A Long Way From Chicago

by Richard Peck Book 1 of the Long Way From Chicago Series

Over seven consecutive summers, Joey and his sister, Mary Alice, spend a week every... read more

Over seven consecutive summers, Joey and his sister, Mary Alice, spend a week every August with their Grandma Dowdel in a small Illinois town. Each of those eventful visits is detailed in the seven witty short stories that comprise this funny, warm-hearted novel. Joey and Mary Alice didn't know Grandma very well when they made their first visit in 1929. Joey was nine then, and Mary Alice was seven. "As the years went by... Mary Alice and I grew up, and though Grandma never changed, we'd seem to see a different woman every summer." Grandma Dowdel is one of the richest characters over the age of 50 to be found in literature for the young. She is principled and stern but not without humor or compassion. Indeed, Grandma has a lot to teach her two grandchildren about both both those qualities as the years pass. When the hobos and tramps following the rails in the midst of the Depression are to be run out of town by the sheriff, it is Grandma who prepares a meal for them and serves it just inches over the town boundary, much to the sheriff's consternation. Even better (or worse), she used the sheriff's own boat to catch the catfish she is serving. Grandma is an enigma to Joey and Mary Alice, but over the years, as the children mature, more and more of the mysteries about her are revealed in this wonderful, distinctive portrait in which all of the characters are intriguing and a delight. Peck's masterful storytelling here extends to time and place as well. Small-town midwest life in the midst of the Depression is artfully, entertainingly captured in this fine novel that is an excellent choice for a read-aloud. (Ages 10-14)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 1998

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