was humrous I mean I never heard some old lady steeling pumpkins!? But if your like me you probly like your Histery Book better. I was disapointed with the ending it wasnt worth remembering.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read A Long Way from Chicago for school, and that was funny and easy, definitely better than this one. Year Down Yonder was kinda funny and really easy, but boring too. I would only recommend it to people that are looking for a quick, easy book. I'm glad I read it, but I'm glad I didn't buy it. I borrowed it from a neighbor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Its funny. I had to read it for a book report. i hate book reports.