Newbery Review: Downright Dencey

This Newbery book portrays a young Quaker girl who struggles to act piously while crossing social boundaries. | A book review by Newbery and Beyond

I liked this Newbery book way more than I thought I would.  Dencey is a Quaker girl on Nantucket, and her fiery spirit is of great concern to her pious mother.  Dencey befriends Sam Jetsam, the local ragamuffin and Indian half-breed (as this book was published in 1927, American Indians are not portrayed in the greatest of lights–the perils of reading old, politically incorrect books) and teaches him to read, despite his bad manners and reluctance to trust anyone.  Dencey is punished for spending time with the troublesome boy, but even that cannot keep her from doing what she sees as her duty, and eventually Sam becomes a part of the family.

Dencey’s father is away at sea for much of the book, as are most of the Nantucket men, so Dencey’s mother is overly strict with her, but despite feeling that her mother doesn’t understand her and only seeing her father every couple of years, Dencey does her best to please God and do what she thinks is right.  Despite having a temper not befitting a Quaker, she shows “love that transcends social boundaries,” as the back cover states.  This book is sweet and very well written.  It’s worth a read for preteens at a fairly high reading comprehension level, as some of the words are old-fashioned and outdated.  Keep in mind that some of the social norms are likewise outdated, and prepare to discuss if your child decides to read it!

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

About Monica

I am obsessed with all things books. I'm a music teacher by day and a freelance editor by night.

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