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A Year Down Yonder
A Year Down Yonder.jpg
First edition (publ. Dial Books)
Author Richard Peck
Illustrator Ashlea Shaffer
Cover artist Lily Malcom
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's historical fiction
Publisher Dial Books
Scholastic Inc.
Penguin Putnam Inc.
Publication date
October 2000
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 144 pp (first edition, hardback)130 pp (2000)
ISBN 0803725183
OCLC 42061114
LC Class PZ7.P338 Yh 2000
Preceded by A Long Way from Chicago 
Followed by A Season of Gifts 

A Year Down Yonder is a novel by Richard Peck published in 2000 and won the Newbery Medal in 2001. It is a sequel to A Long Way from Chicago, which itself received a Newbery Honor.


The year is 1938, and the Great Depression has hit the Dowdel family hard. 15-year-old Mary Alice is sent downstate to live with Grandma Dowdel while her mother and father remain in Chicago. Her brother, Joey Dowdel, joins the army while Mary Alice is less than thrilled with the arrangement. Grandma's Hickory farming community could not be more different from Chicago if it tried, and the grandmother Mary Alice remembers from childhood is a no-nonsense country gal.

Having no choice in the matter, Mary Alice arrives by train in September with her beloved cat Bootsie and prized Philco radio. Day one in the new high school finds Mary Alice getting on the wrong side of the local bully, Mildred Burdick. Mildred brazenly follows Mary Alice home, demanding a dollar---but Grandma Dowdel turns the tables on the tyrant, slyly untying Mildred's horse. Faced with a barefoot 5-mile-hike home, Mildred loses interest in making trouble for Mary Alice. October brings plenty of other trouble, however, when another teen hooligan - August Fluke Jr. - gets in the habit of knocking down privies for pre-Halloween amusement. With the help of a strategically strung wire and a pan of glue, Grandma Dowdel trips up Augie's trickery, with a hot coat of glue that sticks "till kingdom come." Luckily, Grandma's treats prove far sweeter than her tricks: at the party, Mrs. Dowdel dishes up home-baked pies made with borrowed pecans and pumpkins. Moonlit winter nights find Grandma and Mary Alice trapping foxes; with the extra money, Grandma buys Joey a train ticket and he arrives just in time for the Christmas pageant. But when Mildred Burdick's illegitimate baby turns up in the manger, Christmas is anything but a silent night.

Mary Alice stirs the town up by submitting anonymous articles to a community newspaper and a new boy---Royce McNabb---arrives just in time for Valentine's Day. Carleen develops an instant crush on Royce. With the help of best friend Ina-Rae, Mary Alice fools Carleen into believing that Royce sent Ina-Rae a valentine. Meanwhile, Grandma hosts a tea for the Daughters of the American Revolution and country bumpkin Effie Wilcox learns that the hoity-toity Mrs. L.J. Weidenbach is her long-lost sister.

In spring, Grandma takes in a New York artist, Arnold Green, as a boarder for a whopping $2.50 a day as Mary Alice invites Royce over for an ostensibly "study" focused-date. The snake Grandma keeps in the attic drops down on Maxine Patch, the postmistress, whom Green was painting naked, or nude, as he prefers, leaving Maxine shamed (as she ran through town au naturel) and Arnold in shock. Grandma moonlights as matchmaker, introducing Green to Mary Alice's English teacher, Miss Butler. Mary Alice survives her first tornado, and the school year wraps up with a hayride that finds Royce and Mary Alice promising to exchange letters. A year down yonder leaves Mary Alice with a more tenderhearted view of country life and Grandma Dowdel, and she hesitates to head back to Chicago. Wedding bells ring at the end of World War II, and Mary Alice returns to marry Royce McNabb in Grandma's front room.

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