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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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