A summer they'll never forget.
Each summer Joey and his sister, Mary Alice—two city slickers from Chicago—visit Grandma Dowdel's seemingly sleepy Illinois town. Soon enough, they find that it's far from sleepy...and Grandma is far from your typical grandmother. From seeing their first corpse (and he isn't resting easy) to helping Grandma trespass, catch the sheriff in his underwear, and feed the hungry—all in one day—Joey and Mary Alice have nine summers they'll never forget!
"A rollicking celebration of an eccentric grandmother and childhood memories." —School Library Journal, starred review
"Each tale is a small masterpiece of storytelling." —The Horn Book, starred review
"Grandma Dowdel embodies not only the heart of a small town but the spirit of an era gone by...Remarkable and fine." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review
A Newbery Honor Book
A National Book Award Finalist
An ALA Notable Book
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
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.
Read an Excerpt
Later, much later, we heard something. . . .
We heard a little sawing, singing sound as a file began to slice through screen wire. From the settee Mary Alice made some tiny, terrified sound. Grandma reached down for something in her sewing basket. The darkness made me see pinwheels like sparklers. I just managed to notice Grandma’s rocker was rocking and she wasn’t in it. She was standing over me. “Keep just behind me,” she whispered.
I followed her across the room to the kitchen. You wouldn’t believe a woman that heavy could be so light on her feet. She floated, and we moved like some strange beast, big in front, small behind. Now we were by the door to the kitchen, and I heard the scuffle of heavy feet in there on the crinkly linoleum. . . .
“Part vaudeville act, part laconic tall tale, the stories, with their dirty tricks and cunning plots, make you laugh out loud at the farce and snicker at the reversals. Like Grandma, the characters are larger-than-life funny, yet Peck is neither condescending nor picturesque. With the tall talk, irony, insult, and vulgarity, there’s also a heartfelt sense of the Depression’s time and place. . . . Many readers will recognize the irreverent, contrary voices of their own family legends across generations.”
—Booklist, starred review
“Each tale is a small masterpiece of storytelling.”
—The Horn Book, starred review
The 1999 Newbery Honor Book
Also by Richard Peck
NOVELS FOR YOUNG ADULTS
Are You in the House Alone?
Bel-Air Bambi and the Mall Rats
Blossom Culp and the Sleep of Death
Close Enough to Touch
Don’t Look and It Won’t Hurt
The Dreadful Future of Blossom Culp
The Ghost Belonged to Me
Ghosts I Have Been
The Great Interactive Dream Machine
Here Lies the Librarian
The Last Safe Place on Earth
A Long Way from Chicago
Lost in Cyberspace
On the Wings of Heroes
Remembering the Good Times
Representing Super Doll
The River Between Us
Secrets of the Shopping Mall
Strays Like Us
The Teacher’s Funeral
Those Summer Girls I Never Met
Three Quarters Dead
Through a Brief Darkness
Unfinished Portrait of Jessica
Voices After Midnight
A Year Down Yonder
NOVELS FOR ADULTS
New York Time
This Family of Women
Past Perfect, Present Tense
Monster Night at Grandma’s House
Invitations to the World
It was always August when we spent a week with our grandma. I was Joey then, not Joe: Joey Dowdel, and my sister was Mary Alice. In our first visits we were still just kids, so we could hardly see her town because of Grandma. She was so big, and the town was so small. She was old too, or so we thought—old as the hills. And tough? She was tough as an old boot, or so we thought. As the years went by, though, Mary Alice and I grew up, and though Grandma never changed, we’d seem to see a different woman every summer.
Now I’m older than Grandma was then, quite a bit older. But as the time gets past me, I seem to remember more and more about those hot summer days and nights, and the last house in town, where Grandma lived. And Grandma. Are all my memories true? Every word, and growing truer with the years.
Shotgun Cheatham’s Last Night Above Ground
You wouldn’t think we’d have to leave Chicago to see a dead body. We were growing up there back in the bad old days of Al Capone and Bugs Moran. Just the winter before, they’d had the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre over on North Clark Street. The city had such an evil reputation that the Thompson submachine gun was better known as a “Chicago typewriter.”
But I’d grown to the age of nine, and my sister Mary Alice was seven, and we’d yet to see a stiff. We guessed that most of them were where you couldn’t see them, at the bottom of Lake Michigan, wearing concrete overshoes.
No, we had to travel all the way down to our Grandma Dowdel’s before we ever set eyes on a corpse. Dad said Mary Alice and I were getting to the age when we could travel on our own. He said it was time we spent a week with Grandma, who was getting on in years. We hadn’t seen anything of her since we were tykes. Being Chicago people, Mother and Dad didn’t have a car. And Grandma wasn’t on the telephone.
