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

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3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  21,988 ratings  ·  1,561 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...more
Audio CD, 4 pages
Published May 10th 2005 by Listening Library (Audio) (first published September 1st 1998)
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Community Reviews

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Gloria
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...more
Abby
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...more
Marie
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
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
george
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...more
Amy
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...more
Amy
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...more
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
Cosette
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
Gregg
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.
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...more
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...more
Lolene
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...more
Melissa
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
Michelle
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...more
MMPetrovich
Joey and Mary Alice always visit their country grandma and she always has something new planned for them each year.

Passage
"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...more
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
Shauna
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
George
VERY CUTE TALES.

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



D.C.
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
Amy
I read this because the 6th graders on my campus read it, but I was excited to do so because somehow, I've never read any Richard Peck.

It comes across to me like a Garrison Keeler's _Lake Woebegone Days_ for kids. I loved it.

It is a great book for kids to discuss in class-- full of incredible character portraits and fun and meaningful stories. I can't wait to read my next Richard Peck book.
J.
I bought this at a thrift store for my elementary-age kids on the theory that children's fiction about central Illinois is hard to come by and thus we ought to make the best of what we have.

I just read the book cover to cover while recovering from a stomach bug...and laughed much more than I should have done under the circumstances. Obviously our region has changed quite a lot since the early 1930s, but it brilliantly captures the stubborn ingenuity that those of us with family roots in the rur...more
Kris
Almost as wonderful as the sequel! Less developed, more episodic, and more sporadic than A Year Down Yonder, but not a disappointment for Peck's first try. It feels like a younger, shorter chapter book, which still works. Still lovable and cherish-able. Still good character development and a great setting. I wish I would have read this before the sequel.

In my opinion this is still a classic that deserves a place on children's shelves, if nothing else for the ambiance, history lessons, and genera...more
Book Concierge
Audiobook performed by Ron McLarty

When Joey was nine and his sister Mary Alice was seven their parents put them on the train to go visit their Grandma Dowdel. They were city kids and you’d think they’d seen everything. But it was over several summer “vacations” in Grandma’s sleepy small town in Southern Illinois that they: saw their first corpse, helped Grandma get back at a gang of thugs trying to terrorize widows, trespassed on private property, illegally trapped fish, caught the sheriff in hi...more
Chelinda
Two children from Chicago during the Depression visit their Grandmother in rural Illinois every summer for a few weeks. Grandma don't take kindly to people who can't mind their own business, as well as hypocrites, both of which she will tell her mind to most readily. She also has a way of making people eat crow, sticking up for the underdog, and holding her own. Every chapter is a story of whatever crazy thing happened that particular year as the children grow to not only understand Grandma but...more
Kayla Sveen
Richard Peck's book: A Long Way from Chicago was good and humorous!The story was about two grandchildren, Joey and Mary Alice, staying with their grandmother during summer. These children spent nine summer visits with their grandmother. This reminds me of when I would go stay at my grandparents house in the summer. My grandparents had me do chores to keep busy too, just like the grandma in this story. There were a lot of crazy things that went on away from Chicago, but as the story went on, I be...more
Bethany
Jun 30, 2014 Bethany rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bethany by: audio book library
I listened to this on a trip to and from Chicago and giggled myself silly. Joey's grandmother's thinking and verbiage is reminiscent of the folksy logic of Gram and Gramps in Walk Two Moons. The "poor widow" always has a scheme, including how to stay out of or protest against community affairs. As Joey and his sister start to better understand where their grandmother's sincerity truly lies, they start to anticipate the troublesome adventures and delicious ironies that their grandmother exposes t...more
Mloy
Apr 15, 2014 Mloy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mloy by: the Library of Congress and the Ad Counsel
This was another one of those books they gave a sample reading from those old PSA for reading I use to hear on the radio. "A Long Way from Chicago" was a really cute collection of short stories about the numerous summer visits Joey (later referred to only as "Joe") and his sister Mary Alice spends with their eccentric grandmother. There was nothing really supernatural or magical about the tales but most of the tales revolve around different good deeds their grandmother accomplishes throughout th...more
Christine
LOVE this book. Thanks to my school librarian friend, Mrs. Chadwick, for the recommendation. Can't wait to pick up more by this author!

The children spend a week each summer with their grandmother. Chaos, hilarity, and a few life lessons ensue. This is a book to treasure, share, and read again and again.

(No, I'm not going to tell you any more, except I haven't belly-laughed over a book in a long time, and I did with this one with nearly every chapter.)
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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.

Richard...more
More about Richard Peck...
A Year Down Yonder (A Long Way from Chicago, #2) The Teacher's Funeral : A Comedy in Three Parts The River Between Us A Season of Gifts (A Long Way from Chicago, #3) Here Lies the Librarian

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“The years went by, and Mary Alice and I grew up, Slower than we wanted to, faster than we realized.” 24 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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