Monday, October 12, 2009

A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck

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.


Patti said...

So what did you think about how the Native American's are portrayed in this book? Lots of discussion on SLJ's Heavy Medal blog.

I also haven't read any Peck (seriously, nothing ever) so I'm curious how this will stand on its own.

Jenn H. said...

Well, they weren't portrayed very well, but that's because they weren't really being portrayed at all. It was more the townspeoples ideas and misconceptions that Grandma Dowdel was playing off of. In fact, it seemed that she was subtly making fun of the townspeople, not the Native Americans. The funeral for the Princess comes the closest to showing how she truely feels about the Native people.

As for Peck, while it does connect to the other stories, it can also stand on its own. I think you'll enjoy the humor of it.

joanna said...

I never read Peck before this one and I enjoyed it very much. It is a romp of a book and I didn't feel anything was missed from not having read the previous books. I actually think it's better not to have so that Grandma D is a fresh character. I'm sure so many of the awards committees have read his previous book so it will be one to watch as to whether that harms or helps.

And I do need to re-read it in light of the discussion on the Kickapoo Princess. My current view is similar to Jenn's comments but I do want to re-read it with those questions in my mind.