JUST LOVED READING: A Long Way from Chicago

JUST LOVED READING: A Long Way from Chicago

Just Loved Reading:

A Long Way from Chicago

Middle Grade Fiction

Peck, Richard. A Long Way from Chicago. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1997.

In A Long Way from Chicago, the protagonist reminisces about his annual trips as a child from Chicago to his grandmother’s house in a small town in rural Illinois during the Great Depression. Joey  (9) and Mary Alice’s (7)  mother informs them that they will be spending a week every August with Grandma Dowdel – as it turned out, every year from 1929 to 1935.

The narrative consists of eight short stories with Joey, Mary Alice and Grandma Dowdel at the center of the action. Grandma Dowdel is gruff, practical and has no problem telling people where to go. Her unique outlook on life merely embodies her small town values and her insistence on living in another era. Her adventures run the gamut from newspaper reporters to Civil War veterans.

Joey and Mary Alice share each of those experiences thanks to Grandma Dowdel.


A Long Way from Chicago is an easy read. The characters Peck draws are real and funny and will remind the reader of the odd-ball characters we may all know in our own lives. Peck is a master at infusing humor into his novels, able to make a serious narrative lighthearted and poignant. He is also a master at evoking the era in which A Long Way from Chicago takes place. The last chapter, “The Troop,” will bring a lump to the reader’s throat.

A Long Way from Chicago was  – justifiably – nominated as a National Book Award finalist.







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About marion

I first wrote and sketched as a child growing up in Pittsburgh, PA and Brooklyn, New York. I received her first recognition for my creativity when I won the New York City Schools Art Award and participated in my first art exhibit in downtown Manhattan. I was fourteen and a half when I moved to Cyprus with my family. I experienced culture shock but I continued to write about and sketch the sights and sounds of another country and many other things. I am a creative person. I write children's and Young Adult fiction and nonfiction. I write historical and Coming of Age Young Adult novels. I also write picture books and art books for elementary school children. I am in the process of writing a fictionalized biography of a member of the Belgian Resistance who also fought for the US Army during World War II. I worked as a freelance editor for two local companies: College Prowler and SterlingHouse Publisher. I also worked as an assistant literary agent for Lee Shore Agency. I was attending Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction Program at the time and the experience was invaluable. My course work toward my Master of Arts degree in turn helped me at work. As an assistant literary agent, I reviewed all incoming manuscripts, cultivated a relationship with the writers we contracted and marketed our books to book publishers for sale. I “freelanced” my editing skills which included working with the manuscript acquisitions editor, selecting book covers with the art department, writing the book jacket blurb, reading film scripts and executing general office duties as assigned. Oh, by the way, I edited books, too. I even utilized Adobe InDesign for the editing that I did for College Prowler. I’ve also reviewed published books and conducted research. I have published nonfiction articles and books online and in print. As an artist, I have exhibited my mixed media drawings and collages nationally and regionally and have worked as a freelance designer and calligrapher. I have a BA in Studio Arts from the University of Pittsburgh and a MA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.

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