“They’re dumping us on her is what they’re doing,” Mary Alice said darkly. She suspected that Mother and Dad would take off for a week of fishing up in Wisconsin in our absence.
I didn’t mind going because we went on the train, the Wabash Railroad’s crack Blue Bird that left Dearborn Station every morning, bound for St. Louis. Grandma lived somewhere in between, in one of those towns the railroad tracks cut in two. People stood out on their porches to see the train go through.
Mary Alice said she couldn’t stand the place. For one thing, at Grandma’s you had to go outside to the privy. It stood just across from the cobhouse, a tumbledown shed full of stuff left there in Grandpa Dowdel’s time. A big old snaggletoothed tomcat lived in the cobhouse, and as quick as you’d come out of the privy, he’d jump at you. Mary Alice hated that.
Mary Alice said there was nothing to do and nobody to do it with, so she’d tag after me, though I was two years older and a boy. We’d stroll uptown in those first days. It was only a short block of brick buildings: the bank, the insurance agency, Moore’s Store, and The Coffee Pot Cafe, where the old saloon had stood. Prohibition was on in those days, which meant that selling liquor was against the law. So people made their own beer at home. They still had the tin roofs out over the sidewalk, and hitching rails. Most farmers came to town horse-drawn, though there were Fords, and the banker, L. J. Weidenbach, drove a Hupmobile.
It looked like a slow place to us. But that was before they buried Shotgun Cheatham. He might have made it unnoticed all the way to the grave except for his name. The county seat newspaper didn’t want to run an obituary on anybody called Shotgun, but nobody knew any other name for him. This sparked attention from some of the bigger newspapers. One sent in a stringer to nose around The Coffee Pot Cafe for a human-interest story since it was August, a slow month for news.
The Coffee Pot was where people went to loaf, talk tall, and swap gossip. Mary Alice and I were of some interest when we dropped by because we were kin of Mrs. Dowdel’s, who never set foot in the place. She said she liked to keep herself to herself, which was uphill work in a town like that.
Mary Alice and I carried the tale home that a suspicious type had come off the train in citified clothes and a stiff straw hat. He stuck out a mile and was asking around about Shotgun Cheatham. And he was taking notes.
Grandma had already heard it on the grapevine that Shotgun was no more, though she wasn’t the first person people ran to with news. She wasn’t what you’d call a popular woman. Grandpa Dowdel had been well thought of, but he was long gone.
That was the day she was working tomatoes on the black iron range, and her kitchen was hot enough to steam the calendars off the wall. Her sleeves were turned back on her big arms. When she heard the town was apt to fill up with newspaper reporters, her jaw clenched.
Presently she said, “I’ll tell you what that reporter’s after. He wants to get the horselaugh on us because he thinks we’re nothing but a bunch of hayseeds and no-’count country people. We are, but what business is it of his?”
“Who was Shotgun Cheatham anyway?” Mary Alice asked.
“He was just an old reprobate who lived poor and died broke,” Grandma said. “Nobody went near him because he smelled like a polecat. He lived in a chicken coop, and now they’ll have to burn it down.”
To change the subject she said to me, “Here, you stir these tomatoes, and don’t let them stick. I’ve stood in this heat till I’m half-cooked myself.”
I didn’t like kitchen work. Yesterday she’d done apple butter, and that hadn’t been too bad. She made that outdoors over an open fire, and she’d put pennies in the caldron to keep it from sticking.
“Down at The Coffee Pot they say Shotgun rode with the James boys.”
“Which James boys?” Grandma asked.
“Jesse James,” I said, “and Frank.”
“They wouldn’t have had him,” she said. “Anyhow, them Jameses was Missouri people.”
“They were telling the reporter Shotgun killed a man and went to the penitentiary.”
“Several around here done that,” Grandma said, “though I don’t recall him being out of town any length of time. Who’s doing all this talking?”
“A real old, humped-over lady with buck teeth,” Mary Alice said.
“Cross-eyed?” Grandma said. “That’d be Effie Wilcox. You think she’s ugly now, you should have seen her as a girl. And she’d talk you to death. Her tongue’s attached in the middle and flaps at both ends.” Grandma was over by the screen door for a breath of air.
“They said he’d notched his gun in six places,” I said, pushing my luck. “They said the notches were either for banks he’d robbed or for sheriffs he’d shot.”
“Was that Effie again? Never trust an ugly woman. She’s got a grudge against the world,” said Grandma, who was no oil painting herself. She fetched up a sigh. “I’ll tell you how Shotgun got his name. He wasn’t but about ten years old, and he wanted to go out and shoot quail with a bunch of older boys. He couldn’t hit a barn wall from the inside, and he had a sty in one eye. They were out there in a pasture without a quail in sight, but Shotgun got all excited being with the big boys. He squeezed off a round and killed a cow. Down she went. If he’d been aiming at her, she’d have died of old age eventually. The boys took the gun off him, not knowing who he’d plug next. That’s how he got the name, and it stuck to him like flypaper. Any girl in town could have outshot him, and that includes me.” Grandma jerked a thumb at herself.
She kept a twelve-gauge double-barreled Winchester Model 21 behind the woodbox, but we figured it had been Grandpa Dowdel’s for shooting ducks. “And I wasn’t no Annie Oakley myself, except with squirrels.” Grandma was still at the door, fanning her apron. Then in the same voice she said, “Looks like we got company. Take them tomatoes off the fire.”
A stranger was on the porch, and when Mary Alice and I crowded up behind Grandma to see, it was the reporter. He was sharp-faced, and he’d sweated through his hatband.
“What’s your business?” Grandma said through screen wire, which was as friendly as she got.
“Ma’am, I’m making inquiries about the late Shotgun Cheatham.” He shuffled his feet, wanting to get one of them in the door. Then he mopped up under his hat brim with a silk handkerchief. His Masonic ring had diamond chips in it.
“Who sent you to me?”
“I’m going door-to-door, ma’am. You know how you ladies love to talk. Bless your hearts, you’d all talk the hind leg off a mule.”
Mary Alice and I both stared at that. We figured Grandma might grab up her broom to swat him off the porch. We’d already seen how she could make short work of peddlers even when they weren’t lippy. And tramps didn’t seem to mark her fence post. We suspected that you didn’t get inside her house even if she knew you. But to our surprise she swept open the screen door and stepped out onto the porch. I followed. So did Mary Alice, once she was sure the snaggletoothed tom wasn’t lurking around out there, waiting to pounce.
“You a newspaper reporter?” she said. “Peoria?” It was the flashy clothes, but he looked surprised. “What they been telling you?”
“Looks like I got a good story by the tail,” he said. “‘Last of the Old Owlhoot Gunslingers Goes to a Pauper’s Grave.’ That kind of angle. Ma’am, I wonder if you could help me flesh out the story some.”
“Well, I got flesh to spare,” Grandma said mildly. “Who’s been talking to you?”
“It was mainly an elderly lady—”
“Ugly as sin, calls herself Wilcox?” Grandma said. “She’s been in the state hospital for the insane until just here lately, but as a reporter I guess you nosed that out.”
Mary Alice nudged me hard, and the reporter’s eyes widened.
“They tell you how Shotgun come by his name?”
“Opinions seem to vary, ma’am.”
“Ah well, fame is fleeting,” Grandma said. “He got it in the Civil War.”
The reporter’s hand hovered over his breast pocket, where a notepad stuck out.
“Oh yes, Shotgun went right through the war with the Illinois Volunteers. Shiloh in the spring of sixty-two, and he was with U. S. Grant when Vicksburg fell. That’s where he got his name. Grant give it to him, in fact. Shotgun didn’t hold with government-issue firearms. He shot rebels with his old Remington pump-action that he’d used to kill quail back here at home.”
Now Mary Alice was yanking on my shirttail. We knew kids lie all the time, but Grandma was no kid, and she could tell some whoppers. Of course the reporter had been lied to big-time up at the cafe, but Grandma’s lies were more interesting, even historical. They made Shotgun look better while they left Effie Wilcox in the dust.
“He was always a crack shot,” she said, winding down. “Come home from the war with a line of medals bigger than his chest.”
“And yet he died penniless,” the reporter said in a thoughtful voice.
“Oh well, he’d sold off them medals and give the money to war widows and orphans.”
A change crossed the reporter’s narrow face. Shotgun had gone from kill-crazy gunslinger to war-hero marksman. Philanthropist, even. He fumbled his notepad out and was scribbling. He thought he’d hit pay dirt with Grandma. “It’s all a matter of record,” she said. “You could look it up.”
He was ready to wire in a new story: “Civil War Hero Handpicked by U. S. Grant Called to the Great Campground in the Sky.” Something like that. “And he never married?”
“Never did,” Grandma said. “He broke Effie Wilcox’s heart. She’s bitter still, as you see.”
“And now he goes to a pauper’s grave with none to mark his passing,” the reporter said, which may have been a sample of his writing style.
“They tell you that?” Grandma said. “They’re pulling your leg, sonny. You drop by The Coffee Pot and tell them you heard that Shotgun’s being buried from my house with full honors. He’ll spend his last night above ground in my front room, and you’re invited.”
The reporter backed down the porch stairs, staggering under all this new material. “Much obliged, ma’am,” he said.
“Happy to help,” Grandma said.
