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Downright Dencey (Dencey #1)

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  177 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
This treasure of a novel, a Newbery Honor Book, is set on the island of Nantucket just before the War of 1812. Much more than a tale of whaling ships and gentle Quaker eccentricities, it is a tale of friendship-the kind most truly espoused by these 'plain' folk, with all the struggle and complexity one should expect. Dionis "Dencey" Coffyn is a mystery to her mother, Lydia ...more
Paperback, 268 pages
Published August 15th 2005 by Bethlehem Books (first published January 1st 1927)
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Newbery Medal Honor Books
130th out of 314 books — 328 voters
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209th out of 306 books — 56 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 588)
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Wayne S.
Sep 01, 2012 Wayne S. rated it really liked it
It is sometime shortly after the War of 1812, and twelve-year-old Dionis (Dencey) Coffyn lives with her parents, father Tom, who is a whaling ship captain and away for years at a time, mother Lydia, and baby brother Ariel, along with several cousins whose mother had died and whose father is also a sailor, her grandfather Coffyn, and the housekeeper Peggy Runnell, on Nantucket Island, MA, during the days when whaling was the chief occupation. They are all Quakers, except Grandfather Coffyn who i ...more
Benji Martin
May 12, 2014 Benji Martin rated it it was amazing
I kind of feel like reading through the Newbery is like hiking the Appalachian Trail. If you only stick to the white blazed trail you’re gonna see some cool sights, but in order to see a lot of the breathtaking views, you have to take some side trails, sometimes even a whole day’s hike away. Yeah, it’s going to make your whole AT hike a bit longer, but it’s going to also make it more memorable because you saw that amazing view that you wouldn’t have seen if you had just stuck to the trail.

If you
I didn't expect to enjoy this so much! Beverly Cleary lists it as one of her favorites while growing up. She said, "Downright Dencey, I think is still a fine book, and I'm very sorry it's out of print, but I suspect it's because there is a character who is referred to as 'Injun Jill.' But Downright Dencey is really a very fine book." Even knowing that, I still didn't expect to get so drawn into the story and to care about the characters as much as I did! I agree with Beverly Cleary that it is re ...more
Monica Fastenau
Dec 31, 2014 Monica Fastenau rated it liked it
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 ti ...more
Mar 21, 2010 Cathie rated it liked it
It took me a bit of reading to care about the characters in the book. I think it is just an older style for one thing and Jetsam was so dirty and rough I didn't think he would be interesting to me. Then the story of Dencey's parents meeting pulled me in and then her dilemma with Jetsam and hencer her mother and then I could hardly put it down.
Sep 07, 2013 Sadie rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I've ever read, hands down. It's a favorite of mine and has been for almost a decade. I will never stop loving it. Snedeker wrote one of the most touching, powerful, beautiful stories ever told about love, trust, and faith. Anyone who is interested in history or romance or religion should make this a must-read.
Warren Truitt
Nov 06, 2007 Warren Truitt rated it really liked it
Shelves: chapterbooks
If you can get past casually thrown out epithets like "nigger-face" and "Portugee", the low opinion of Native Americans, and the relentlessly crushing guilt that guides these Nantucket Quakers' everyday lives, you'll find a pretty good story of compassion, belonging, adventure, and love.
Raymond Bial
Nov 13, 2013 Raymond Bial rated it it was amazing
Lovely and elegant novel for children and adults. Publishing in 1946, Downright Dencey was written at a time when authors sought to write great literature for children and adults. Excellent historical novel with wonderful characters and setting.
Thomas Bell
Jun 25, 2014 Thomas Bell rated it really liked it
Shelves: newbery-honors
I thought that this was a really good book. It is a love story - two really, since part II is all about the parents' story. I really liked the part near the end with Sammy and Injun Jill. The VERY ending was a little not so great but almost, and some people would like that, so I guess it's good.

As for grammar, there was a lot of comma splicing. Was that okay 86 years ago? I don't really know. Also, it always bugs me the way the Quakers use 'thee.' It's not that they use it, it's that they don't
Sep 13, 2013 Jill rated it really liked it
Shelves: newbery-honor
As other reviewers have said, if you can get past the racial epithets it really is an enjoyable read. Lots of interesting information about Nantucket.

"Here was to be seen, as in a diminishing glass, a tiny New England, delicately outlined--intensified--in a word, islanded. Here were the New England character and hardihood, its God-fearing and mental eagerness, yet all sensitivity changed, individualized, so that they became Nantucket and no other. Instead of the stony fields of New England, the
May 13, 2014 Brenda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery-books
I really liked this book. Great how the characters view of each other changed and grew through out the story. Even a surprise on how Sam changed his view of Jill. I liked it better than the 1928 honor winner.
Mar 18, 2015 Manda rated it it was amazing
This wonderful Newbery honor book from 1927 tells the story of a young Quaker girl named Dencey and her friendship with an outcast boy. Yes, the writing style is “old-fashioned” (more formal), but I didn’t find it off-putting at all. In fact, given the Quaker setting, it seemed to fit. I learned so much about Quaker beliefs and practice as well as the Nantucket whaling culture and what it meant for families (fathers absent for years at a time). The characters are so richly drawn. Recommended for ...more
Katie Fitzgerald
A fascinating story about Quaker life. My 1920s pick for Newbery Through the Decades 2016. Reviewed on my blog:
Sep 10, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it
Loved it!
Inhabiting Books
Jan 23, 2011 Inhabiting Books added it
Shelves: 2011
I expected to like this one more than I did. Especially given that it's a Newbery Honor book. The writing is excellent -albeit too long and wordy at times- and I like the character development. It was also an intriguing look into Quaker life. The main male protagonist annoyed me no end. It was okay overall, good, even great in some places, but I struggled to stay interested enough to finish.

Interesting look at Quaker family life back in the early 1800s. Young girl's life and early love.
Michael Fitzgerald
A fascinating book that addresses many serious issues.

Disappointing that the only Maginel Wright Barney illustrations were the front cover and the little black-and-white chapter headings.
Maureen E
Oct 11, 2011 Maureen E rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this one a lot. One of my favorite classic children’s books. There is some major of-its-time description of a Native American character. But it’s still a lovely read. [Oct. 2008]
Collette Violette
Feb 15, 2011 Collette Violette rated it liked it
Another older YA historical fiction. Interesting view into Quaker life. It takes place on Nantucket during the whaling years-which is a sure-fire attention grabber for me.
Jul 30, 2013 Rick rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Good story. I liked it because it was on Nantucket and it was about Quakers.
Jul 15, 2012 Damaris marked it as to-read
1928 Newbery Honor Book
Feb 22, 2010 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: second-childhood
Wavering between a 3 and a 4.
Mandie DeWhite
Mandie DeWhite marked it as to-read
May 05, 2016
Kevin rated it it was amazing
Apr 27, 2016
Rachel marked it as to-read
Apr 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Apr 25, 2016
S. marked it as to-read
Apr 18, 2016
Alexa Burks
Alexa Burks marked it as to-read
Apr 15, 2016
Maeghan marked it as to-read
Apr 13, 2016
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