Friday, June 20, 2008

Book Review: A Year Down Yonder

Title: A Year Down Yonder
Author: Richard Peck
Reading level: Ages 10-14
Hardcover: 130 pages
Publisher: Dial books for Young Readers
a division of Penguin Putnam Inc.
Jacket cover by Steve Cieslawski
Publication: 2000

I loved this book. Humor, sorrow and triumph span the range of emotions. The year was 1937 and fifteen year old Mary Alice was sent from the big city of Chicago to rural Illinois to live for one year with her Grandma Dowdel. Mary Alice was no stranger to rural Illinois because she and her brother Joey would visit there every summer with Grandma Dowdel. But this was to be for a whole year. Mary Alice would have to attend the one room school house and be the outsider and “rich girl” from Chicago in spite of her worn coat.

Grandma Dowdel was a very intimidating woman according to Mary Alice’s description of her. “As the train pulled out behind me, there came Grandma up the platform steps. My goodness, she was a big woman. I’d forgotten. And taller still with her spidery old umbrella held up to keep off the sun of high noon. A fan of white hair escaped the big bun on the back of her head. She drew nearer till she blotted out the day.”

However, the tough exterior of Grandma Dowdel is softened as the reader discovers her warm heart and gentleness which is hidden from everyone except Mary Alice. Grandma Dowdel is full of surprises. When she agrees to make cherry tarts for Mrs. Weidenbach’s DAR celebration of George Washington’s birthday, no one could have known the surprise guest Grandma had in store. Not to mention the special ingredient of Old Turkey Bourbon for the punch. By the end of the party an impostor was exposed and long lost sisters were united and you are left rolling on the floor with laughter.

About the Author.
Richard Peck captured the voice of a teenage girl flawlessly. His immersion into the teen age mind and heart was excellent. Richard Peck has produced over twenty-five acclaimed novels. A Long Way from Chicago was named the 1999 Newbery Honor Book, a National Book Award finalist, and an ALA Best Book for young Adults. From these pages Mary Alice and Grandma Dowdel made their debut in A Year Down Yonder the 2001 Newbery Award winner.
Write it down,