A Long Way from Chicago (Puffin Modern Classics)

A Long Way from Chicago (Puffin Modern Classics)

by Richard Peck

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Overview

Join Joey and his sister Mary Alice as they spend nine unforgettable summers with the worst influence imaginable-their grandmother!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780142401101
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 04/12/2004
Series: Puffin Modern Classics Series
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 124,620
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 7.00(h) x 0.44(d)
Lexile: 750L (what's this?)
Age Range: 10 - 14 Years

About the Author

RICHARD PECK (1934-2018) was born in Decatur, Illinois and lived in New York City for nearly 50 years. The acclaimed author of 35 novels for children and young adults, he won the Newbery Medal for A Year Down Yonder, a Newbery Honor for A Long Way from Chicago, the Scott O’Dell Award for The River Between Us, the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Are You in the House Alone?, a Boston Globe-Horn BookAward Honor for The Best Man, and the Christopher Medal for The Teacher’s Funeral. He was the first children’s author ever to have been awarded a National Humanities Medal, and was twice a National Book Award Finalist.  

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

Young readers who live in age-segregated suburbs need the wisdom, and the wit, of elders. After all, this is a young generation who no longer even have to write thank-you notes for gifts from grandparents. They rob themselves of their own histories and are once again at the mercy of each other.

But stories are better than that. They champion the individual, not the mass movement. They mix up the generations. They provide a continuity growing hard to come by. And laughter. Best of all, laughter.

Every summer from 1929-1935, in A Long Way from Chicago, Joey Dowdel and his younger sister, Mary Alice, are sent to spend a week with their grandmother in her small Illinois town located halfway between Chicago and St. Louis. Not even the big city crimes of Chicago offer as much excitement as Grandma Dowdel when she outwits the banker, sets illegal fish traps, catches the town's poker playing business men in their underwear, and saves the town from the terror of the Cowgill boys. Now an old man, Joe Dowdel remembers these seven summers and the "larger than life" woman who out-smarted the law and used blackmail to help those in need.

 


ABOUT RICHARD PECK

Richard Peck has written over twenty novels, and in the process has become one of America's most highly respected writers for young adults. A versatile writer, he is beloved, by those in middle school as well as young adults, for his mysteries and coming-of-age novels. In addition to writing, he spends a great deal of time traveling around the country attending speaking engagements at conferences, schools and libraries. He now lives in New York City.

Mr. Peck has won a number of major awards for the body of his work, including the Margaret A. Edwards Award from School Library Journal, the National Council of Teachers of English/ALAN Award, and the 1991 Medallion from the University of Southern Mississippi. Virtually every publication and association in the field of children's literature has recommended his books, including Mystery Writers of America, which twice gave him their Edgar Allan Poe Award.

 


COMMENTARY BY RICHARD PECK

Grandma Dowdel and I

Once in a while in a long writing career, one character rises off the page and takes on special life. So it happened with Grandma Dowdel in A Long Way from Chicago and again in A Year Down Yonder. Meant to be larger than life, she became all too lifelike. The letters came in at once: "Was she YOUR grandmother", they ask? Did my own grandmother fire off both barrels of a shotgun in her own front room? Did she pour warm glue on the head of a hapless Halloweener? Did she spike the punch at a DAR tea? Well, no. Writers aren't given much credit for creativity.

Yet writing is the quest for roots, and I draw on my earliest memories of visiting my grandmother in a little town cut by the tracks of the Wabash Railroad. It was, in fact, Cerro Gordo, Illinois. I use that town in my stories, though I never name it, wanting readers to think of small towns they know.

The house in the stories is certainly my grandma's, with the snowball bushes crowding the bay window and the fly strip heavy with corpses hanging down over the oilcloth kitchen table, and the path back to the privy.

I even borrow my grandmother's physical presence. My grandmother was six feet tall with a fine crown of thick white hair, and she wore aprons the size of Alaska. But she wasn't Grandma Dowdel. When you're a writer, you can give yourself the grandma you wished you had.

