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A Long Way from Chicago (A Long Way from Chicago #1)

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  27,669 Ratings  ·  1,944 Reviews
Join Joey and his sister Mary Alice as they spend nine unforgettable summers with the worst influence imaginable--their grandmother!
Paperback, 160 pages
Published April 12th 2004 by Puffin Books (first published January 1st 1998)
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(showing 1-30)
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May 31, 2008 Abby rated it really liked it
I liked this little book. It was funny. It's about two kids from Chicago who go and visit their Grandma in the country every summer, and how she is exactly like my funny Grandma (aka "Granny") in North Carolina.

My sister recommended this book to me after she read it in her book club. I am a book club virgin. (Meaning, I have never actually belonged to a book club, or attended a live meeting, but I DO love talking about books on this website - oh my gosh, is that like the dorky guys who never act
Jul 27, 2008 Gloria rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Older children, younger teens
Recommended to Gloria by: Teacher
Shelves: young-adult
This story’s grandma does not exactly fit the mold of the classic plump, white-haired, cookie-baking character used in other stories or commercial ads. Grandma Dowdel has a rather tough and leather-like persona that fascinates her two grandchildren each summer as they learn more and more about how she thinks.
Through these summer experiences, the reader learns about the Great Depression, small town America, and gets a glimpse of Chicago during its gangster-plagued years. More than history, howeve
Melissa McShane
Oct 01, 2015 Melissa McShane rated it it was amazing
This is just a really good MG book that I think all ages will enjoy. My adult daughter saw it on the table next to my writing space and said, "That is worth re-reading often." That's totally true. I love Grandma Dowdel and the complexity of her character, and I love seeing the two kids grow up over the years and be shaped by what they learn a long way from Chicago.
Alm Melson
Mar 17, 2009 Alm Melson rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone!
A great book! Very funny. People who live in or grew up in small towns will recognize something of their lives in Grandma's small Illinois town where everyone knows everyone's business--"sometimes before it happens." Grandma herself is an unforgettable character. Crotchety and aloof from the rest of the town, shunned by most of her neighbors (until they need her help), Grandma gets the best of snobby society women, out-of-town interlopers, Halloween pranksters & theives, and school bullies b ...more
Mar 17, 2011 Cosette rated it it was amazing
I'm really loving this author. Yes, I'm picking up books from the children's section and reading them to myself. But these books are so much easier to enjoy than the junk written for adult readers!! Characters that you either want to meet or could swear you have already. Circumstances that feel familiar and comfortable - like an old worn cotton shirt, the smell of breakfast coming up the stairs to wake you with the peasant reminder that you are visiting grandma and they don't serve cold cereal h ...more
Feb 29, 2012 Marie rated it really liked it
Richard Peck’s, A Long Way from Chicago is the first book in the trilogy about larger than life character Grandma Dowdel and her grandchildren, Joey and Mary Alice. (The second is A Year Down Yonder and the last is A Season Of Gifts.) Joey and Mary Alice are sent from Chicago to spend the summer each year with their Grandma Dowdel in rural Illinois. The book immediately grabs the reader’s attention: “You wouldn’t think we needed to leave Chicago to see a dead body. We were growing up in there ba ...more
Sep 20, 2008 george rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya, read-in-2008
Joey and Mary Alice's Grandma ain't your sweet little granny. She's a tough old woman who makes her own soap, not afraid to use a shotgun, illegally traps fish and steals boats. She's outrageous and moody; gruff and caring. Joey and Mary Alice visit her for a week each summer in the country--a far cry from their regular life in Chicago. At first the siblings drag their feet to Grandma's, but after a few summers they can't wait to go and see what antics Grandma will get in to next.

Loved this! Gra
Aj Sterkel
This was a forced read for me. I needed a middlegrade book with an unusual narrative structure for a lecture I’m working on, and my mentor suggested this one. I had never heard of it before. Honestly, I groaned when I looked it up online because I have a love/hate relationship with middlegrade fiction. Some of it is brilliant, but a lot of it is too silly for my adult brain. The cover of this book looks juvenile. The synopsis sounds extremely juvenile. I braced myself to grit my teeth and plow t ...more
Brooke H
Dec 14, 2015 Brooke H rated it really liked it
Joe and Mary Alice leave Chicago every summer to visit their grandma in her little Illinois town. Whenever they visit their grandmother, she made it a fun time. Joe and Mary Alice didn't really notice that after they had their summer visit, they learned good traits as a person and the reader would learn more of how family is important and being a great person to family and other people. If looking for a book to have laugh or learn about family and good traits to have as a person, I would pick up ...more
Nana S.
Feb 20, 2013 Nana S. rated it liked it
Recently I have read a book titled A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck. The book takes place in the 1930's during the time of the great depression when siblings Joey and Mary Alice spend a week at their grandma's house every summer for nine summers. They thought spending a week at their grandma's house in her sleepy town might be boring. But it turns out that grandma's town is a lot less sleepy than Joey and Mary Alice thought. They help their grandma do everything from trespassing, to seein ...more
Nov 30, 2014 Amy rated it it was amazing
Here’s one from an all-time favorite author of mine. Do you happen to have a hilarious grandma? Or do you even know a really funny old lady? If so, you will adore this book.

