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A Year Down Yonder: How a City Girl Learned to Love the Country

A Year Down Yonder: A Review of the Newbery Medal Winner

If you are looking for a fun and heartwarming read that will transport you to a different time and place, you might want to check out A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck. This book is a sequel to A Long Way from Chicago, which itself received a Newbery Honor in 1999. A Year Down Yonder won the Newbery Medal in 2001, making it one of the most acclaimed children's books of all time.

A Year Down Yonder


A Year Down Yonder is a historical fiction novel that follows the adventures of 15-year-old Mary Alice Dowdel as she spends a year with her grandmother in a small rural town in Illinois during the Great Depression. Along the way, she encounters many eccentric characters and situations, and learns to appreciate her grandmother's wisdom and kindness.

The Plot

The story begins in 1937, when Mary Alice has to leave her home in Chicago and move in with Grandma Dowdel while her parents look for work. She is not thrilled with the arrangement, as she misses her brother Joey (who has joined the army), her friends, her school, and her city life. She also thinks that Grandma Dowdel is a tough old lady who does not care much for her.

However, as the year goes by, Mary Alice discovers that there is more to Grandma Dowdel than meets the eye. She realizes that Grandma Dowdel is actually a clever, generous, and brave woman who knows how to deal with any problem or person that comes her way. She also sees that Grandma Dowdel loves her in her own way, even if she does not show it often.

Mary Alice also gets to know the people and events of the town, which are far from boring. She meets Mildred Burdick, the local bully who tries to extort money from her; August Fluke Jr., a prankster who likes to knock down privies; Royce McNabb, a handsome boy who becomes her love interest; Carleen Lovejoy, a snooty girl who competes with her for Royce's attention; Ina-Rae Gage, a friendly girl who becomes her best friend; Arnold Green, a New York artist who boards with Grandma Dowdel; and many others.

Throughout the year, Mary Alice witnesses and participates in many humorous and touching episodes, such as Grandma Dowdel's Halloween trick on Augie Fluke, her Christmas gift to the Burdicks, her Valentine's Day prank on Carleen Lovejoy, her tea party for the Daughters of the American Revolution, her painting lesson with Arnold Green, and her graduation surprise for Mary Alice.

The Setting

The setting of the book is an important element that adds to the realism and charm of the story. The book is set in the late 1930s, during the Great Depression, a time when many people were struggling to survive and find work. The book shows how the Depression affected different people and places, such as Mary Alice's parents in Chicago, Joey in the army, Grandma Dowdel in the country, and the townsfolk in various ways.

The book also depicts the contrast between the urban and rural lifestyles of the time. Mary Alice comes from Chicago, a big and modern city that offers many opportunities and attractions. She has to adjust to living in a small and backward town that has no electricity, no indoor plumbing, no movie theater, no library, and no high school. She also has to cope with the different customs, values, and norms of the town, such as the gossip, the feuds, the superstitions, and the traditions.

However, Mary Alice also learns to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the rural setting. She enjoys the natural scenery, such as the fields, the woods, the river, and the sky. She also discovers the joys of farming, hunting, fishing, baking, sewing, and other activities that Grandma Dowdel teaches her. She also finds out that the town has its own charm and excitement, such as the festivals, the parades, the pageants, and the dances.

The Themes

The book explores many themes and messages that are relevant and meaningful for readers of all ages. Some of the main themes are:


One of the main themes of the book is family. The book shows how family members can support each other and grow closer in difficult times. Mary Alice and Grandma Dowdel are an example of this. They start out as strangers who barely know each other, but they end up as friends who love and respect each other. They also help each other in various ways. For instance, Mary Alice helps Grandma Dowdel with her chores and schemes, while Grandma Dowdel helps Mary Alice with her schoolwork and social life.

The book also shows how family can be more than blood relations. It can include people who care for each other and share a bond. For example, Grandma Dowdel considers Arnold Green as part of her family because he is a fellow artist who appreciates her work. She also treats Ina-Rae Gage as a granddaughter because she is a good friend to Mary Alice. She even welcomes Effie Wilcox as a sister because she finds out that they are related by marriage.


Another theme of the book is friendship. The book shows how friendship can enrich one's life and make one happier. Mary Alice learns this lesson when she makes new friends in the town. She becomes close with Ina-Rae Gage, who shares her interests and hobbies. She also falls in love with Royce McNabb, who admires her intelligence and personality. She even befriends some of her enemies, such as Mildred Burdick and Carleen Lovejoy, after they go through some hardships together.

The book also shows how friendship can overcome differences and prejudices. Mary Alice realizes that people are not always what they seem or what others say they are. She discovers that some of her friends have hidden talents or secrets that make them more interesting or sympathetic. For example, she finds out that Mildred Burdick is a good singer who wants to go to college; that Carleen Lovejoy is a poor orphan who lives with her aunt; that Arnold Green is a famous painter who hides his identity; and that Effie Wilcox is a wealthy heiress who lives in a shack.