Perhaps she's popular with readers because she isn't an old lady at all. Maybe she's a teenager in disguise. After all, she believes the rules are for other people. She always wants her own way. And her best friend and worst enemy is the same person [Mrs. Wilcox]. Sounds like adolescence to me, and even more like puberty.

But whoever she is, she's an individual. Young readers need stories of rugged individualism because most of them live in a world completely ruled by peer-group conformity.

 


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • Describe Joey and Mary Alice's relationship with Grandma Dowdel. Discuss why their parents thought it so important that they get to know their Grandma. What kind of mother do you think Grandma Dowdel was to Joey and Mary Alice's father? Joey says that Grandma frightens his mother-Grandma's daughter-in-law. What characteristics of Grandma make her so frightening?
     
  • Joe Dowdel is an adult sharing his memories of Grandma Dowdel. He says, "Are all my memories true? Every word, and growing truer with the years." (p. 1) What does Joe mean when he says, "growing truer with years?" What kind of relationship do you think Joe Dowdel has with his grandchildren? Discuss whether the summers spent with Grandma Dowdel might have shaped the kind of grandfather he became.
     
  • Why does Mary Alice say, "I don't think Grandma's a very good influence on us"? (p. 61) How is she a good influence on her grandchildren? Ask the students to debate whether Grandma is a "bad influence" or a "good role model."
     
  • Grandma Dowdel never seems to shows affection. How do you know that she loves her grandchildren?
     
  • Why does Grandma Dowdel display the body of Shotgun Cheatham in her parlor? Discuss what Grandma means when she says, "A rumor is sometimes truth on the trail." (p. 115)
     
  • During their visit in 1931, Joey and Mary Alice realize that Grandma Dowdel runs illegal fish traps. Why is it important to have hunting and fishing laws? What department in state government is responsible for monitoring such laws? They vow never to tell their dad about this. Discuss what other things Joey and Mary Alice discover about Grandma that they are likely to keep to themselves. Why does Sheriff Dickerson call Grandma a "one-woman crime-wave"? (p. 57)
     
  • One of Grandma's weapons is blackmail. Discuss the numerous times in the novel that she uses blackmail to help people. What does the phrase "larger than life" mean? How does this fit Grandma?
     
  • During which summer do you think Joey and Mary Alice learn the true character of Grandma?
     
  • Joey says, "As the years went by, we'd seem to see a different woman every summer." (p.1) Discuss whether it's Grandma that changes, or Joey and Mary Alice.

Lesson Plans

Curriculum Connections

Language Arts

  • In the summer of 1930, Mary Alice brings her jump rope to Grandma's house and occupies herself by jumping rope to rhymes. Ask students to use books in the library or the Internet to locate popular jump rope rhymes. Then have them create a jump rope rhyme about Grandma.
     
  • The reader sees Grandma Dowdel through Joey Dowdel's eyes. Discuss how a reader's impression of a character is shaped by point-of-view. Ask students to select another character in the novel (i.e. Effie Wilcox, Mr. Cowgill, Sheriff Dickerson, Vandalia Eubanks, or Junior Stubbs) and write a description of Grandma through that person's eyes.
     
  • A reporter from the "big city" of Peoria comes to Grandma Dowdel's house to cover the death of Shotgun Cheatham. He streaks out of the house when Grandma fires a shotgun at the coffin. Write a newspaper story that describes this entire incident. Give the story an appropriate headline.
     

Social Studies

  • Joey and Mary Alice visit Grandma Dowdel each summer from 1929 to 1935. Make a timeline of national events that occurred during this time span. Then have each student select one of the events to research in detail. How did the events of the nation during this time affect life in Grandma Dowdel's small Illinois town?
     