Set in the 1930s, A Long Way from Chicago recount the summers Joey and Mary Alice spend with Grandma Dowdel. She’s “old as the hills” , “tough as an old boot”, and so large she makes her quirky town look tiny. She’s known for stretching the truth, manipulating sleazy and snobbish people, and pulling all sorts of stunts you ca
Oct 12, 2009 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ahhhh! This was so good! I chose it because I wanted something that both Jake and I would enjoy for a quick road trip (Hence, "The Treasure Map of Boys" will have to wait).

It was perfect. Funny at times that we both burst out laughing. Awesome sense of place and time, wonderful characters, entertaining stories. We both so thoroughly enjoyed it. I must admit, I dozed off towards the end of the book. So I asked Jake to tell me the ending. As he explained the scene, I got all teary-eyed right there
Susan Katz
The hero of this book remarks of his grandmother early on: "What little we knew about grown-ups didn't seem to cover Grandma." I'm not sure what anybody knows about anybody would cover Grandma Dowdle. "Larger than life" isn't big enough to describe her. Unpredictable, cantankerous, sly, (and secretly, begrudgingly tender-hearted), she's an entertaining person to spend a summer vacation (or a book) with. And when, as often happens in these stories, "all the laws of civilization has broke down," s ...more
Feb 15, 2010 Gregg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children-s
You've gotta love Grandma Dowdel. For instance, one morning the banker's prissy wife unexpectedly shows up on Grandma Dowdel's back porch. "Oh, Mrs. Dowdel," she said through screen wire, "you see before you a woman at the end of her rope." "I wish," Grandma mumbled.

It's that kind of forthright wit that makes Grandma Dowdel a gem. She's feisty, cantankerous,and even at times a bit shady, but underneath that rough exterior beats a heart of gold. Just don't let her hear you say that.
Jan C
I found this entertaining little ditty in my el station. I was surprised at what an enjoyable little book this was. There are these two kids who escape Chicago every year and go and visit their granny. Certainly nothing like my granny. Well, they were both tough old birds, so maybe they weren't all that different after all.
Inspired Kathy
May 19, 2009 Inspired Kathy rated it really liked it
It's probably been 3 years since I read this book. A quick fun childrens book.
Emma Jane
Mar 25, 2016 Emma Jane rated it really liked it
I basically just LOVE Richard Peck. :-)
Mary L.
Oct 17, 2016 Mary L. rated it really liked it
This is not the first time I have read this book. I love Grandma Dowdle (spelling?) and her sense of what is justice and how to handle things. I enjoy these little short stories of what happened on their, Joey and Mary Alice) yearly visits with her. I also suggest reading the other two books of the trio--A Year Down Yonder, and A Season of Gifts. What's with the mouse in the milk bottle? Read the book and find out.
Oct 17, 2016 Jerry rated it it was ok
Fans of children's literature can do a lot better.
Oct 16, 2015 NebraskaIcebergs rated it liked it
Shelves: own
To my surprise, A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck is a novel told in stories rather than a straightforward narrative. As I began to dip into the stories, I also discovered that the real heroine of this short story cycle isn’t a young person but Grandma Dowdel. Despite not being what I expected, I enjoyed Peck’s touching and funny novel.

