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Down Sand Mountain

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  123 ratings  ·  36 reviews
In a tale full of humor and poignancy, a sheltered twelve-year-old boy comes of age in a small Florida mining town amid the changing mores of the 1960s.

It's 1966 and Dewey Turner is determined to start the school year right. No more being the brunt of every joke. No more "Deweyitis." But after he stains his face with shoe polish trying to mimic the popular Shoeshine Boy at
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published October 14th 2008 by Candlewick Press
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2009 Newbery Contenders
38th out of 68 books — 595 voters
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139th out of 165 books — 11 voters

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Community Reviews

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I struggled to finish this book, and when I was done, my immediate thought was, "Ugh. I didn't like it." Having said that, it's not horrible. I know, one star says, "HORRIBLE", but for me it was mainly tiresome.

I enjoyed hearing Dewey's thoughts in the beginning. But then this bizarre scene in Darwin Turkel's bedroom popped up, and I began to feel anxious about what later pages might hold. (And there was a little "sex scene" that was just... erk.) And by the time I was 3/5 of the way through, I
In his 1966 Florida small town, Dewey Turner is ready to start a new school year and he is determined to have a good one. But after watching the annual minstrel show, he decides to try out a costume for the “Shoeshine Boy”, accidentally staining his face and earning him a new nickname, Sambo. He’s picked on and bullied at school, and when Dewey’s father, who is running for local office, starts campaigning in the local black neighborhood, things for Dewey get even worse. The only person who doesn ...more
This is an interesting and very unusual story that takes place during the racial unease of the 1960s, near the onset of the Vietnam War. Steve Watkins introduces a couple of characters that definitely hold some promise, Darwin Turkel and his sister Darla Turkel, and their interactions with the main character Dewey Turner are certainly unexpected and different. If the main character were a couple of years older I'm not sure if this would be classified as juvenile fiction, or even as young adult, ...more
Dewey Turner is your ordinary boy during 1966-1967, except that he is too short, too quiet, too annoying, and continuously confused. Down Sand Mountain follows Dewey during seventh grade, which is also his first year of high school in his town. He must navigate changing relationships between himself and his family, Darla Turkel, and the kids at school. Some of the changes Dewey is hoping for and others are completely unexpected. As if his own life wasn't confusing enough, Dewey and his family ar ...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Grandma Bev for

It's 1966 and there is still a lot of racial tension and discrimination in this small Florida town. The Vietnam war is in high gear, and Dewey Turner has many personal issues to deal with.

Dewey desperately wants to be the "Shoeshine Boy" in next year's minstrel show at school, but dying his face with black shoe polish turns out to be the wrong thing to do because it won't wash off. The kids start calling him Sambo, and then the bullies won't let him u
Jan 04, 2010 Walt rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: thinkers
Recommended to Walt by: Carolyn Frank
I don't think Dewey Turner and his friend, Darla, ever make it together down Sand Mountain.

You'll have to read the book --- or, perhaps, you already have --- and tell me if they do. My recollection is leaning toward one conclusion about that issue --- it's been a while since I finished it, but you can let me know in your own review when you post it what you think.

It's like a lot of things about the book, though. There is not the easy this or that or black-and-white of easy thinkers there. It's
2 1/2 stars
I will preface this review by stating that I downloaded this book immediately after reading "What Comes After". I was enthralled by the writing and content of Watkins' book and wanted to read more by him.
I must admit I was a little disappointed by this book. I found the characters to be fairly flat. It's not that they were unlikeable, it was just difficult to get to truly know them. The parents were present, without real presence. Wayne and Tink did not seem to be involved in any of
internat librarian
The sights this book inspires are so pure and strong that, in one sense, nothing else matters. Dewey Turner is socially awkward, often scared, and naïve – even for a 7th grader. But most of all he’s sincere. The setting is a struggling town in 1960s Florida, a wasteland built on the phosphate industry. Watkins closely sketches the land, its people, and the conflicts of the time. His eye for detail saves the story from miring itself in sermons against bullying, racism, or the traumas of the Vietn ...more
Nikki Warnke
It’s 1966, and 12 year-old Dewey Turner is planning on having the best school year yet. However, his first day is ruined in a tragic, yet funny, shoe polish incident that earns him the nickname, Sambo. The bullying increases when Dewey’s father comes up with a sure-fire way of winning the local election. He’s going to campaign for the local black vote. Dewey finds friendship in Darla, but she’s a girl and leaves him confused most of the time.

In Dewey, Watkins creates a character that all of us
I enjoyed this book, but it was incredibly depressing. I've read depressing southern memoirs before, but never one for kids this young that had so much adult content. The main character's age is somewhat misleading because this is definitely not a book for anyone under 14.
I'm reading this off the shelf at the bookstore. It's a ya book, and it's actually quite good. I think the themes of coming of age, in the sixties appealed to me.

I finished this yesterday. It was just okay, after all was said and done. I understood a lot of the intention behind the story; I felt like it was trying too hard in some way to be profound, and yet, it succeeded in communicating a feeling.

