This week's Newbery book was 2001 winner: Richard Peck's A Year Down Yonder. The novel opens as Mary Alice is about to board a train, sent to stay with her grandma for a year when times are just too tough and her parents can't afford for her to stay in their tight quartes in Chicago. The year is 1937 and though the Great Depression is over, a recession has set in; things are hard for folks all over the place. Though she begins the year dreading the embarassing antics of her unconventional (*to say the least) grandma, Mary Alice's year flies by, and what unfolds in this book is a funny and nostalgia-inducing coming of age story.
One thing that I appreciated about Peck's story were the little tidbits of information that kids would stumble upon about U.S. history: references to the Civilian Conservation Corp (C.C.C.), Roosevelt's Recession, and the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.), to mention a few. Peck sneaks these things into the story in such a way that you don't realize that you are learning. :)
I also loved Peck's humor which comes through, not only in the ridiculous things that Mary Alice's grandma does, but also in Grandma's words of wisdom and other witticisms.
Would I recommend it: ABSOLUTELY. I LOVED it!
Ages: 10 and up