  • John Dillinger was killed in July of 1934. Why was he considered Public Enemy Number One? Why was he called "Robin Hood?" People all over the nation took great interest in his death. Have students use books in the library or the Internet to find out the details of his shooting. Then have them conduct a radio news program about his death. Include interviews with eyewitnesses.

Science

  • Joey and Mary Alice's father belongs to a conservation club. Ask students to find out the various conservation clubs and societies in their state and the nation. Have students contact a local club and ask about volunteer projects, or how to recreate a local ecosystem.

Math

  • Few people could afford cars in 1929, but the banker in Grandma Dowdel's town, L.J. Weidenbach, drives a Hupmobile. Find out the cost and the special features of a 1929 Hupmobile. Make a plan for financing the car for a three-year period. Determine an appropriate interest rate, and calculate the total cost including interest. What are the monthly payments?

Art

  • In the summer of 1934, Joey and Mary Alice search through trunks in Grandma's attic to find items for the church rummage sale. Why are they surprised when they discover valentines? Think about Grandma's personality and her relationship with her grandchildren. Then make a valentine that Grandma might send to Joey and Mary Alice.

Customer Reviews

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Long Way from Chicago 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 109 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The title of my book is A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck, I would have to rate this book four stars. This book deserves four stars because it takes everyday life and turns it into an adventure. The story is about a boy, Joey and his sister Mary Alice as they spend seven summers with their Grandma in the 1930¿s. Events like the Great Depression and World War II are seen through the eyes of this historical fiction family. Each of the stars represents a key aspect in the book. The first star is about the connection between the siblings and their Grandma, at the end of each summer, Mary Alice and Joey are sad that they are leaving their Grandmother and they all do something together. In the summer of 1931, Mary Alice and Joey helped out with the milk wagon every morning. The second star is about the law and order that Grandma had in town. Everyone in the town found out early that Grandma wasn¿t as sweet as most Grandma¿s are, she has a shotgun that hangs above the door and uses it on anyone who would bother her or the siblings like Mrs. Wilcox. The third star is about the dreams that Grandma would give to Mary Alice and Joey. Mary Alice always wanted to fly and Grandma kept telling her never to give up in that dream. The last star is about how the book connects with daily life. Richard Peck does a great job on taking what happened in that time to create a humorous story, making you think you¿re at Grandma¿s house yourself. My name is Ryan Lefler and I am an 8th grade student at Harris Road Middle School in Concord, North Carolina. Some other books that you might find interesting that I¿ve read are On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck and My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I choose this novel to accompany a thematic unit on the Great Depression. What a wonderful book to use! The stories of Joey and Mary Alice, and their grandma, are halrious! They will keep studnet's attention while they learn!
GingerDawnHarman More than 1 year ago
A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck A book review by Ginger Dawn Harman Imagine it is summer 1929 and you live in Chicago. The old days of Al Capone, Bugs Moran, and Prohibition are the headline new interest of the day. You are nine and your younger sister is seven. Oh by the way, you just found out that you are being sent to your Grandma Dowdel’s home in the country for the summer. There is plenty of time to anticipate the summer ahead while on the Wabash Railroad’s crack Blue Bird train. Get ready to laugh, cry, and make a special bond with Richard Peck’s novel, A Long Way from Chicago. Richard Peck has been described as an author with magnificent storytelling that is comparable to American humorists Mark Twain and Flannelly O'Connor. I completely agree! Richard Peck has created a memorable world filled with characters who, like Grandma Dowdel, who are larger than life and twice as entertaining. Grandma Dowdel is eccentric, spirited, quick-witted and unafraid of authority. I should also add that she has a mischievous side to her. The story begins in rural Illinois during the Depression; the children arrive at their Grandmothers to encounter their first corpse, Shotgun Cheatham. Word is buzzing at The Coffee Pot Café with many stories surrounding his death. Leave it to Grandma Dowdel to host the viewing and funeral for a stranger who becomes a war hero and philanthropist. Many more exciting adventures happen during those eight years such as spiders and cats that attack Joey and Alice