A Year Down Yonder

   A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

Mary Alice's childhood summers in Grandma Dowdel's sleepy Illinois town were packed with enough drama to fill the double bill of any picture show. But now she is fifteen, and faces a whole long year with Grandma, a woman well known for shaking up her neighbors-and everyone else! All Mary Alice can know for certain is this: when trying to predict how life with Grandma might turn out . . . better not. This wry, delightful sequel to the Newbery Honor Book A Long Way from Chicago has already taken its place among the classics of children's literature.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why does Mary Alice have to move to Grandma Dowdel's?
  2. When Mary Alice first arrives by train and describes Grandma Dowdel she says, "She drew nearer till she blotted out the day." In what ways is Grandma Dowdel larger than life?
  3. How is Mary Alice's life in the country different from what you think her life in the city was like?
  4. Grandma Dowdel is often gruff. Find some of the scenes in the book where she shows her love through actions instead of words.
  5. Why do you think Grandma takes Mary Alice to meet the Abernathy's?
  6. How does Mary Alice change over the course of the year?
  7. Is Mrs. Wilcox Grandma's best friend? Why or why not?
  8. How does Grandma feel about Bootsie when the cat and Mary Alice first arrives? How do her feelings change?
  9. Why won't Grandma let Mary Alice stay at the end of the year?
  10. Were you surprised to see that Mary Alice married Royce at the end of the book?
  11. What are some of the things about Grandma that Mary Alice says she'll carry with her through life?
  12. As Grandma shakes the pecans from Old Man Nyquist's tree and plucks the Pensingers' pumpkins for the Halloween pies, Mary Alice asks, "Grandma, that wasn't stealing, was it?" Evaluate Grandma's actions. Do you think she was stealing? Why or why not?
  13. At the DAR "cherry tart" gathering for George Washington's birthday, Mrs. Weidenbach discovers (thanks to Grandma) that she is a Burdick, and Effie Wilcox's sister. In your opinion is Grandma seeking vengeance or justice here? Are her actions justifiable? Why or why not?
  14. Assess what you would do if you were Mary Alice. Would you go back to Chicago?
  15. Throughout the novel Grandma and Mary Alice never state that they love each other. Cite examples from the book that show their feelings.
  16. Describe Mary Alice's Valentine's Day scheme and its effect on Carleen Lovejoy.