Eight stories depict several summer vacations as spent by Joey and Alice with their grandmother who lives in a rural Illinois town. The first tale starts wi
Trudy Brasure
Oct 03, 2016 Trudy Brasure rated it it was amazing
This was a great read-aloud book for me and the kids. The down-home stories of kids at grandma's house in a bygone era provided a rich historical context for some rather hilarious adventures. Grandma Dowdel is not your typical pearls and lace grandma! She conjures up plenty of trouble and finds a way to always win the day -- but don't expect her to follow the regular rules!
I liked this book enough to check out its sequel. It is funny and heart warming tale starring Grandma Dowdel, who is tough but kind and basically unstoppable.
Feb 05, 2012 Michelle rated it really liked it
Told more in the style of vignettes rather than a continuous story, A Long Way from Chicago is the story of Joey, his younger sister Mary Alice, and their adventures when they travel each summer to visit their Grandma Dowdel. Grandma Dowdel is not your typical grandma, and the kids find themselves learning from her unconventional relationships with her small town compatriots.

I loved the stories because they were sweet and the characters are endearing, most especially their grandmother. I also l
Oct 06, 2011 Melissa rated it really liked it
This book was a little hard to get into at first but as I continued reading my interest was heightened. The stories were told by a young boy, and his views on his grandma and his surroundings were hilarious. My favorite thing about this book was the grandma. She was the most interesting character, with each chapter I came to love the grandma more and more. I was always wondering what she would do next, I loved the unpredictability of her character. I think part of the reason I enjoyed this book ...more
Courtney Umlauf
2.5 stars - I'll round up based on the fact that I didn't have any problems with this book. But for some reason I didn't enjoy it at all.

This is a collection of short stories set in the 1930s. Over several years, a boy and his younger sister spend part of their summer vacation with their zany grandmother out in the country. She's independent, bizarre, and at times an instigator of trouble in the community, although always with good intentions (even if they're hidden beneath layers of shenanigan
Katie Carson
Dec 15, 2009 Katie Carson rated it really liked it
I was very pleased with this reading being my first Richard Peck novel. Known for his historical fiction writing, Peck tells the story of a boy traveling through the Illinois countryside with his sister to visit their grandmother around the time of the Great Depression.
My first favorite part of this novel were the great examples of dialogue, representative of vernacular during the time period. When discussing this book with my colleagues, apparently this book has been used my the seventh grade
Jun 22, 2011 Lolene rated it it was amazing
This book will always hold a special place in my heart. I read it aloud to my mother in her declining years...and she LOVED it. It's the story of a brother and sister who go to live with their grandma for a time during the Great Depression. Enough about the story. You know how I hate to summarize.

Each chapter has some sort of closure, so it was a perfect read-aloud book. We could share a chapter, then pick it up days later. Many of the things the author wove into the story from the depression e
Mar 09, 2010 MMPetrovich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Joey and Mary Alice always visit their country grandma and she always has something new planned for them each year.

"Grandma turned back to me. Under my nose she struck a wooden match with her thumbnail. Men strike a match one-handed, but you never see a women doing that. She hid the flare of the flame with herself and touched the match to something in her other hand. It sizzled. Then she leaned down and rolled it into the invisible kitchen.
Seconds passed. Then once more, Grandma's house
Jan 05, 2012 Jeannie rated it it was amazing
So funny... and so touching.

I read the series in reverse order, but that didn't matter.(A Year Down Yonder and A Season of Gifts are the other two.) Each book easily stands on its own. And it doesn't matter that these books were written for middle schoolers. They are a must read for anyone who needs or wants a dose of grandmotherly love. Grandma Dowdel is one of the most amazing people that I have ever met in a book. If it wouldn't make me look so crazy I would carry all three books about her e
Linda Lipko
Feb 03, 2011 Linda Lipko rated it really liked it
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 summer
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Future Teachers, ...: Kaylee Dashiell's Review 6 1 1 Nov 19, 2016 01:08PM  
A Long Way From Chicago 1 2 Oct 27, 2016 12:18PM  
Historical fiction 2 4 Mar 12, 2016 07:51AM  
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Richard Peck is an American novelist known for his prolific contributions to modern young adult literature. He was awarded the Newbery Medal in 2001 for his novel A Year Down Yonder.

Richard Peck was born in 1934 in Decatur, Illinois, a town he describes as quiet and safe. His mother, Virginia, was a dietitian and his father, Wayne, was a merchant who often rode his Harley Davidson to work.

More about Richard Peck...

Other Books in the Series

A Long Way from Chicago (3 books)
  • A Year Down Yonder (A Long Way from Chicago, #2)
  • A Season of Gifts (A Long Way from Chicago, #3)

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“The years went by, and Mary Alice and I grew up, Slower than we wanted to, faster than we realized.” 28 likes
“Never trust an ugly woman. She's got a grudge against the world,' said Grandma who was no oil painting herself.” 18 likes
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