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A Long Way From Chicago (Puffin Modern Classics) Paperback – April 12, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Peck (Strays Like Us) first created the inimitable central figure of this novel in a previously published short story. Although the narrator, Joey, and his younger sister, Mary Alice, live in the Windy city during the reign of Al Capone and Bugs Moran, most of their adventures occur "a long way from Chicago," during their annual down-state visits with Grandma Dowdel. A woman as "old as the hills," "tough as an old boot," and larger than life ("We could hardly see her town because of Grandma. She was so big, and the town was so small"), Grandma continually astounds her citified grandchildren by stretching the boundaries of truth. In eight hilarious episodes spanning the years 1929-1942, she plots outlandish schemes to even the score with various colorful members of her community, including a teenaged vandal, a drunken sheriff and a well-to-do banker. Readers will be eager to join the trio of Grandma, Joey and Mary Alice on such escapades as preparing an impressive funeral for Shotgun Cheatham, catching fish from a stolen boat and arranging the elopement of Vandalia Eubanks and Junior Stubbs. Like Grandma Dowdel's prize-winning gooseberry pie, this satire on small-town etiquette is fresh, warm and anything but ordinary. Ages 9-12.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-8-A rollicking celebration of an eccentric grandmother and childhood memories. Set in the 1930s, the book follows Joe and Mary Alice Dowdel as they make their annual August trek to visit their grandmother who lives in a sleepy Illinois town somewhere between Chicago and St. Louis. A woman with plenty of moxie, she keeps to herself, a difficult task in this small community. However, Grandma Dowdel uses her wit and ability to tell whoppers to get the best of manipulative people or those who put on airs. She takes matters into her own hands to intimidate a father who won't control his unruly sons, and forces the bank to rescind a foreclosure on an elderly woman's house. Whether it's scaring a pretentious newspaper man back to the city or stealing the sheriff's boat and sailing right past him as he drunkenly dances with his buddies at the Rod & Gun Club, she never ceases to amaze her grandchildren with her gall and cunning behavior. Each chapter resembles a concise short story. Peck's conversational style has a true storyteller's wit, humor, and rhythm. Joe, the narrator, is an adult looking back on his childhood memories; in the prologue, readers are reminded that while these tales may seem unbelievable, "all memories are true." Perfect for reading aloud, A Long Way from Chicago is a great choice for family sharing.
Shawn Brommer, Southern Tier Library System, Painted Post, NY
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 0750 (What's this?)
  • Series: Puffin Modern Classics
  • Paperback: 148 pages
  • Publisher: Puffin Books (April 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142401102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142401101
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (314 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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 middle graders as well as young adults for his mysteries and coming-of-age novels. He now lives in New York City. In addition to writing, he spends a great deal of time traveling around the country attending speaking engagements at conferences, schools and libraries...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. Dial Books for Young Readers is honored to welcome Richard Peck to its list with Lost in Cyberspace and its sequel The Great Interactive Dream Machine...

