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A Season of Gifts Hardcover – September 17, 2009

73 customer reviews
Book 3 of 3 in the Living in Chicago Series

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 5–8—It's been a long while since readers last enjoyed a season with Grandma Dowdel, and what a startling, hilarious, and touching season it is. It is now 1958, a time when Elvis is king and the glow of television sets has replaced sitting on the porch for an evening. Yet as much as things have changed, Mrs. Dowdel has remained pretty much the same, living alone in the last house in town, pushing 90 and still toting her rifle, cooking up a storm and taking down the neighborhood hoodlums. What's new are the PKs (preacher's kids) who've moved in next door, including the 12-year-old narrator, Bob Barnhardt, an unassertive boy who has the misfortune of being welcomed to town in a most unneighborly fashion. Mrs. Dowdel intervenes and helps out the Barnhardts in her own inimitable way, proving herself as clever, capable, and downright amazing as ever and allowing Bob and his family to see just what a gift of a neighbor she is. With a storyteller's sure tone, Peck has once again created a whole world in one small Illinois town, a place where the folksy wisdom and generosity of one gruff old woman can change lives.—Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library END


-This is one of Peck+s best novels yet-and that+s saying something.+-Kirkus Reviews, starred review

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 690L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Books; First Edition edition (September 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803730829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803730823
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Richard Peck has written over twenty novels, and in the process has become one of America's most highly respected writers for young adults. A versatile writer, he is beloved by middle graders as well as young adults for his mysteries and coming-of-age novels. He now lives in New York City. In addition to writing, he spends a great deal of time traveling around the country attending speaking engagements at conferences, schools and libraries...Mr. Peck has won a number of major awards for the body of his work, including the Margaret A. Edwards Award from School Library Journal, the National Council of Teachers of English/ALAN Award, and the 1991 Medallion from the University of Southern Mississippi. Virtually every publication and association in the field of children s literature has recommended his books, including Mystery Writers of America which twice gave him their Edgar Allan Poe Award. Dial Books for Young Readers is honored to welcome Richard Peck to its list with Lost in Cyberspace and its sequel The Great Interactive Dream Machine...

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Reader on October 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Grandma Dowdel is back, and she is as fearless and crafty as ever. Richard Peck manages to convey a child's point of view while fully realizing the adult characters. The figures of speech that come from his characters' mouths add to the humor. Peck's books are always finely tuned, and this is no exception. The setting, southern Illinois in 1958, is clearly drawn. From the first line, "You could see from here the house was haunted," to the last, this slim volume will leave you wanting more. My only fear is that Grandma Dowdel is twenty years older than when we last saw her, and I want her to go on forever.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By The Children's Book Reporter on October 31, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Mrs. Dowdel (of A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago fame) is back, seen this time from the viewpoint of a preacher's son who has just moved into the house next door. As he and his family try to adjust and survive, they receive more than a little help from their crafty, indomitable next-door neighbor...though all given in her own, unique way.
Richard Peck's writing in A Season of Gifts is as wonderful as ever...if not more so. Every sentence is perfectly crafted, and there are some so perfect, so unique, that they left me gaping. He writes a town you can see and smell and people you could touch (or maybe smack or maybe hug!). The plot is not his strongest...but with writing this crazy good, who cares?
On second thought...we do. Because with this kind of character development, this remarkable crafting, this extraordinary pacing--imagine what a plot with more depth would do. Quite honestly, it would take this from one of the best children's books written this year to one of the best children's books written ever.
And if you're looking for a great Christmas gift for someone with good taste in found it.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By j.x on September 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Grandma Dowdel is still the same formidable figure we saw in the first two books, but we view her through the eyes of a neighboring boy who doesn't spend nearly as much time, or get nearly as involved, with her adventures as Joey and Mary Alice did. Where once we might have had Joey or Mary Alice report to the reader Grandma's exact reaction to hearing the price of a Christmas tree, we're stuck in this book with, "Mrs. Dowdel had a lot to say, reportedly."

Nor do the adventures themselves pack the same punch that they had before. Aside from the problem of being filtered through secondhand reports, they don't build up to the same sort of climax or punchline as they did before. I think this is because we don't get as many hints about Grandma Dowdel's plots as we did before. Instead, we hear a lot more about how she's busy baking all the time or she's constantly working the garden.

I am also disappointed by the main character. One of the things that made "A Year Down Yonder" great was that Mary Alice started displaying the same backbone and cunning that Grandma Dowdel had. Here, the main character either just takes orders from Grandma Dowdel or observes what's going on. He doesn't display much character depth or growth aside from eventually realizing that Grandma Dowdel is actually a good person. His own colorlessness is what most marred the book for me.

Overall, "A Season of Gifts" is not a bad book, but it isn't an especially good one. I hope we see more of Grandma Dowdel in the next book than we did in this one.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Cindy on October 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I didn't think it could be done, but the return of Mrs.Dowdel and the related cast of characters from A YEAR DOWN YONDER kept me turning page after page, hungry for more. Introducing the new neighbors and using a holiday setting to conclude the tale were brilliant. Hopefully, Mrs. Dowdel will live on in future great books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By RCM VINE VOICE on December 31, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Fans of Richard Peck's "A Long Way from Chicago" and "A Year Down Yonder" will welcome "A Season of Gifts" with open arms and lots of laughs, for it heralds the return of Grandma Dowdel, the most unique neighbor one could ever wish for. In this companion novel, it is now 1958 and a new family that has moved in next door to Grandma Dowdel is about to be initiated into the strange life of this small Illinois town. With a wonderful blend of humor and pathos, Peck crafts nostalgic and memorable stories about a fictional town and characters who spring to life in the reader's imagination.

The novel is narrated by Bob Barnhart, the only son of the new Methodist minister in town, who relates the adventures of his two sisters, Pyllis and Ruth Ann, as they encounter the town's inhabitants. Bob is greeted by town hooligans in the most unusual way and rescued by the inimitable Grandma Dowdel. A poor family, the Barnharts are finally welcomed by the town in the most dramatic fashion. Peck begins with the start of the school year and works his way to the Christmas season, offering tales of crime, foolishness, good-natured revenge, superstition, and unorthodox neighborly deeds. All of them send the reader on a rollicking good time mixed with several stories calling up a bittersweet emotion.

"A Season of Gifts" is a fitting companion in the Grandma Dowdel saga, one that will surely make readers wish for more adventures featuring this one-of-a-kind character. Peck is a truly gifted children's writer, whose recent works far outshine many of his earlier works - a difficult task indeed. While obviously written for young adults, "A Season of Gifts" is a story for all ages and for all times of the year.
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