A third theme of the book is humor. The book shows how humor can lighten up one's mood and cope with one's problems. Grandma Dowdel is a master of humor. She uses her wit and pranks to deal with various situations and people that annoy or trouble her. She also uses humor to teach lessons or make points to others. For example, she tricks Augie Fluke into getting glued to a privy seat to stop him from vandalizing outhouses; she gives Mildred Burdick's baby a manger for Christmas to shame her family Here is the rest of the article. I hope you enjoy it. Courage

A fourth theme of the book is courage. The book shows how courage can help one overcome fears and challenges. Mary Alice and Grandma Dowdel are examples of this. They both face many difficulties and dangers in their lives, such as poverty, violence, prejudice, and change. They also have to deal with their own insecurities and doubts. However, they do not give up or run away from their problems. They face them with determination and confidence. They also stand up for themselves and others who are in need or trouble.

For example, Mary Alice shows courage when she confronts Mildred Burdick at school; when she performs in the Christmas pageant; when she writes anonymous articles for the newspaper; when she goes on a date with Royce McNabb; and when she graduates from high school. Grandma Dowdel shows courage when she tricks Augie Fluke and his gang; when she helps Mildred Burdick deliver her baby; when she hosts a tea party for the DAR; when she paints a mural with Arnold Green; and when she surprises Mary Alice with a gift.


A fifth theme of the book is change. The book shows how change is inevitable and necessary in life. Mary Alice and Grandma Dowdel experience many changes in their year together. They change their views and feelings about each other and themselves. They also change their roles and relationships with others. They also witness and adapt to the changes in their surroundings and society.

For example, Mary Alice changes from a city girl to a country girl; from a stranger to a friend; from a student to a writer; from a child to a young woman. Grandma Dowdel changes from a loner to a leader; from a grandmother to a mother; from a farmer to an artist; from an old lady to a young spirit. They also see the changes in the town, such as the arrival of new people, the departure of old ones, the improvement of facilities, the growth of businesses, and the impact of world events.

The Style

The style of the book is another element that makes it enjoyable and memorable. The author uses various techniques and devices to create an engaging and effective story. Some of these are:

  • First-person narration: The story is told from Mary Alice's point of view, which allows the reader to see her thoughts and feelings, as well as her perspective on Grandma Dowdel and the town.

  • Dialogue: The story is full of lively and realistic dialogue that reveals the characters' personalities, emotions, relationships, and conflicts.

  • Imagery: The story uses vivid and descriptive language that appeals to the senses and creates a clear picture of the setting, the events, and the atmosphere.

  • Humor: The story uses humor to lighten up the mood and add interest and fun to the story. The humor comes from Grandma Dowdel's pranks, Mary Alice's observations, and the situations they encounter.

The Impact

The impact of the book is another element that makes it remarkable and influential. The book has received many positive reviews, awards, and honors from critics, readers, and organizations. Some of these are:

  • 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

  • A Newbery Medal Winner

  • A National Humanities Medal Recipient

The book has also inspired many people to read more, write more, learn more, and live more. The book has taught many lessons and values to its readers, such as family, friendship, humor, courage, and change. The book has also introduced many readers to a different time and place in history, as well as to a different culture and lifestyle.

The Conclusion

In conclusion, A Year Down Yonder is a wonderful book that deserves all the praise and recognition it has received. It is a book that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. It is a book that can make you laugh, cry, think, and feel. It is a book that can enrich your life and make you a better person.

If you have not read this book yet, I highly recommend that you do. You will not regret it. And if you have read this book already, I hope you will read it again. You will discover something new and amazing every time.


Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about the book:

Q: Who is the author of the book?

  • A: The author of the book is Richard Peck, an American novelist who was born in 1934 and died in 2018. He wrote more than 40 books for children and young adults, many of which are historical fiction. He won many awards and honors for his writing, including the Newbery Medal, the Margaret A. Edwards Award, and the National Humanities Medal.

Q: Is the book based on a true story?

  • A: The book is not based on a true story, but it is inspired by the author's own experiences and memories. The author grew up in Illinois and spent some summers with his grandmother in a small town. He also lived through the Great Depression and World War II. He used his imagination and research to create the characters and events in the book.

Q: Is the book part of a series?

  • A: The book is part of a series of four books that feature Grandma Dowdel and her grandchildren. The first book is A Long Way from Chicago, which tells the stories of Joey Dowdel and his visits to Grandma Dowdel in the 1930s. The second book is A Year Down Yonder, which tells the story of Mary Alice Dowdel and her year with Grandma Dowdel in 1937-38. The third book is A Season of Gifts, which tells the story of Bob Barnhart and his family who move next to Grandma Dowdel in 1958. The fourth book is The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail, which tells the story of a mouse who lives in Buckingham Palace and meets Grandma Dowdel in 1901.

Q: What are some other books by the same author?

  • A: Some other books by the same author are The Teacher's Funeral, which tells the story of Russell Culver and his sister Tansy who try to get rid of their new teacher in 1904; The River between Us, which tells the story of Tilly Pruitt and her family who take in two mysterious strangers during the Civil War; Fair Weather, which tells the story of Rosie Beckett and her family who visit the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893; and The Best Man, which tells the story of Archer Magill and his role models who help him grow up.

Q: Where can I find more information about the book?

  • A: You can find more information about the book on various websites, such as Wikipedia, Goodreads, BookRags, and IMDb. You can also find more information on the author's website,



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