on trips to the privy, the Cowgill boys that bully the townsfolk and sheriff O. B. Dickerson and President of the Chamber of Commerce Earl T. Askew in their underwear while singing The Night that Paddy Murphy died. Richard Peck creates a loveable and unforgettable cast of characters such as; Effie Wilcox, Grandma’s arch enemy who is described as ”cross-eyed ugly” and “has a tongue attached in the middle and flaps at both ends.” Yet the author discreetly weaves a variety of political, social, and moral issues into the fabric of the story. Examples include: the way that Grandma takes care of old Aunt Pus saves Effie Wilcox, the outcome of Grandma switching her gooseberry pie with Mr. Pennypacker’s pie at the county fair, and most of all the love that is shared with a family no matter what is going on in the outside world. The primary point is that the book is first and foremost an entertaining and enjoyable historical novel. Readers will find much food for thought and discussion. The savvy teacher or parent can use this book on many different levels. Our son had no idea what a privy or the depression was, or who mobsters were. The character building discussions of what would you do created many vibrant conversations, and what fun is it to hear your father or friend sing Sweet Adeline. With unforgettable imagery, impeccable writing, and breathtakingly poignant writing, this novel is a masterpiece of a story. The author maintains the pace and drama by providing unique and believable adventures. It is a page turner. My favorite part was the ending, as I lay beside my son in bed and we read this ending many tears were flowing. I guarantee this novel will light up your heart with the special ending as the train chugs by Grandma Dowel’s house! I highly recommend Richard Peck’s young adult novel, A Long Way from Chicago.
jln1017 More than 1 year ago
First of all, this story is definitely aimed towards younger readers. For me, it was a very quick and easy read. Having said that, I also found it sweet and charming, and very much worth the time to read as an adult, too. One of the things I like about this book is its setting and the way it's presented. It has a cozy, old-timey feel to it that makes me think I might have liked to have lived back then. It depicts a time when hard work and struggle were a way of life, but at the same time, there seemed to be a stronger sense of community and neighbors taking care of neighbors than often seems the case these days. Even Grandma, who superficially is rather anti-social and doesn't really take kindly to anyone, deep down, cares about people and tries to do right. She may like to show people up now and again, but it seems to usually be when they are getting a bit too big for their britches in her estimation. As for the presentation, I always like when the narrator presents a story, not as something he is reporting on as it happens, but rather, as an adult looking back on things that happened to him as a child - the events seen through a child's eyes, but reflected on with the wisdom of an adult. It reminds my of the TV show "The Wonder Years" and Jean Shepherd's works, like what the movie "The Christmas Story" was based on, with that similar sort of wry sense of humor about the events included, too. I absolutely adore the character of Grandma (I'm sure she would be externally offended, but inwardly pleased, to hear me use those words), and I love how the kids start out sort of wary of her, but as they get older, they kind of wise up to her and start to read her and play along with the things she does. I also enjoyed the author showing how Grandma rubs off on the kids, particularly Mary Alice. I kind of wish I had a Grandma in my own life (although I love my own two grandmothers to pieces- I just think everyone needs a character like Grandma in their life)! I will say, I actually got really teary eyed at the end, with the last little two page story. I love the characters and, even though it was a short book, by the end, I felt like I was leaving friends. I am glad to be reading A Year Down Yonder, the sequel to this book, immediately after, to get another part of Mary Alice and Grandma's stories. But at the same time, I found myself wondering/imagining what might have happened to some of the other characters later on, like Joey and Ray Veech and others. I'd like to imagine that they lived happily ever after.
Junelilies More than 1 year ago
A Long Way From Chicago, a collection of mini-stories told through the eyes of Joey Dowdel, is the story of Joey’s and Mary Alice’s (Joey’s younger sister) experiences with their independent-thinking, large-personality grandma. Each chapter covers one August spent in their grandma’s small town. Joey and Mary Alice, first despising the idea of spending their summer in a small town with “nothing” to do, grow to understand and love their seemingly unsympathetic grandma more with every summer. Mary Alice and Joey tag along with their grandma in illegal fishing, spooking the town bullies, winning county contests and humbling the proud town folk. This clean, delightful book is one delightful adventure after another--each instigated by this one-of-a-kind grandma. topics introduced: social order, family relationships, growing up, perception of adult behavior Author: Richard Peck Age: 5th-7th grade Pages: about 150
