Reviews for Year Down Yonder


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 October 2000
Gr. 6-10. With the same combination of wit, gentleness, and outrageous farce as Peck's Newbery Honor book, Long Way from Chicago (1998), this sequel tells the story of Joey's younger sister, Mary Alice, 15, who spends the year of 1937 back with Grandma Dowdel in a small town in Illinois. It's still the Depression; Dad has lost his job, and Mary Alice has been sent from Chicago to live with Grandma and enroll in the "hick-town's" 25-student high school. As in the first book, much of the fun comes from the larger-than-life characters, whether it's the snobbish DAR ladies or the visiting WPA artist, who paints a nude picture of the postmistress (nude, not naked; he studied in Paris). The wry one-liners and tall tales are usually Grandma's ("When I was a girl, we had to walk in our sleep to keep from freezing to death"), or Mary Alice's commentary as she looks back ("Everybody in this town knew everything about you. They knew things that hadn't even happened yet" ). That adult perspective is occasionally intrusive and Mary Alice sometimes seems younger than 15, though her awkward romance with a classmate is timeless. The heart of the book is Grandma--huge and overbearing, totally outside polite society. Just as powerful is what's hidden: Mary Alice discovers kindness and grace as well as snakes in the attic. Most moving is Mary Alice's own growth. During a tornado she leaves her shelter to make sure that Grandma is safe at home. In fact, as Mary Alice looks back, it's clear that Grandma has remained her role model, never more generous than when she helped her granddaughter leave. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2001 Spring
This satisfying sequel to [cf2]A Long Way from Chicago[cf1] is narrated by fifteen-year-old Mary Alice, who is living with her formidable grandma Dowdel during the 1937 recession. While these stories don't have the cumulative power of the first book, Peck again presents memorable characters, and his subdued humor is much in evidence. Those looking to be entertained by Grandma Dowdel will enjoy this visit. Copyright 2001 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2000 #6
This sequel to Peck's Newbery Honor-winning A Long Way from Chicago (rev. 11/98) is narrated by the formidable Grandma Dowdel's granddaughter Mary Alice, who is now fifteen and has been sent to live (or fend for herself, as she sees it) with Grandma after her father loses his job in Chicago-a casualty of the 1937 recession. Grandma is still dispensing her own brand of justice in her small Illinois town, and, as before, Mary Alice soon finds herself an accomplice to many of Grandma's brazen schemes-and even boldly hatches a few of her own. While the escapades are diverting, the seven stories, which span the school year, don't have the cumulative power of those in A Long Way from Chicago. Grandma, who was an indefatigable source of surprise and bewilderment to her grandchildren in the first book, doesn't come across as such a mythic figure this time around, perhaps because some of her shock value has worn off. The humor here is subdued but much in evidence, and a few overly sentimental moments don't detract much from the narrative. Peck presents memorable characters in a satisfying sequel, and those looking to be entertained once again by Grandma Dowdel will enjoy their visit. Copyright 2000 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 2000 September #2
Set in 1937 during the so-called "Roosevelt recession," tight times compel Mary Alice, a Chicago girl, to move in with her grandmother, who lives in a tiny Illinois town so behind the times that it doesn't "even have a picture show." This winning sequel takes place several years after A Long Way From Chicago (1998) leaves off, once again introducing the reader to Mary Alice, now 15, and her Grandma Dowdel, an indomitable, idiosyncratic woman who despite her hard-as-nails exterior is able to see her granddaughter with "eyes in the back of her heart." Peck's slice-of-life novel doesn't have much in the way of a sustained plot; it could almost be a series of short stories strung together, but the narrative never flags, and the book, populated with distinctive, soulful characters who run the gamut from crazy to conventional, holds the reader's interest throughout. And the vignettes, some involving a persnickety Grandma acting nasty while accomplishing a kindness, others in which she deflates an overblown egoor deals with a petty rivalry, are original and wildly funny. The arena may be a small hick town, but the battle for domination over that tiny turf is fierce, and Grandma Dowdel is a canny player for whom losing isn't an option. The first-person narration is infused with rich, colorful language--"She was skinnier than a toothpick with termites"--and Mary Alice's shrewd, prickly observations: "Anybody who thinks small towns are friendlier than big cities lives in a big city." Year-round fun. (Fiction. 11-13) Copyright 2000 Kirkus Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2000 September #4
