|Marching for Freedom
by Elizabeth Partridge
|A Season of Gifts
by Richard Peck
Judged by Christopher Paul Curtis
Richard Peck gives readers another glimpse into the life of Grandma Dowdel, the wonderfully quirky heroine of his Newbery recognized novels A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way From Chicago. In this story Peck treats us to Grandma Dowdel in a more peripheral way through the eyes of new-kid-in-town and next door neighbor, Bob Barnhart. In addition to facing the horrors of trying to adjust to new settings, Bob is also burdened with being the “preacher’s kid” and suffers accordingly.
As in all of Richard Peck’s books the writing is meticulously well-crafted and enjoyable. A Season of Gifts does, however, lack the emotional kick of Chicago and Yonder. I think this may be due to the fact that while Bob is the narrator of the tale, Grandma Dowdel is its emotional center. Peck is at his best when presenting us with the feisty woman’s world, the reader recognizes this and at the end longs for her to be a more integral part of the story. The storytelling is, as always with Peck, a pleasure to read, he has painted an enjoyable portrait of Americana.
Elizabeth Partridge’s Marching For Freedom is one of those books that sneaks up and ensnares the reader. Even though we all know how the story ends, (it is a re-telling of the Selma voter’s rights struggle) Partridge gives us a fresh perspective as told by the children who took part in the struggle. We are first startlingly introduced to the movement through the eyes of a ten year old who is being arrested for the first of many times. Through the children’s eyes, the reader is taken on a journey with an emotionally satisfying conclusion. Partridge skillfully opens up a part of American history that is either overlooked or forgotten. Educators would do well to make this book required reading. One of the more jarring images from the book’s pictures has nothing to do with the Civil Rights movement, it is instead a reflection of a plague that has hit Americans, especially African Americans, particularly hard in the past decades; our rush towards obesity. These photos show how what we consider normal is getting larger and larger.
The Winner of Round 2 Match 3 Is…
You know, Chris’s last sentence had me scratching my head a bit as I didn’t remember any pictures of obese people, but then the light bulb blinked on, and I also recalled that there weren’t even pictures of chubby people. So, this whole point serves to illustrate just how completely and vividly Partridge’s well chosen photographs plunge the reader not just into the harrowing events of the march, but also into the entire milieu of that time and place. Peck is no stranger to communicating more with less, either. His books are always a model of clear, precise writing with nary a wasted word. I can see how Mrs. Dowdel seems like a slightly more peripheral character here than in A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO and A YEAR DOWN YONDER, but I’ll take her anyway I can get her. MARCHING FOR FREEDOM marches on to meet either a graphic novel or an illustrated collection of short stories: The Battle of the Graphic Books.
– Commentator Jonathan Hunt