This book won the 1999 Newbery Honor.
Richard Peck has written more than 20 novels for young people. His numerous awards include the New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year and Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. A Long Way From Chicago was shortlisted for the US National Book Awards, and was awarded the coveted Newbery Honor Medal (US equivalent of the Carnegie Medal) for 1999. Its sequel, A Year Down Yonder, publishes in September 2000.
Peck (Strays Like Us) first created the inimitable central figure of this novel in a previously published short story. Although the narrator, Joey, and his younger sister, Mary Alice, live in the Windy city during the reign of Al Capone and Bugs Moran, most of their adventures occur "a long way from Chicago," during their annual down-state visits with Grandma Dowdel. A woman as "old as the hills," "tough as an old boot," and larger than life ("We could hardly see her town because of Grandma. She was so big, and the town was so small"), Grandma continually astounds her citified grandchildren by stretching the boundaries of truth. In eight hilarious episodes spanning the years 1929-1942, she plots outlandish schemes to even the score with various colorful members of her community, including a teenaged vandal, a drunken sheriff and a well-to-do banker. Readers will be eager to join the trio of Grandma, Joey and Mary Alice on such escapades as preparing an impressive funeral for Shotgun Cheatham, catching fish from a stolen boat and arranging the elopement of Vandalia Eubanks and Junior Stubbs. Like Grandma Dowdel's prize-winning gooseberry pie, this satire on small-town etiquette is fresh, warm and anything but ordinary. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)
This is an unusual book, but if, like me, you have a sense of humour, you'll love reading it. * The Daily Telegraph, 9/9/00 *
Gr 4-8-A rollicking celebration of an eccentric grandmother and childhood memories. Set in the 1930s, the book follows Joe and Mary Alice Dowdel as they make their annual August trek to visit their grandmother who lives in a sleepy Illinois town somewhere between Chicago and St. Louis. A woman with plenty of moxie, she keeps to herself, a difficult task in this small community. However, Grandma Dowdel uses her wit and ability to tell whoppers to get the best of manipulative people or those who put on airs. She takes matters into her own hands to intimidate a father who won't control his unruly sons, and forces the bank to rescind a foreclosure on an elderly woman's house. Whether it's scaring a pretentious newspaper man back to the city or stealing the sheriff's boat and sailing right past him as he drunkenly dances with his buddies at the Rod & Gun Club, she never ceases to amaze her grandchildren with her gall and cunning behavior. Each chapter resembles a concise short story. Peck's conversational style has a true storyteller's wit, humor, and rhythm. Joe, the narrator, is an adult looking back on his childhood memories; in the prologue, readers are reminded that while these tales may seem unbelievable, "all memories are true." Perfect for reading aloud, A Long Way from Chicago is a great choice for family sharing.-Shawn Brommer, Southern Tier Library System, Painted Post, NY