Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple

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Peck, Richard
New York : Dial Books for Young Readers, 2000.
IL 5-8, RL 5.2
ISBN 0803735183

(3 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

Mary Alice Dowdel must go live with her grandmother because the depression has hit home. Her brother Joey has always gone with her to visit but he’s off working in the West. She must face Grandma Dowdel on her own. This is no small feat as Grandma Dowdel is feared in the small town. Even her own mother whispers as she puts her on the train “better you than me”. Grandma has a way of making everything equal though and Mary Alice learns about life and being a woman from her. This is truly a hilarious story especially when Mary Alice finally gets the nerve to invite the boy of her dreams home to study and a naked woman with a snake wrapped around her runs through the house with Grandma close on her heals. You will laugh until your sides act watching Mary Alice and Grandma come to understand one another.  (Melissa Britton,

Booktalk #2

Mary Alice Dowdel and her brother Joey have spent many summers with their Grandmother Dowdel in a little hick town south of Chicago during the Great Depression. Now she is fifteen. Joey is working out West and circumstances are forcing her to spend the entire school year with her grandmother, a woman well known for her peculiar dress and definite opinions -- a woman few in town would dare to cross. This is a very funny book, from the first day of school when the class bully follows Mary Alice home until the fine Sunday afternoon when she invites the handsome new boy in class over for lemonade and they are interrupted by a naked lady, a very large snake and Grandma armed with a rifle. You will laugh out loud as you read this book and watch Mary Alice learn from her  grandmother how to outsmart her enemies and help those in need. This book, which won the Newbery Medal, is the sequel to A Long Way from Chicago.  (Jeannie Bellavance for Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Awards)

Booktalk #3

It's a depression year, Mary Alice's brother has grown up and left home, her parents have moved into a tiny apartment in Chicago, and there is no room for her. So she is sent to a little hick town in Illinois to stay for a year with her Grandma Dowdel who is so outrageous and frightening that even her mother is afraid of her. So, it turns out, is the whole town. It's a tough place to make friends, but she does make at least one, and has a big crush on a boy and gets caught up in her Grandmother's amazing schemes. For instance, on Halloween they dump hot glue on some boys who come to turn over their outhouse! (Karen Kargel, Colorado Blue Spruce YA Book Award, 2003)

SUBJECTS:     Grandmothers -- Fiction.
                        Grandparent and child -- Ficton.
                        Country life -- Fiction.
                        Illinois -- Fiction.


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