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A Year Down Yonder

by Richard Peck

Publishers Weekly : 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, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

School Library Journal : 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, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms