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A Long Way from Chicago

(A Long Way from Chicago #1)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  30,582 ratings  ·  2,252 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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Maya No, it was very horrible and boring. If you like books where things actually HAPPEN, get another one.
Ashley Jacobson Well, it starts with a description of two very young kids seeing a dead body, then goes on to describe how grandma takes advantage of this death to…moreWell, it starts with a description of two very young kids seeing a dead body, then goes on to describe how grandma takes advantage of this death to mess with her enemy and make herself look good and then force the kids to see said body. There is lying, cheating, and all sorts of problems. I don't call that appropriate!(less)

Community Reviews

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3.93  · 
Rating details
 ·  30,582 ratings  ·  2,252 reviews

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"I don't think Grandma's a very good influence on us," Mary Alice said.

Every August, Joey Dowdel and his kid sister Mary Alice spend a week at their Granny's house.

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.

Over the years, Grandma Dowdel gets the kid
May 01, 2008 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 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
Jason Koivu
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comedy, fiction
This is good, ol' timey fun. If you like A Christmas Story kind of content and storytelling, Richard Peck's series on the enigmatic Grandma Dowdel will warm your heart and jiggle your funny bone.
Mar 17, 2011 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 pleasant reminder that you are visiting grandma and they don't serve cold cereal ...more
Melissa McShane
Jan 13, 2012 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.
R.F. Gammon
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
School reading. Awesome. I need to get back into reading older Newbery books because they are impeccable. xD
Alm Melson
Mar 17, 2009 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
Westminster Library
Don’t let the juvenile designation fool you, this is a book anyone can enjoy. Granny Mazur’s grandkids soon learn that there is a lot more to her than her grouchy exterior. She doesn’t suffer fools or snobs lightly and has a great many tricks up her sleeves. She outwits both the rowdy neighborhood kids and condescending adults and you will enjoy every minute. My husband and I both laughed our way through this book and its sequel: A Year Down Yonder.

Find A Long Way From Chicago at the Westminster
Feb 28, 2012 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
Aug 20, 2008 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
Linda Hart
Apr 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A short amusing read about 2 young people and the summer they spend with their Grandma who is a character with guts and gumption who you'll remember. Very entertaining, with good belly laughs and moral instruction as well
Laugh-out-loud hilarious! Good for what ails you! Onward to the second in the series . . .
Emma Jane
Feb 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
I basically just LOVE Richard Peck.
Lesr Kew
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a delightful read. It took me back to the country and gives you plenty of guffaws! I would love to read this out loud to children any day of the week. Grandma is one tough woman!
Seema Rao
Depression-era Illinois is full of adventure for a little boy and his sister. Full of low-key, atmospheric 30's Americana.
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 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 19, 2013 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
Sep 29, 2012 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 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
Nov 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Author Richard Peck started this novel as a short story, using his story "Shotgun Cheatham's Last Night Above Ground" as the first chapter when he discovered that his main character Grandma Dowdel couldn't be contained to just one story. The narrative structure is built around grandchildren Joey and Mary Alice visiting their Grandmother in rural Illinois every summer. Growing up in Chicago, the two siblings have a lot to learn about small town living, and their crusty Grandmother's old fashioned ...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
Nov 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
This woman is not your typical grandma. She is not always the best example of honesty, among other things. Yet she effectively solves a number of problems in the town and helps some of her grandchildren's dreams come true along the way. Grandma Dowdel makes for an interesting character, since she has such a gruff exterior, then unexpectedly does acts of quiet, true compassion. This story was highly entertaining, as well as heartwarming. I also really enjoyed getting a glimpse of a bygone era: sm ...more
Feb 12, 2010 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.
Jennifer Marie
Jan 31, 2008 rated it did not like it
One word: BORING. I'm sorry, but I had to fight to pay attention to this book. I was going to read the sequel, but forget it, I can't take anymore of the characters or their stories. It wasn't that this was badly written, it just never really grabbed me. I couldn't find any point to the stories, other than a kind was relating his summers with his wacky grandmother. Oh well I gave it a shot.
One of my absolute favourite books! The humour is exceptional and Grandma Dowdel is just one of a kind. While I love each chapter (each chapter is the week at Grandma’s farm that year), the last one (year 1942) is my favourite- THAT’S how you end a story! 5++ stars!
Apr 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
This book is so funny, had me laughing, grinning, chuckling. A great feel good book, which was well timed after an 'apocalyptic read'. I just love grandma and her tricks. Because of this, a fat five star rating!
Evan Yang
Aug 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: good
It's a really good book, and sad too.
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Richard Peck was 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. For his cumulative contribution to young-adult literature, he received the Margaret A. Edwards Award from the American Library Association in 1990.

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)
“The years went by, and Mary Alice and I grew up, Slower than we wanted to, faster than we realized.” 30 likes
“Never trust an ugly woman. She's got a grudge against the world,' said Grandma who was no oil painting herself.” 22 likes
More quotes…