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A Long Way from Chicago: A Novel in Stories (A Long Way from Chicago #1)

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  25,475 ratings  ·  1,752 reviews
What happens when Joey and his sister, Mary Alice--two city slickers from Chicago--make their annual summer visits to Grandma Dowdel's seemingly sleepy Illinois town?

August 1929: They see their first corpse, and he isn't resting easy.
August 1930: The Cowgilll boys terrorize the town, and Grandma fights back with a dead mouse and a bottle of milk.
August 1931: Joey and Mary
Audio CD, 4 pages
Published May 10th 2005 by Listening Library (Audio) (first published January 1st 1998)
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Ginger Yes. Especially if they have an interest in history.
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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 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
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
Nana S.
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
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
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
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
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.
I loved this book! The story of two children from Chicago who visit their grandmother each year in small-town southern Illinois was just right up my alley. I liked the small-town Depression-era setting (similar to what my own parents grew up in), and the characters in the book are lots of fun. The grandmother in this book and its sequel, A YEAR DOWN YONDER, is probably one of my all-time favorites in children's literature. She's big, tough, prickly on the outside, but with a soft side that makes ...more
Micky Luo
I found this book at my cousin's house. One thing that made me like this book was how the short book was able to create a long timeline for 13 years. One thing I found impressive was that Joey Dowdel, narrator, was able to complete what he wanted to do for his life. A quote that support this is "Another war came, World War II, and I wanted to get in it. The war looked like my chance to realize my old dream of flying." (Peck 147). This quote supports how Joey wanted to be a pilot from his old dre ...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
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
Linda Lipko
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
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
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
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
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
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
We started listening to this book on audio in the car. At first my kids complained that they had to listen to a book, but by the ride home, they were shushing each other to hear better, and laughing along with the crazy adventures of Grandma Dowdel. I loved the tall tale feeling of some of these stories, but most of all I loved the heart that is at the center of it all. The ending was very sweet and brought a tear to my eye. I can't wait to read the further adventures of this larger-than-life gr ...more

A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO, by Richard Peck, is a collection of delightful, down home, stories of yesteryears, long ago. Of summertime in the country, at Grandma's. And what an entertaining and gritty grandma she is. Every kid should be so lucky.

Recommendation: Two big thumbs up—for middle school to senior citizen.

"Kissin' doesn't last... Cookin' does."

MP3 audio book edition, 4 hours, 17 minutes

As far as historical fiction and vibrant characters goes, this book takes the cake. Set in the Midwest over the course of several successive summers, Joey and Mary Alice travel to rural Illinois to spend the summer with their Grandmother Dowdel, a no-nonsense bigger-than-life character. Each chapter is a separate summer adventure with its own cast of characters. I read this book with my ten-year-old son, and we both enjoyed it. Richard Peck is so good at comedy with heart. This book was no diffe ...more
I listened to the book on CD because my husband picked it out from the library. I didn't think I'd like it because I had already read the sequel (as part of my Newbery goal) and I didn't like the sequel (A Year Down Yonder). But I listened to it anyways because I was busy nursing Eve all the tiime anyways, so might as well.

This book is so much better then the other. It is a bunch of short stories about summer vacation in an old small town with their grandma. Each story can stand on their own. Th
Lisa the Librarian
This is the ProvoREADS book for the 2009-2010 school year. All residents of our city are encouraged to read the book.

I loved the wild antics of eccentric Grandma Dowdell and found it literally laugh out loud funny.

I started reading it between classes in the library. I was in there alone and laughing as I read the first chapter, a story about a wake.

Told with a fresh childlike voice (because it is narrated by a child character) the telling was honest and believeable.

Although written as a children
A quirky, funny, and...perky small-town story. (Actually, it's a collection of stories; each one occurring as the two kids grow a year older and visit Grandma each summer). The first story was by far the best, and I found out that Peck originally wrote it as a short story which later morphed into this collection. Grandma isn't exactly the best influence, so you might want to save this until you're at least 10 and know that this is fiction and that her choices aren't exactly what you should copy ...more
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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.” 27 likes
“Never trust an ugly woman. She's got a grudge against the world,' said Grandma who was no oil painting herself.” 11 likes
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