Finished this Mock Newbery title in two hours. I love Richard Peck books!
Twenty years after the events in A Year Down Yonder we return to Piatt County and Grandma Dowdel. This time Bobby Barnhart tells the tale of his family's move next door to Mrs. Dowdel and the season they spend as her neighbors. It may be 1958 but not much has changed in this small "hick" town.
Mrs. Dowdel is up to her old tricks, getting people to do what she wants and helping others, while maintaining her grumpy, rough facade. And she has a shadow in Bobby's little sister, Ruth Ann, who spends all her time next door helping out. It is interesting to read about Mrs. Dowdel and the town from the point of view of a complete outsider, since Bobby is not even related to Mrs. Dowdel or any other member of town, but is the son of the new Methodist preacher.
I loved the hijinks and the warm moments, but I think I still like A Year Down Yonder best. I did like how the story tied back to its predecessors and Mrs. Dowdel's family at the end, though. I especially liked how things turned out with the Burdicks, the town's good-for-nothing family. It was nice to revisit this place and these people. Also, I feel that this is probably the conclusion and a nice one it is, too, with lessons about giving that shine through.
In a lot of ways, the Dowdel stories remind me of my childhood and my home. These characters, while they seem somewhat caricatured, are pretty close to people I know. And there values and beliefs ring very true. I am so glad that Peck wrote these stories and look forward to whatever else he decides to write in the future.