A Season of Gifts

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
A Season of Gifts Book Poster Image
Meet a crabby 90-year-old heroine kids will love.

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Kids say

age 8+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

The story takes place in the '50s, and there are some details about that era. Also, Mrs. Dowdel hearkens back to an earlier time when people made everything they needed from scratch, and allowed nothing to go to waste. Readers may be interested in some of her projects.

Positive Messages

The message of the book is about the gifts we give each other, gifts of the spirit and the heart, which are remembered forever.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mrs. Dowdel may be crotchety, but she works tirelessly behind the scenes to improve the lives of others.


A large turtle is killed for soup. A boy is bullied and humiliated by a group of older boys who strip him and tie him up naked where Mrs. Dowdel will find him.


An unwed teen is pregnant and forced to marry.


Beer and cigarette brands mentioned.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking and drunkenness, including young teens, a drunk driving accident, teens smoke, kids smoke cornsilk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that teens smoke and drink, and one gets pregnant, though none of this is described. There's a wonderful message in this book about giving.

User Reviews

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Kid, 11 years old January 4, 2012

An Awesome Book

A season of gifts is a book about a boy named Bob. Bob and his family just moved in to the neighborhood(Excuse my spelling)Bob and his little sister think the h... Continue reading

What's the story?

In this standalone sequel to A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder, it's now 20 years later, the '50s, and Mrs. Dowdel has new neighbors -- a poor preacher and his family. As his son, Bob, tells the story, Mrs. Dowdel takes some getting used to. But in a series of vignettes both comic and moving, they find that this cantankerous and eccentric old woman enriches their lives and those of many others in the town.

Is it any good?

Richard Peck has had one of the longest and most successful careers in children's literature and, reading this, it's easy to see why. He just gets better and better. A SEASON OF GIFTS shows clearly that there's really no one else with Peck's remarkable combination of gifts. He has the gift of Twain, a humorist whose comedy is both intelligent and moving. He has the gift of Kipling, a craftsman of razor-sharp prose in which every word is carefully chosen for maximum effect. And he has the gift of Rowling, a constructor of intricate and tightly woven plots.

Peck employs his remarkable gifts in the service of a character unique in children's books, a field in which children are almost always the heroes. Here the main character, moving force, and heroine is a crabby 90-year-old, tough as a goat, with nothing warm or fuzzy in her demeanor at all. In Peck's world, adults are still in charge and wiser than children, and children grow through their relationships with intelligent and caring grown-ups. Imagine that! This is a treasure and a delight.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the gifts Mrs. Dowdel gives. Can you find them all?

  • To whom does she give them, and why? Does she receive any in return?

  • Can you think of any gifts like Mrs. Dowdel's that people in your own life have given? Have you ever worked behind the scenes for someone else's benefit?

  • Why does Mrs. Dowdel act the way she does? If she is doing such good things for people, why doesn't she act warm and kind?

  • What do you admire about Mrs. Dowdel?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love humor and great heroines

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