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

122 of 126 people found the following review helpful By MFS on May 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A Long Way from Chicago is a touching and very funny book. The narrator, Joey Dowdel, shares the experiences of visiting his thrifty, hardworking, no-nonsense grandmother. Each chapter tells the adventures his sister and he have with his grandmother during each of seven week-long summer vacations. Long Way takes place during the Great Depression (1929-1935), so I learned some history while enjoying a great story. The coolest part of the book is when Grandma gets Joey a ride in an old biplane; the funniest is when the sheriff and his deputies drunkenly sing about Paddy Murphy while they're wearing only their underwear at the Rod and Gun Club. My favorite character was Grandma Dowdel because of her use of words and the way she loved people without saying it. I didn't pick out this book -- my mom chose it as one of our read-alouds -- but, like everything she picks out, this was really terrific. We shared a good cry at the end because we realized that Grandma is a lot "softer" than her tough words and actions showed. Happy reading!
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on January 26, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have to admit a certain attachment to this book. As a boy who grew up on one of those stops down the train line from Chicago, I felt a real connection to the story told in this book. Of course, unlike Joey, I didn't just spend the summers in the small Illinois town downstate. I lived my life there and didn't take the train upto Chicago until I was 17 and headed for college. Still, Peck has certainly caught the flavor of small town Illinois.
The bulk of this book takes place over the summers from 1929 to 1935. And yet, it's amazing how much of those attitudes depicted in this novel still survive. My grandmother grew up during the Depression and much of the quirkiness and toughness balanced by family feeling shown in the character of Grandma Dowdel I remember in my own grandmother. That's what makes Grandma Dowdel such a wonderful and realistic character.
And yet, there is also a glimpse of history here. Many things from the 1930's--some good and some bad--are gone now and it's fun to travel back in time through the pages of this book. I don't know if kids today are effected much by stories of the past. The flashiness of twenty-first century culture is stiff competition to a story no matter how well-told but I certainly enjoyed this book. The best "childrens' books" can be read and enjoyed by adults but I hope there are some younger readers out there who give this book a try. It will take you to a place that is sadly disappearing from the American landscape.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on May 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
A Long Way From Chicago is about two children, Joey and Mary Alice Dowdel, who spend every summer with their grandmother. Each chapter is another year explaining many of the adventures that take place. Joey, Mary Alice, and Grandma have many adventures, some of which include, the legend of the Phantom Brakeman, feeding all of the homeless, entering Grandma's famous blackberry pies in the town fair, flying planes with a famous pilot, and much more.
My favorite character is Grandma. She is a loving grandmother who has many little quirks about her. She is funny, yet she can be very serious at the same time. Another thing about Grandma is that she is very wide and tall. I think it is very fun to read about her because she is a very funny and strict person. I think that my grandmother seems very much like Grandma Dowdel. The only difference is that my grandmother is not nearly as big as Grandma Dowdel, but they both have the same personality. One of the things that I can relate to is when Joey receives a ride from the amazing pilot. I can relate to his excitement of flying because Joey loves planes and has always wanted to fly in one. I think it is cool to be in a plane, it is neat to be so high up and you look down and see everything really small.
I like this book because it has so many adventures all completely different. The book never really seems like it is going to end. My favorite part in the book is when Joey, Mary Alice, and Grandma all go to the town fair and have a big and very funny adventure. The adventure involves entering Grandma's her famous blackberry pie in the baking contest. Grandma thinks that the person next to her will win so she switches the two pies and it ends up that her pie wins!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Musicbookfan on April 12, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I generally don't write book reviews because sometimes it's hard to describe in a short review what it is I like about a book. This one, though, is easy. It's hilarious!! Mark Twain style humor. Wink, wink, you're in on the joke type stuff. I love this book, so do my teenagers and preteens. My younger kids will probably like it as well, when they're old enough to enjoy it.I would recommend this book for ages preteen on up, not due to difficulty in reading but more from an enjoyment viewpoint, since the humor is often indirect. Funny stuff!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By SoulMistake on May 5, 2007
Format: Paperback
I love this book. And, I have now read it to both of my children (son and daughter) when they were each ten years old. I love acting out the different characters for my kids. It's such a joy to hear them laugh out loud, as "Grandma" does another outlandish thing. The main character is the same age as my deceased grandmother, and by reading the book out loud, it's given me a chance to talk about my grandmother with my kids. The book is not only funny, but an excellent way to start a dialogue about the love between a grandmother and her grandchildren, the Great Depression, thriftiness, honesty, history of the 1920s and 1930s, gangsters, and the "country way" of living.

Children can read the book themselves, but I don't think they will get some of the really clever descriptions and inferences without an adult's help.

If you haven't read to your pre-teen child recently, get back in the habit and start with this book.

Also, this would be a perfect book to be used in the classroom.
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