Author: Richard Peck
My rating: 5 of 5
Companion Works: A Long Way from Chicago, A Year Down Yonder
This story was truly a treat in many ways: colorful characters, a solid plot line, and just enough period detail to make the setting come to life. Peck relates the trials of Bob and his family as they move to a small town where everyone knows everyone–and their business. Not only that, but they move in right next to the eccentric and ornery Mrs. Dowdel. Peck’s juxtaposition of Bob’s family’s difficulties and Mrs. Dowdel’s hijinks provides an excellent balance of humor and seriousness. The historical setting is also interesting–small town Illinois in 1958–and Peck’s details, such as the Barnhart family’s green Nash, sock hops, and Elvis being enlisted, add vibrancy to the history. Finally, a niggling feeling pervades the story that Mrs. Dowdel might not be exactly as ornery and selfish as she seems, and seeing this feeling confirmed in the end is rewarding. I would recommend this story for anyone who is interested in historical fiction, children’s fiction, or just a good story. Definitely a good read.