Name of Book: A Year Down Yonder
Author: Richard Peck
Publisher: Puffin Books
Audience: Ages 10+ (all the way up to senior citizens!)
Summary: A Year Down Yonder, winner of the 2001 Newberry Medal, is the sequel to A Long Way from Chicago. The first book was narrated by Joey; this one is told by Mary Alice. The year is 1937. Dad has lost his job, so the family had to give up their apartment. The parents have moved into a room just big enough for the two of them. Brother Joey (now called “Joe”) is in the Civilian Conservation Corps and is planting trees out west. Fifteen-year-old Mary Alice must go to live with her grandmother in a sleepy town somewhere between Chicago and St. Louis. All she has with her is a small trunk containing her clothes, her transistor radio, and her cat Bootsie. Mary Alice’s year with Grandma in the country is anything but boring as she watches—and sometimes helps—Grandma shake up the neighbors.
Literary Elements at work in the story: The book is set during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The generation that experienced this period is now elderly. For young readers of this book, that era is almost as remote and as far removed from today’s world as the age of dinosaurs is. The book matter-of-factly portrays a time when people routinely made do with very little and did not whine, complain, or pout over their lot in life.
Perspective on gender/race/culture/economic/ability: The book is set in the Great Depression, a time when most people had little money and few programs to aid people existed. But Grandma looked out for others, especially ones that might have been overlooked.
Scripture: James 1:27; Matthew 6:3; Exodus 20:12; Proverbs 14:31
Theology: Caring for others; Love of neighbor; Community
Faith Talk Questions:
- Mary Alice arrived in Grandma’s town with her entire wardrobe (all the clothes she owned) in a small trunk. If you had to pack all of your clothes in one small trunk, what would be in there?
- Mary Alice is also carrying her transistor radio and her cat, her two most prized possessions. What did the radio and the cat means to Mary Alice? What are your two most prized possessions? Explain why these possessions are prized.
- Grandma did things throughout the book that we are told not to do. She steals pecans and pumpkins to make pies, tells lies, and calls people names. Is she a good person? Why?
- The Bible tells us to take care of people who need someone to stand up for them. How does Grandma help people? How is her method different from the method used by others?
Review prepared by Union Presbyterian Seminary alumna Mary Anne Welch
Filed under: Book Reviews, Books written for Grades 5-8 (Ages 10 -13), Books written for Grades 9 - 12 (Ages 14-17), Faith Questions For...., Middle Schoolers, Older Elementary Tagged: | family, Great Depression, justice, love, neighbors