Grandma Dowdel is one of my all-time favorite book characters! I first met her in Richard Peck’s “A Long Way from Chicago” and then in his Newbery Award winning story, “A Year Down Yonder”.
Mrs. Dowdel is clever and resourceful and the kind of person who wields great influence (for good) without ever getting due credit for her remarkable wisdom and generosity. Those books took place during the Great Depression, but Peck’s latest book, “A Season of Gifts”, brings us all the way up to the year 1958. I resonate with the era – when I would have been a very young child much like little Ruth Ann Barnhart in the story.
The Barnharts have just moved into the house next door to Mrs. Dowdel. Mr. Barnhart has come as the new Methodist minister and has brought along his wife and three children – innocent little Ruth Ann, rebellious teenage daughter Phyllis, and bullied 12-year old Bob who narrates their season of trials and gifts spent in a small Midwestern town.
Peck truly has his own gift … storytelling. For those who love the style of the tale told by Ralphie in ‘The Christmas Story’ by Jean Shepherd (made into the classic Christmas movie) – pick up these (and other) books by Richard Peck. You won’t be sorry.