jessn1017 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
First of all, this story is definitely aimed towards younger readers. For me, it was a very quick and easy read. Having said that, I also found it sweet and charming, and very much worth the time to read as an adult, too. One of the things I like about this book is its setting and the way it's presented. It has a cozy, old-timey feel to it that makes me think I might have liked to have lived back then. It depicts a time when hard work and struggle were a way of life, but at the same time, there seemed to be a stronger sense of community and neighbors taking care of neighbors than often seems the case these days. Even Grandma, who superficially is rather anti-social and doesn't really take kindly to anyone, deep down, cares about people and tries to do right. She may like to show people up now and again, but it seems to usually be when they are getting a bit too big for their britches in her estimation. As for the presentation, I always like when the narrator presents a story, not as something he is reporting on as it happens, but rather, as an adult looking back on things that happened to him as a child - the events seen through a child's eyes, but reflected on with the wisdom of an adult. It reminds my of the TV show "The Wonder Years" and Jean Shepherd's works, like what the movie "The Christmas Story" was based on, with that similar sort of wry sense of humor about the events included, too.I absolutely adore the character of Grandma (I'm sure she would be externally offended, but inwardly pleased, to hear me use those words), and I love how the kids start out sort of wary of her, but as they get older, they kind of wise up to her and start to read her and play along with the things she does. I also enjoyed the author showing how Grandma rubs off on the kids, particularly Mary Alice. I kind of wish I had a Grandma in my own life (although I love my own two grandmothers to pieces- I just think everyone needs a character like Grandma in their life)!I will say, I actually got really teary eyed at the end, with the last little two page story. I love the characters and, even though it was a short book, by the end, I felt like I was leaving friends. I am glad to be reading A Year Down Yonder, the sequel to this book, immediately after, to get another part of Mary Alice and Grandma's stories. But at the same time, I found myself wondering/imagining what might have happened to some of the other characters later on, like Joey and Ray Veech and others. I'd like to imagine that they lived happily ever after.
jnfalvey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Joey and Mary Alice leave Chicago--home of Al Capone and Bugs Moran!--to visit their Grandma Dowdel every summer. Over the course of seven visits to her sleepy Illinois town, they siblings take part in a wide variety of adventures. Grandma Dowdel might live in the country, but it is there that Joey and Mary Alice see their first corpse, commit their first crimes, and maybe even see a ghost.
nules on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a good book. I liked the grandma character quite a bit, and the humorous stories.I didn't quite see much into the main character, though, except as far as he perceived things, which can be enough sometimes (but I think it could be more personable otherwise). Mary Alice's habit of taking to doing things her grandmother did was interesting (somewhat sly, the way it was).Anyway, I'd recommend the book. It doesn't have much to do with an airplane, though (I was glad about that personally). That's just part of one of the stories (it's a collection of consecutive stories that make a novel, or a novel in stories, they say).The narration of this book was great, and helped to establish an atmosphere suitable for the geography.
bibliophileofalls on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very good read. Funny, reminded me of Mark Twain.
mkschoen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Delightful tales - two children visit their Grandmother Dowdel in teh country during the Depression. Usually a moral, and twist ending, but very funny. Good 4-6.
mbuch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The main character, Joey, and his sister Mary Alice, take annual summer trips to visit their grandmother in a small rural town. Their grandmother is a unique, whimsical, and fantastic character! The experiences of each visit are unforgettable and full of lessons learned. The details of each story are captivating and very funny.With a well-developed plot and exciting events always taking place, the story creates relatable, humorous scenes for readers to experience and enjoy. This is a great book that should be used in every U.S. History classroom! The historical facts in this book are taught in a relative and necessary manner which helps readers to gain a deep understanding about the 1930's. Honors and Awards:Newberry Honor Award (1999)
