Sunday, December 27, 2009
Looking for Newbery - Day 2: A Season of Gifts
A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck is another book that has appeared on the mock Newbery list of the Allen County Library. In addition, I have been following what the Heavy Medal blog has to say about the Newbery. Recently, one of the contributors to Heavy Medal, Jonathan Hunt, compiled a list of books that won some important children's book awards throughout the year. A Season of Gifts has appeared on three of those major award lists. It was also on Shelftalker's 2009 Starred Books Wrap-Up -- it was a starred book in five different review journals (out of six possible). Before I even read A Season of Gifts, I knew it must be a book worth reading.
Someone I used to teach with is a huge Richard Peck fan; he will read the latest Peck book as soon as it comes out. Somehow I never had the desire that he did, so when I found out that A Season of Gifts was a companion book to A Long Way From Chicago and A Year Down Yonder, books I hadn't read, I was a little concerned that I would not have the background knowledge sufficient to understand the nuances of the story. I might have been missing snippets of information, but I found A Season of Gifts to be delightful as my first read about some of the characters. What I know for sure is that now I will be going back and reading those earlier books.
A Season of Gifts was a true joy to read. It deals with the relationships between a new family that moves to town and the wonderfully eccentric Mrs. Dowdel (a character from the companion books). Though Peck focuses on the new family, the Barnharts, Grandma Dowdel is still a very important character who manipulates (in a good way) situations that help the new family move to acceptance in their new community.
The Barnharts are a fun family to know. The dad is a preacher trying to start a new church in town. The mom is the glue that holds everyone together (very 1950ish, which is appropo since this story is set in 1958). Phyllis is the teen-age sister who loves Elvis Presley, falls for a wild guy and makes some poor choices. Ruth Ann is the inquistive little sister who is fascinated by their new neighbor, Mrs. Dowdel. Bob, the only boy, is the narrator of the story.
The language in the story is truly beautiful. The character development is wonderful, and the plot kept me wanting to read. It is also set in a year where I was 3 years old (my students call that historical fiction!) which made it appealing to me as well. I can understand why A Season of Gifts has found its way to so many lists of good books.
Finally, I want to say thank you to the student who got me this book for Christmas. Thanks GS!! It was truly a wonderful gift!