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A Season of Gifts

Review

A Season of Gifts

Grandma Dowdel was first introduced in A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO, and her larger-than-life personality and physical stature captivated readers from the start. In A YEAR DOWN YONDER, Grandma Dowdel and her adventures were etched further into our minds and hearts. Now nearing what must be at least 100 years old, Grandma Dowdel returns once again in A SEASON OF GIFTS --- and she hasn’t lost any of her spunk.

The year is 1958, and that means church-tent revivals, a new Dairy Queen, and, of course, Elvis. Grandma Dowdel still occupies the last house on the block, just on the outskirts of town, and rumors still swirl around the infamous occupant. The new Methodist minister and his family come to town and happen to move in next door. The middle child, 11-year-old Bob, finds little hope in the move. Not only does the town seem small and boring, but Bob also has a few negative run-ins with the locals --- all before school even starts.

The eldest daughter, 14-year-old Phyllis, pours her heart out every night to Elvis in long love letters. Although she has never exactly received a reply, she realizes he needs all the support he can get while he serves in the army. To keep her mind occupied, Phyllis falls for the local teenage rebel and exhibits some questionable behavior. Little Ruth Ann is all of six years and wide-eyed to the growing world around her. She is immediately taken with Grandma Dowdel and disappears for hours on end.

Even though she would swear that she has no time for other people’s business, Grandma Dowdel finds a way to worm her way into her next-door neighbors’ lives. She manages to fill the empty Methodist church with nothing more than a box filled with “eye-teeth and gristle.” Grandma Dowdel is mysteriously able to set Phyllis straight with an unexpected ceremony and a timely visit from a previously unknown relative. And after a surprising encounter in her privy, she even finds a way to help poor Bob become more comfortable in his skin.

A SEASON OF GIFTS arrives just at the onslaught of the holiday season. Christmas is always associated with the giving and receiving of gifts. Although not all gifts are placed in a box, wrapped in shiny paper and placed under the tree, there are still ways to spread joy and cheer during Christmas. Because of her very nature, Grandma Dowdel transcends even this idea as her gifts seem to endlessly pour out all year round. 

My grandmother is a little old lady who talks about her favorite restaurants and dotes over her grandchildren; I can’t imagine her ever wielding a double-barrel shotgun, cutting off little turtle heads, or stealing trees from private property. And while Grandma Dowdel would probably scare me half to death, there is a part of her that is endearing and, on occasion, warm, comforting and grandmotherly. If you haven’t read the other companion novels, each one is filled with one hilarious story after another with Grandma Dowdel front and center. After three classic books, Richard Peck has succeeded in immortalizing Grandma Dowdel in children’s literature.

Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on October 14, 2010

A Season of Gifts
by Richard Peck

  • Publication Date: October 14, 2010
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin
  • ISBN-10: 0142417297
  • ISBN-13: 9780142417294