aleahmarie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mrs. Dowdel is no ordinary grandmother. This shotgun wielding, no nonsense grandma is tough as nails and she makes a mean gooseberry pie. Summer visits to their grandmother's house during the 1930s take Joey and his little sister, Mary Alice, a long way from their Chicago home. Initially reluctant to leave the big city, Joey and Mary Alice soon find life in grandma's small town more exciting than anything they'd find in Prohibition era Chicago. The escapades that this trio get into will have you laughing out loud. A Long Way From Chicago is a charming collection of stories sure to please.
Suzieqkc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I laughed all the way through this book about Mary Alice and Joe's summer visit to their Grandma Dowdel's house.
lauraklandoll on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of two children from Chicago and their grandmother from a very small rural town. The siblings spent two weeks every summer with Grandma. When they were very young, the trip was not looked forward to, but, as they grew older, they became more appreciative of her. Many colorful stories are related in this book.I loved this book. The grandmother was very crusty and non-conforming, she reminded me of my own mother. The grandmother worked hard and understood so much more than her grandchildren thought she did. How unfortunate we don't take advantage of our grandparents when they are young enough to enjoy us.This story would be great for children who don't have grandparents, to understand how valuable they are. This would be good for learning about small town life.
Whisper1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A 1999 Newbery Honor award winning book that I absolutely loved!This is a touching, memorable walk down memory lane told from the perspective of 15 year old Joey Dowdel. This book was written before Peck's 2001 Newbery Medal winner A Year Down Yonder.Each chapter is a separate story of a summer spent with Joey and his sister Alice who travel from Chicago to rural Illinois to visit their down and out, no frills, salt-of-the earth grandmother.As I read these stories spanning seven wonderful summers, I was moved to tears and laughter. The author wove accurate historical depiction of troubled economic times in the US. There is a marvelous feeling of the folk who quibble, but hang in there together.While living a hermit like existence, Granny Dowdel still has knowledge of the pulse of the town and the quirky personalities of the members. She is incredibly inventive in exposing the hyprocrites, finding ways of helping those less fortunate, and in leaving a legacy of laughter and memories to her grandchildren.A must read.
readermom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Just to start, having spent some months in Chicago, I think being a long ways from there is a good idea. No one but farmers should have to put up with that kind of weather. My sister-in-law and then my mother-in-law recommended these books. I was especially happy to see them at the library. This is not the type of book I would just pick up to read, mostly because they take place during the Depression and I have learned to avoid those type because Depression seems to be an accurate description of most books set in that time period.The characters of the novel are what set it apart. Not only is the Grandmother hysterically funny, but the first person narrative voice of the child is very genuine. It was hard to believe that these books were fiction. They felt so real that you wanted them to be real.I read a lot of YA fiction and this was the first time I have ever wished that a book was written for young people. The first person narrator is a child, and sees the other characters, especially his grandmother, as a child sees her. All we know of the Grandmother is what this boys sees of her. We know very little of her history, what made her such a formidable figure. The next book, while showing a girl's perspective on Grandma, still has the limitations of the voice. Reading this book as a child, or even as a teenager, I don't think I would notice a lack. But as an adult woman I want to know more about Grandma. I want to know when she married, where she grew up, how many kids she had. What made her such a strong woman, one who cares for the people on the edges and tries not to show it?Grandma was the heart and soul of the books and I want to know more about her. I suppose it shows how good the books are that I have these questions. I laughed at the stories, and would definitely recommend them, especially to a teen reader, but I sure wish there was an adult version somewhere.
eileenmary on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
loved it. made me laugh out loud.
JordySizemordy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
