A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Grandma lies quite a bit, though always for a good cause, including graphically killing a mouse, putting it into a milk bottle, and pretending it came that way. She also traps fish illegally.
Violence & Scariness
Grandma uses a shotgun, a somewhat graphic train accident, John Dillinger is shot up, and a father beats his delinquent teens with a strap.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The children see a group of drunk men in droopy underwear.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Men get drunk.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this novel is set in small-town Illinois during the Great Depression, which might prompt some curiosity about the time period and the challenges it created for American families. Grandma Dowdel has some unorthodox methods for achieving justice that you wouldn't necessarily want your own kids to emulate, but they're all presented with a sense of fun and outlandishness. That means that, as a role model, she's meant to be taken with a grain of salt.
Is It Any Good?
Richard Peck's comedy is his best since Bel Air Bambi and the Mall Rats. Filled with the kind of detail that can only come from memory, the book is blessed by Grandma Dowdel, a true original. Sharp-tongued and peppery, like so many of Peck's central characters, she reveals her heart to her grandchildren through action, not mawkish blather.
In a succession of summers she outwits the press, local hooligans, and the sheriff, all for the benefit of the town and its residents, whom she appears to despise. Her clever, no-nonsense approach to problems is wicked and original, though often mystifying to her grandchildren, and Peck's perfect blend of outrageous humor and unsentimental warmth make this a true rarity in comic novels -- one that is at once richly funny, memorable, and deeply satisfying.
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