Monday, September 14, 2009

A Season of Gifts

by Richard Peck
New York: Penguin, 2009. 164 pgs.
In the midst of all the bad news these days, there is one nova-sized bright spot: Grandma Dowdel is back. Peck adds to his Newbery-honor-winning A Long Way from Chicago and his Newbery-winning A Year Down Yonder, Grandma Dowdel's adventures in 1958 with her new neighbors, a Methodist preacher's family--two girls and a boy, who narrates. Although the fifties don't have the same cachet as the thirties and forties, and Joey and Mary Alice are long gone to their grown-up lives, Grandma Dowdel still manages to terrorize the hoodlums out of her melon patch; save the preacher's daughter from the Elvis-like wiles of Roscoe Burdick; and give young Bob the chance of a lifetime to drive the getaway car (his family's own '50 Nash, aka "The Pickle") in a daring Christmas tree raid. As is her wont, Grandma Dowdel gives her priceless gifts while seeming to be acting only in enlightened self-interest. What a deep and abiding pleasure to have her back.

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