362N: Special-Needs Neighbor Girl

My mother has tasked me into finding a book for her that she read when she was young in the 1960s. She thinks it was published around this time. Here are the best details I could extract from her:
  1. Neighbor writes about mentally retarded neighbor girl
  2. Nonfiction, told from the perspective of the a neighbor reflecting about a neighbor girl growing up mentally retarded, with that neighbor girl eventually dying. Mom thinks the word “Wagon” is in the title. She also believes that the story had something to do with a wagon in the yard. Also, the neighbor telling the story had a boyfriend or a crush on a boy.
My mother stated that she wasn’t sure if the girl had Down syndrome or not, as this was before she even knew what that was, so she described it as “mentally retarded”. Those were all the details I could extrapolate, hoping you can help. That book brings a lot of nostalgia for my mother and will be a birthday present if I can get a name of the book.

6 thoughts on “362N: Special-Needs Neighbor Girl

  1. Kelly W

    I remember reading a very similar title around the same time period. I can’t remember the exact title, but I know Jelly Bean (or maybe Jellybean) was in the title. It was the girl’s nickname. The author may have been something like Shura, or somewhere around there in the alphabet.
    Good luck!!

  2. Ann

    This is a long shot; but I wonder if your mother might be thinking of Irene Hunt’s ‘Up a Road Slowly’, published 1966? This is fiction, but is written in the style of an autobiography. The book does include an intellectually impaired neighbour girl, who eventually dies. It also includes the narrator’s first relationships with boys: first the unsuitable Brett, and later the much more suitable and likeable Danny. I don’t remember a wagon, but it’s a long time since I’ve read this book.

  3. Ann

    The book that Kelly mentioned is Marlene Fanta Shyer: Welcome Home Jellybean (1978). It’s told from the point of view of the girl’s brother Neil, not of a neighbour; but certainly worth a look.

  4. Cal

    Thanks for the replies! My mother was born in 1956 and stated she was between 10-12 when reading this, making it 1966-1968. So that would rule out the jellybean book. On a road slowly is a great contender! However when giving mother any details of it, she THINKS she remembers some of those details, but not quite sure.

    However, she did just give me a potential piece of the puzzle: the neighbor girl’s name with mental impairment could have been Aggie?

    Thank you so much for the help

  5. Cody L

    Thanks everyone for the replies! My mother was born in 1956 and she states she was 10-12 years old when reading this book. That would put Welcome Hone JellyBean (1978) out of the time frame. ‘Up a Road Slowly’ meets a lot of the criteria and sounds closer to the book she’s looking for, however when I give my mother the details, she’s not 100% sure it’s it.

    She did give me a potential price of the puzzle: the little girl’s name with mental impairment is Aggie(not a typo), she thinks.

    Thanks so much for all the help.

    1. Trish

      I think this must be “Up a Road Slowly.” The intellectually impaired girl is Aggie Kilpin; the narrator, Julie, is unkind to her and disappoints her aunt Cordelia, the country schoolteacher she and her brother live with after their mother dies. A kind of wagon does play a part in the story- it’s a pony cart belonging to the snobby prettiest girl in class, who lets those in her favor ride in it with her. Years later Julie sees the cart abandoned after the girl comes to a bad end.


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