In this hilarious and poignant sequel to A Long Way to Chicago, Peck once again shows that country life is anything but boring. Chicago-bred Mary Alice (who has previously weathered annual week-long visits with Grandma Dowdel) has been sentenced to a year-long stay in rural Illinois with her irrepressible, rough and gruff grandmother, while Joey heads west with the Civilian Conservation Corps, and her parents struggle to get back on their feet during the 1937 recession. Each season brings new adventures to 15-year-old Mary Alice as she becomes Grandma's partner in crime, helping to carry out madcap schemes to benefit friends and avenge enemies. Around Halloween, for example, the woman, armed with wire, a railroad spike and a bucket of glue, outsmarts a gang of pranksters bent on upturning her privy. Later on, she proves just as apt at squeezing change out of the pockets of skinflints, putting prim and proper DAR ladies in their place and arranging an unlikely match between a schoolmarm and a WPA artist of nude models. Between antic capers, Peck reveals a marshmallow heart inside Grandma's rock-hard exterior and adroitly exposes the mutual, unspoken affection she shares with her granddaughter. Like Mary Alice, audience members will breathe a sigh of regret when the eventful year "down yonder" draws to a close. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2002 October #4
In this Newbery Honor book, Chicago-bred Mary Alice has been sentenced to a year-long stay in rural Illinois with her irrepressible, rough and gruff grandmother. Soon, however, she becomes Grandma's partner in crime, helping to carry out madcap schemes to benefit friends and avenge enemies. In a starred review, PW called this sequel to A Long Way to Chicago "hilarious and poignant." Ages 10-14. (Dec.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2000 September
Gr 5-8-Peck charms readers once again with this entertaining sequel to A Long Way from Chicago (Dial, 1998). This time, 15-year-old Mary Alice visits Grandma Dowdel alone for a one-year stay, while her parents struggle through the recession of 1937 looking for jobs and better housing. With her older brother, Joey, working out west in a government program, Mary Alice takes a turn at recounting memorable and pivotal moments of her year with Grandma. Beneath the woman's fierce independence and nonconformity, Mary Alice discovers compassion, humor, and intuition. She watches her grandmother exact the perfect revenge on a classmate who bullies her on the first day of school, and she witnesses her "shameless" tactics to solicit donations from Veteran's Day "burgoo" eaters whose contributions are given to Mrs. Abernathy's blind, paralyzed, war-veteran son. From her energetic, eccentric, but devoted Grandma, she learns not only how to cook but also how to deal honestly and fairly with people. At story's end, Mary Alice returns several years later to wed the soldier, Royce McNabb, who was her classmate during the year spent with Grandma. Again, Peck has created a delightful, insightful tale that resounds with a storyteller's wit, humor, and vivid description. Mary Alice's memories capture the atmosphere, attitudes, and lifestyle of the times while shedding light on human strengths and weak- nesses.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2000 December
Sequels are a tricky business. Many are pale companions to their originals. With a skillful writer such as Peck, however, sequels can shine and sparkle with new life. Such is the case with this sequel to his Newbery Honor-winning A Long Way fromChicago (Dial, 1998/VOYA December 1998). The year is 1937, and the aftermath of the Great Depression is still being felt by the Dowdel family. Reluctantly, the Dowdels decide to send Mary Alice to live with Grandma for a year. Mary Alice barely hasbeen able to endure summers with Grandma in the company of her older brother. How will she survive a year in this hick town by herself? Present in this hilarious tale are the requisite "villains"-young boys wreaking havoc on Halloween, snooty womenwho dare to leave Grandma out of their plans, and others too blind to see Grandma as a more than formidable opponent in any fight. Told in a series of interlocking stories as was the first book, the novel never loses its charming sense of humor even though the vignettes ultimately deal with important issues such as class, gossip, and friendship. This book will make an excellentread-aloud to middle school classes. History teachers might want to share a story or two from the novel as a lead-in to the discussion of the society of the Great Depression and the recession that followed.-Teri Lesesne. Copyright 2000 Voya Reviews

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