Book Review : A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck
Joey and Mary Alice Dowdel would travel down from Chicago to visit their Grandma every August for a week. Grandma was tough as an old boot and seemed bigger than the small town she lived in. Every year the kids grow to know their Grandma better, but even they are surprised by some of the big whoppers she tells. Over those years she makes sure the dead stay dead, ensures the family of a plane ride, out maneuvers the bank, helps star crossed lovers, exhorts money out of turkey hunters and solves a mystery of a lost sisters in the community and provides. Not bad work for an old lady.
Adult Point of View
Grandma, in A Long Way from Chicago, is bigger than life, very much like a tall tale though it is historical fiction. I love her gumption and sense of justice. I also love how she doesn’t care at all what other people may think and does what she feels is right. I also enjoyed the progression of Joey and Mary Alice’s attitudes around their grandmother. Originally they are a bit scared of her and can’t believe what she does, and through the next six years they know her better and are not fooled into believing her cantankerous ways. One of my favorite stories was in the first chapter when she fires a shotgun at a corpse to drive off a reporter, purporting that she was making sure he stayed dead when a cloth was fluttering as if the dead man was breathing. Mary Alice originally says the things Grandma does gives her nightmares, but later Joey thinks she is taking on the same characteristics like pinching pennies. Grandma is full of surprises through the whole book and will not fail to amuse. With the setting in the Great Depression it could have been lack luster, but Grandma shows a new side of getting by and making life interesting. By 1942 when Joey is heading off to WWII and the train is running through Grandma’s town she stands on the porch with her house lights blazing waving to the train as a testament of her love for her grandson, and I believe he knew she would be there.
As often is the case with Newberry books, I am not sure how well kids will take to reading it on their own. I think it might work better being read aloud in a class setting. The outrageous situations had me laughing out loud, and I believe a teacher could “sell” the book to the kids and they would love it too. (After the last book I needed a good laugh.) Some of the sentences did seem a little clunky, but that was easily forgiven because of the delightful story.
It is great to have a book that shows the relationship of a grandparent to her grandkids. I am so happy to have read this wonderful little book and I highly recommend it!
4 out of 5 stars