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Downright Dencey (Dencey #1)

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  115 ratings  ·  18 reviews
Caroline Dale Snedeker 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 myst...more
Paperback, 274 pages
Published June 1st 2003 by Bethlehem Books (first published 1927)
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Charlotte's Web by E.B. WhiteElla Enchanted by Gail Carson LevineBecause of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamilloHatchet by Gary PaulsenRamona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
Newbery Medal Honor Books
106th out of 306 books — 247 voters
The Journal of George Fox by George FoxThee, Hannah! by Marguerite de AngeliRise Up Singing by Peter BloodThe Journal and Major Essays of John Woolman by Phillips P. MoultonThy Friend, Obadiah by Brinton Turkle
Quaker Books
33rd out of 74 books — 23 voters

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Community Reviews

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Wayne S.
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
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
Benji Martin
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...more
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.
Warren Truitt
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.
Thomas Bell
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...more
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...more
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.
Megan D. Neal
Jan 23, 2011 Megan D. Neal 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.
Cheryl in CC NV
It was surprisingly interesting and easy to read - and would foster good discussions. You do want to be aware of the issue of racism - but it was handled in a way that works in the historical setting of the book. I was mesmerized and read it one sitting. I particularly liked the way the stories got more complex and thoughtful as the children matured - gracefully done.
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.
Raymond Bial
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.
Maureen E
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
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.
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
Wavering between a 3 and a 4.
Lynette Caulkins
Lynette Caulkins marked it as to-read
Sep 28, 2014
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