A Year Down Yonder
It was 1937 and recession had hit the United States once again. Mary Alice is fifteen and has to spend a year with her grandmother while her family found work to get money. Leaving her Chicago city ways, she is forced to live like a ‘hick’ in southern Illinois with her grandmother. While she is there she has to decide if she is going to roll with the punches and fit in or if she will live a year in misery and self-pity.
- The apartment that Mary Alice’s parents rent is only big enough for two of them. Her brother Joey goes west with the Civilian Conservation Corps and Mary Alice has to go live with her grandma.
- Mary Alice takes a train to her Grandma’s town and upon arrival her grandmother takes her straight to the school house and has her go to school without even unpacking first.
- People pick on Mary Alice because she is dressed so nicely, little do they know that she is not rich, she was just wearing her nicest dress because she was on the train and just arrived in town… it was not what she would normally wear to school.
- Her first day she gets on the bad side of the school bully, Mildred. Mildred expects Mary Alice to give her a dollar but she doesn’t have one and Mildred follows her home.
- Grandma takes her in and gives Mildred food and drink, but places a dirty trick on her to get her off Mary Alice’s case.
- Grandma plays by her own rules, and she is trigger happy, the whole town knows it and does not respect Grandma all too much.
- Halloween comes and Grandma likes to play tricks on those who try to trick her. One boy ends up unable to attend school for awhile.
- Grandma follows the rules but bends them a little by knocking pecans out of Old Man Nyquist’s tree, for she was only allowed the ones that were on the ground.
- On Armistice Day, Grandma is the one collecting money from people, making sure that those who have a lot give a lot, and those who have little… well give what they can—if they can.
- Mary Alice is chosen to play Mary in the Christmas Pageant. In order to get her outfit, Grandma traps her own foxes and skins them, selling the pelts for money.
- Joey is able to stop by for a few days for Christmas and Mary Alice absolutely loves! Then they are both able to go home for Christmas.
- The DAR is in need of someone to back the traditional cherry tarts for Valentines Day meeting. They ask Grandma, but her condition is that it is held at her house, despite tradition. It is and Grandma had something else up her sleeve, revealing the true identity of one of the women, and reuniting a family… even though the woman does not appreciate it.
- A man was sent from the Works Progress Administration to do a mural in the post office. He was a traveling man and brought trouble. Grandma ends up letting him stay in her house for a fee. The man ends up painting a nude picture of one of the women in town and is shunned, but Grandma sticks up for him and he ends up marrying Mary Alice’s teacher.
- A tornado hits town, and Mary Alice is scared that her grandma wouldn’t be safe, so rather than going to safety at school, she runs home.
- Mary Alice ends up falling for the other new kid in school, even though someone else was interested in him, and in the end after a few years they get married—at Grandma’s house.
I never had to transfer schools, other than the transition from high school to college, but I can relate to new situations and having to overcome obstacles to get people to trust and respect you. Mary Alice learns to love and appreciate her grandmother for what she does. She is not as mean as everyone makes her out to be. This book would be good for the classroom, it teaches the students not to assume things about people, but to get to know them before deciding to like or hate them. - AF