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

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  28,548 Ratings  ·  2,042 Reviews
A Newbery Honor Book

A summer they'll never forget.

Each summer Joey and his sister, Mary Alice—two city slickers from Chicago—visit Grandma Dowdel's seemingly sleepy Illinois town. Soon enough, they find that it's far from sleepy...and Grandma is far from your typical grandmother. From seeing their first corpse (and he isn't resting easy) to helping Grandma trespass, catch
Paperback, 176 pages
Published September 30th 1999 by Puffin Books (first published January 1st 1998)
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Sydney 4363 If you are using the slang term 'Is it good, boi?' for 'Is it good?' then, in my opinion, it is very good but I only liked it because I like history.…moreIf you are using the slang term 'Is it good, boi?' for 'Is it good?' then, in my opinion, it is very good but I only liked it because I like history. If you don't like history, I wouldn't recommend it to you.(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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May 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  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.
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Alm Melson
Mar 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Emma Jane
Feb 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I basically just LOVE Richard Peck.
Laugh-out-loud hilarious! Good for what ails you! Onward to the second in the series . . .
Feb 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 22, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Apr 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Loved this book. Grandma Dowdel rocks!!
Aug 24, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's probably been 3 years since I read this book. A quick fun childrens book.
Littlefoot Peco
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: newbery-books
The old saying "Less is more" certainly applies to the Newbery-winning books of 1999. There were only two--Holes and A Long Way from Chicago--but both were fantastic. I can see how either book could win the top prize; Holes is a bit scatterbrained but innovative and A Long Way from Chicago (which this review discusses) is traditionally structured but incredibly funny.

This book does so many things well, but its colorful characters especially shine. Grandma Dowdel is one of the best children's lit
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started this laugh-out-loud humorous book with my grandson but wasn't able to finish it with him. I had to finish it by myself and enjoyed it almost as much as when I was reading it with him. It is great for grandmothers of today to read about grandmothers of yesteryear with our grandchildren. Great summer read.
Teresa Hoard
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed reading this. It was a very short book from way back in the day. (around Dillinger days) It talked a little about things i could connect with being from Chicago. It also reminded me very much of my summer visits to my Grandma's house in Arkansas. I would recommend to anyone for a quick read.
Zachary Holcomb
I don't really know about this book. I guess it just wasn't really my style. It was definitely written well, though.
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up at a library booksale because I recognized the author's name, though I've never read any of his books.
I loved the structure of this book - "a novel in stories" - and appreciated that the stories took place during consecutive Augusts - perfect order. I would love to find out where the author got the idea for the book - the grandma was so unconventional. The stories are pretty crazy and quite entertaining.
I also like how you can see that the grandma loves her grandkids though she
Oct 16, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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)

Share This Book

“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.” 20 likes
More quotes…