Mary Alice had turned loose of my shirttail. What little we knew about grown-ups didn’t seem to cover Grandma. She turned on us. “Now I’ve got to change my shoes and walk all the way up to the lumberyard in this heat,” she said, as if she hadn’t brought it all on herself. Up at the lumberyard they’d be knocking together Shotgun Cheatham’s coffin and sending the bill to the county, and Grandma had to tell them to bring that coffin to her house, with Shotgun in it.
By nightfall a green pine coffin stood on two sawhorses in the bay window of the front room, and people milled in the yard. They couldn’t see Shotgun from there because the coffin lid blocked the view. Besides, a heavy gauze hung from the open lid and down over the front of the coffin to veil him. Shotgun hadn’t been exactly fresh when they discovered his body. Grandma had flung open every window, but there was a peculiar smell in the room. I’d only had one look at him when they’d carried in the coffin, and that was enough. I’ll tell you just two things about him. He didn’t have his teeth in, and he was wearing bib overalls.
The people in the yard still couldn’t believe Grandma was holding open house. This didn’t stop the reporter who was haunting the parlor, looking for more flesh to add to his story. And it didn’t stop Mrs. L. J. Weidenbach, the banker’s wife, who came leading her father, an ancient codger half her size in full Civil War Union blue.
“We are here to pay our respects at this sad time,” Mrs. Weidenbach said when Grandma let them in. “When I told Daddy that Shotgun had been decorated by U. S. Grant and wounded three times at Bull Run, it brought it all back to him, and we had to come.” Her old daddy wore a forage cap and a decoration from the Grand Army of the Republic, and he seemed to have no idea where he was. She led him up to the coffin, where they admired the flowers. Grandma had planted a pitcher of glads from her garden at either end of the pine box. In each pitcher she’d stuck an American flag.
A few more people willing to brave Grandma came and went, but finally we were down to the reporter, who’d settled into the best chair, still nosing for news. Then who appeared at the front door but Mrs. Effie Wilcox, in a hat.
“Mrs. Dowdel, I’ve come to set with you overnight and see our brave old soldier through his Last Watch.”
In those days people sat up with a corpse through the final night before burial. I’d have bet money Grandma wouldn’t let Mrs. Wilcox in for a quick look, let alone overnight. But of course Grandma was putting on the best show possible to pull wool over the reporter’s eyes. Little though she seemed to think of townspeople, she thought less of strangers. Grandma waved Mrs. Wilcox inside, and in she came, her eyes all over the place. She made for the coffin, stared at the blank white gauze, and said, “Don’t he look natural?”
Then she drew up a chair next to the reporter. He flinched because he had it on good authority that she’d just been let out of an insane asylum. “Warm, ain’t it?” she said straight at him, but looking everywhere.
The crowd outside finally dispersed. Mary Alice and I hung at the edge of the room, too curious to be anywhere else.
“If you’re here for the long haul,” Grandma said to the reporter, “how about a beer?” He looked encouraged, and Grandma left him to Mrs. Wilcox, which was meant as a punishment. She came back with three of her home brews, cellar-cool. She brewed beer to drink herself, but these three bottles were to see the reporter through the night. She wouldn’t have expected her worst enemy, Effie Wilcox, to drink alcohol in front of a man.
In normal circumstances the family recalls stories about the departed to pass the long night hours. But these circumstances weren’t normal, and quite a bit had already been recalled about Shotgun Cheatham anyway.
Only a single lamp burned, and as midnight drew on, the glads drooped in their pitchers. I was wedged in a corner, beginning to doze, and Mary Alice was sound asleep on a throw rug. After the second beer the reporter lolled, visions of Shotgun’s Civil War glories no doubt dancing in his head. You could hear the tick of the kitchen clock. Grandma’s chin would drop, then jerk back. Mrs. Wilcox had been humming “Rock of Ages,” but tapered off after “let me hide myself in thee.”
Then there was the quietest sound you ever heard. Somewhere between a rustle and a whisper. It brought me around, and I saw Grandma sit forward and cock her head. I blinked to make sure I was awake, and the whole world seemed to listen. Not a leaf trembled outside.
But the gauze that hung down over the open coffin moved. Twitched.
Except for Mary Alice, we all saw it. The reporter sat bolt upright, and Mrs. Wilcox made a little sound.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
A very good read. Funny, reminded me of Mark Twain.
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.
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)
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.
I laughed all the way through this book about Mary Alice and Joe's summer visit to their Grandma Dowdel's house.
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.
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.
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.
loved it. made me laugh out loud.
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.
So delightful I read the sequel, A Year Down Yonder.
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.
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.
A soft, funny story about Joey and Mary Alice visiting their excentric grandma for the summer.
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.
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.
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.