Book: A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

Wrong Way Newbery

On LM_Net, a library listserv I belong to, there has been recent discussion about the Newbery Medal and if it has lost its way. A recent article posed the same question in School Library Journal.

While the SLJ article discussed previous decisions that are now looked at mistakes, choosing The Secret of the Andes over Charlotte’s Web for example, and never choosing a Laura Ingalls Wilder book for the top award, it mostly looks at the last few years where often the unusual book is chosen. I have to admit I didn’t care for many of the titles that won from the last few years and I think it’s a question well worth discussing.

Richard Peck Is A Winner in My Book

However, the fact I was most disappointed to read that A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck, the 2001 winner, never landed on the best seller lists that a Newbery designation normally earns. If you are one of the people who has never read this book, I hope that you will now.

I must admit I never cared much for Peck’s books with contemporary settings, but his historical fiction are nothing short of jewels. The entire Blossom Culp series consisting of The Ghost Belonged to Me, Ghosts I Have Been (the one with the Titanic in it), Blossom Culp and the Sleeping Death, and The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp are one of my favorite series and I’ve re-read it enough that I dashed off that list of titles without looking them up. Ghosts I Have Been is especially good and I recommend you start with that one and then go back to the beginning of the series. The first one The Ghost Belonged to Me was highly re-written to become the Disney movie Child of Glass, the one with the little French girl ghost who sang “Frère Jacques” to her doll that had diamonds hidden inside. It was replayed often on The Magical World of Disney. If you remember the ghost girl, read the series and see where she came from.

I also think his Fair Weather about a family going to the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893 is simply brilliant and the best new historical fiction I’ve read in the last few years. It’s well worth a look.

A Year Down Yonder

A Year Down Yonder is a sequel to A Long Way to Chicago both concern a pair of Chicago city siblings in the Great Depression going to spend time with their grandmother who has her own way of doing things and may or may not be the Blossom Culp of the earlier series. It is simply a hoot, heartwarming and a real peek into what life was like. It’s also a great example of how “olde thyme” wasn’t all the same, even within a single year there were different life experiences and life expectations. This is a great example of that.

So please do yourself a favor and go out and get one of wonderful, funny, touching, historical fiction novels by Richard Peck today and help put them on the best seller lists which is where they all belong.

UPDATED October 21 2017: I broke it into sections with headings, fixed a couple of typos, changed the book titles to my current standardized formatting, and added a signature block.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook,  Twitter,  Google+,   LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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Sarah Uthoff - Trundlebed Tales

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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