Study Guide

A Year Down Yonder Poverty

By Richard Peck

Poverty

In A Year Down Yonder, Mary Alice unflinchingly exposes readers to the harsh realities of the recession, and how it affects the people in her life. We know how hard up the Dowdel family is from the get go: the whole reason Mary Alice is going to live with Grandma for the year is because her parents can't afford a big enough apartment in Chicago anymore.

On her way to the train station and upon arriving in Grandma Dowdel's town, Mary Alice sees a lot of hungry and desperate people all around her. But during her stay with Grandma D, Mary Alice learns—by her grandmother's example—that even when times are hard, there's a lot people can do to help each other get by.

Questions About Poverty

  1. Why doesn't Mrs. Abernathy move her son to a veterans hospital?
  2. Why does Grandma bake so many pecan and pumpkin pies for the Halloween party?
  3. Does Arnold's job of painting a mural in the post office really matter? Why is the government paying him to do it?
  4. Do you think it makes sense that so many boys have been pulled out of school? How hard would it be to make that kind of decision as a parent? As a teenager?

Chew on This

The most impoverished characters in A Year Down Under are not the characters with the least money.

In A Year Down Under, it's clear that the recession has hit the big cities just as hard as it has hit the smaller towns.