It had a clumsy allusion to "To Kill a Mockingbird", and a subplot involving rat poison w
Amy Kitchell-Leighty
I didn't like this book right off the bat. In fact, I was annoyed with the first couple of chapters. The voice didn't feel believable to me and the events seemed forced. However, I either got use to the narrators voice or the writing became better because by chapter eight I was engrossed. Down Sand Mountain is about a twelve year old boy named Dewey Turner coming of age in the summer of 1966. The book spans from the summer to March of the following year. Along the way Dewey encounters racism, de ...more
During the 1960s, a young boy named Dewey Turner struggles to be recognized in his school, but hope still remains in him that he will be popular someday. He does gain attention, but it is an embarrassment that causes insults and taunts from his peers. This novel portrays the typical experiences of teenagers who struggle to fit in within their community. It also talks about how a person can discover oneself through the individual's experiences as he/she grows up because of the lessons that it tea ...more
In this coming-of-age story about a young, too short, boy in a small Florida town in 1966, seventh grader Dewey is angry because another boy used his shoeshine kit to make his face black, Dewey wants to get that role next year so he paints himself and then is nervous about going to school. He just wants to have friends and not forget his locker combination. When he gets there kids call him Sambo and prevent him from using the whites only bathroom. Meanwhile things are changing around the country ...more
My darling friend Karen Cushman recommended this, my darling friend Kaylan Adair edited it. And it won a Golden Kite!!

I love the way Steve Watkins stayed fully in Dewey's point of view. When big changes came for the family -- the lost election, the move away from Sand Mountain -- it was all perfectly within the m.c.'s POV.

This book did not knock my socks off however. Why did Darla have to ride off into the sunset, permanently? The bully getting poisoned and Dewey taking the fall didn't work for
Joan Watkins
Having grown up in a surrounding town near Sand Mountain, the author really captured what it was like in that are during the sixties.
surprisingly enough, I got this book from a library for 24 cents. it was really.. intriguing. still, one of my overall favorites!
Dewey is the quintessential hero for this trek through puberty. Everyone who has passed through adolescence has subliminal memories of the period that are joyful and painful. In creating Dewey, the author has provided a real and believable person and a story that will keep readers glued to the book. The author has written a funny, sensitive, and realistic novel that sheds light on how adolescents cope while they pass through this difficult stage of their lives.

To read our full review, go to The
Christina Longmire
Great, I loved the unique personalities of the characters and how unexpected some things were.
A student lent me this book. He said, "Ms. B, you haaaaaave to read this." Yes, sir. On my way.
And after two months of holding onto his book, i have finally finished a book without the traditional story arch for YA books. There was no resolution in terms of the strained racial tensions in this Florida community, and Dewey didn't seem very likable or realistic. Overall, Dewey is kind of like a 12 year old Holden Caufield who is just as confused about life, love and trust.
Sandra McLeod
What I liked best about this novel were Dewey's relationships: particularly his relationship with Darla and his relationship with his brother Wayne. Dewey's voice was very real and his coming-of-age experiences were depicted with great poignancy. I felt the story moved a little slowly in some places but overall it was a very believable story of a a 12-year-old boy growing up in a small southern town in the sixties.
Pat Macenulty
I'm not quite finished with this book, but I am really enjoying it. It's supposed to be a young adult novel, but I am enjoying it as straight fiction. I'm loving the Florida setting and these deeply felt characters. I knew Steve in graduate school, and I'm really impressed with what he's done with this book.
I thought this book was amazing. It teaches all about segregation and life back inn the 1960s, but in a fun, adventurous way! The protagonist has many adventures, challenges, and a few loses.
Overall, this is a really good book. It had me turning page after page, I couldn't stop!
this book is kind of a biography of segragation in the 60's, it is quite ammusing to see how some people back then treated each other and what some people need to find out that people are people insted of just asumming from what they've heard.
Catherine  Mustread
Dewey's life in the 7th grade in a small Florida panhandle town in the 1960s. He does not relish joining his older brother at the high school. Well developed character is memorable and sympathetic.
Interesting subject matter -- racism in a very isolated small Southern town -- that just fell a little flat for me; poorly paced, maybe, as the ending seemed rather abrupt.
Dec 26, 2012 Alya rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
Between 3.5-4, Dewey got irritating or rather, frustrating sometimes. Just wanted him to understand something! And I can't figure out the intended audience entirely...
Library Maven
I'm troubled by the style of this book ... narrating events as a participant and observer creates a limited point of view, passive feel.
Uhm... for me, by the end I was just ready to be out of Dewey's head. The text seemed to drag on, but never really do anything.
I liked this book, but it wasn't great. I had a hard time figuring out how the author wanted all the story lines to fit together.
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Steve Watkins is the author of Down Sand Mountain, a young adult novel published in October 2008 by Candlewick Press. Another young adult novel, Goat Girl, is scheduled for publication by Candlewick Press in spring 2011.

Steve is also author of a short story collection, My Chaos Theory (2006, Southern Methodist University Press), which was a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize, and an Honorable
More about Steve Watkins...

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