A Year Down Yonder (Hardcover) by Richard Peck. Dial Books for Young Readers, 2000. ISBN: 0803725183. pp: 130.
Ages: 9-14, gr: 4-8
Paperback (Reprint edition December 30, 2002) Puffin. ISBN: 0142300705. pp: 144



Times are hard in Chicago in 1937, and 15-year-old Mary Alice has to spend the school year with her Grandmother in downstate Illinois. Each season brings new adventure, new insight about the people around her, and, oh yes, laughs. A Year Down Yonder is a sequel to A Long Way From Chicago in which brother Joey is the main character, so boys may prefer to begin with that book.


  1. Read A Long Way From Chicago, which is about the annual summer visits of Mary Alice and brother Joey to Grandma Dowdel as younger children. List the characters that are in both books. Beside each name, list whether that person changed or not over the time span represented in the books and explain your answer.
    Peck, R. (1998). A long way from Chicago : A novel in stories. Dial. grades 4-8.

  2. Richard Peck paints some vivid word pictures of Grandma. Draw or paint a portrait of Mrs. Dowdel.

  3. Choose one of the holidays that Mary Alive celebrated while "Down Yonder" and research the history or practices of celebrating that holiday.

  4. Mary Alice comes "Down Yonder" because of the Recession of 1937. Skim the following sources to define recession in your own words.
  5. Form a group of five. Each student uses one of the following sites to find facts about the Civilian Conservation Corps. Discuss how the activities of the CCC positively affected the environment.
  6. List similarities and differences between the Christmas programs in A Year Down Yonder and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
    Robbins, B. (1st ed. 1972; reprint ed. 1988). The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. HarperTrophy.

  7. Brainstorm a list of questions about tornadoes then go to Tornado Project Online to research answers.

  8. Why do you think that Grandma Dowdel didn’t want Mary Alive to stay with her at the end of the school year?

  9. A Year Down Yonder is the Newbery Medal winner for 2001. Read the Library Notes about the 2001 Honor Books. There seems to be an unusual similarity of themes among these books. Select one to read and say why or why not you believe A Year Down Yonder deserved to win over the honor book.

  10. The last chapter of the book is about Mary Alice’s wedding. The following announcement of the marriage of the parents of Richard Peck is reprinted from the July 22, 1928 issue of the Decatur Daily Review. Write a similar news article for the marriage of Mary Alice.

About the Author


More for the Teacher

Links to other online guides for A Year Down Yonder.


A Year Down Yonder
Accelerated Reader: Quiz #44671 EN; Book Level 4.5; Points= 4.0
Reading Counts: Level 4.9; Points= 9.0
Lexile Level 610
word count= 29415