SummaryEach chapter in A Long Way From Chicago depicts another summertime shared between two young children and their humorous and unconventional grandmother. She is constantly finding ways to make her grandkids laugh and enjoy each adventure they have. It is important to have fun during the summers with their grandmother because the two children are growing up during the time of the Great Depression. Their life during the 1930's is made more enjoyable each time they spend a week with Grandma Dowdel. Personal ReactionThe historic aspects of this book really make it stand out among other stories. Although most of the pages are filled with silly anecdotes or the process of building a relationship among family, the bits of history and fact about life during the Great Depression really help paint a picture for the reader. It also had a way of tugging at my heart when I think about my own relationship with my grandma.Extension Ideas1) Instruct the class to break into groups of three-five students each, and have them find one fact within this story that they believe to be most interesting. Then spend the next day or so researching that fact in rder to share with the class.2) Keeping in mind that not all students have a grandmother or grandfather, assign the topic to journal about the special relationship they share with any adult in their life.
BoundTogetherForGood on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
So delightful I read the sequel, A Year Down Yonder.
chinquapin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this humorous Newbery Honor book, a brother and sister from Chicago visit their Grandma for a week every summer in her home in a small rural town in southern Illinois. It is set in the 1930's, so the country is in the midst of the Great Depression. This and other historic events from that period are scattered through the stories. Each chapter is a story covering that year's visit, so the kids get one year older each chapter. They are ages ten and eight in the first chapter, and ages 15 and thirteen in the last chapter. Grandma is quite an odd character. She is somewhat cantankerous, but she always manages to find a way to help the right folks out. This book had me laughing outloud at some of the pranks and tricks she pulled on the town's "stuffed shirts." I felt like the book gave you an excellent sense of place and time, rural Illinois in the midst of the Depression. I love all the little bits and pieces of history that are mentioned throughout the book, like when John Dillinger was shot and they displayed his corpse for public viewing in the basement of the morgue.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Joey and his younger sister Mary Alice go to visit their grandma in rural Illinois in the 1930s. In a series of hilarious stories, their grandma plots revenge on a band of prank-playing brothers, bakes gooseberry pie for the state fair, and causes general upheaval in her small town. The narration of the audio recording is great. Ron McLarty does great voices, including a fantastic voice for Grandma. Laugh out loud funny, this is a painless historical fiction to recommend to students and the cd is appropriate for family listening.
idcstaff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A soft, funny story about Joey and Mary Alice visiting their excentric grandma for the summer.
MrsLee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very pleasing story. I liked the way the author showed us the grandmother through the boys eyes and every year he visited, he understood a bit more of who she was and why she did what she did. As far as morals, I'm afraid this promotes "the end justifies the means", although the grandma's means never hurt any one, just deceive them a bit.
librarymeg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is made up of several short stories about Joey and Mary Alice's summer visits to their Grandma Dowdel's home in a small Illinois town during the Great Depression. The stories are all beautifully written, evoking small town life and all its little quirks. Grandma Dowdel is a larger-than-life character whose eccentricities will guarantee her a spot in every reader's memories. After all, who could forget a woman who would calmly pass the sheriff by in his stolen rowboat with a basket full of illegal fish caught on private land? The book will leave readers with a vivid picture of small town life in the early twentieth century, and more importantly will have you wishing you could spend a hot summer week following Grandma Dowdel, watching to see what she'll do next.
bibliophile26 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately I read A Year Down Yonder first (I hate reading serial books in reverse order). Already familiar with what an eccentric character Grandma Dowdel is, I was pleasantly surprised that many of her antics made me drop my jaw or laugh out loud. While this book is technically YA and is narrated by a child, it doesn't read that way because everything revolves around Grandma's kooky adventures. I also liked how the book read as a series of short stories (with the same characters) instead of having a central plot. Highly recommended, even to those adults who don't like kiddie lit.