A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck

Rating: 4.5/5

Rating: 4.5/5

Awards: Newberry Honor Book of 1999; ALA Best Book for Young Adults

In this story for children ages 9-12, a brother and sister living in the Great Depression era are forced to spend time with their seemingly bitter, yet larger than life grandmother in a small town where anything can happen.  The story is funny and full of unexpected adventures, where each chapter is a stand-alone episode.

Grandma Dowdel is not your stereotypical grandmother. She lies, cheats, is handy with a rifle and cares deeply about her town. Readers who are close to their grandmothers and/or have a grandmother that is like the one in this book might enjoy this look into the life of Joey and his sister as they get to know the real Mrs. Dowdel.  From shooting at a dead man and putting a nearly decapitated rat into a bottle of milk, Grandmother Dowdel’s exploits will remain unforgettable.

Though the grandmother’s antics are certainly humorous, sometimes gross and always memorable, the story lacks dialogue, which could turn off some readers. However, each chapter stands alone, which appeals to readers who find it difficult to sit through a full-length book.

Though the grandmother is central to this story, readers could also relate to Joey. He loves cars, airplanes and experiences growing pains that are common for most boys such as: feelings of abandonment; city life vs. small town life; right vs. wrong; growing acknowledgment and confusion towards the opposite sex; and death.

I loved reading this story. It’s one of those books that are great for when you are feeling nostalgic or just want a good laugh.

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