A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck

Posted December 7, 2017 by Amber in Reviews / 4 Comments

A Long Way From Chicago

A Long Way From Chicago

by Richard Peck

Series: A Long Way From Chicago #1
Publisher: Dial Press on January 1, 1998
Genre: Historical Fiction, Humor, Short Stories
Target Age Group: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Rating: ★★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

A funny, fast moving, and ultimately heartwarming story that will stay with listeners long after its telling has been completed.

Every summer, from the time he was nine, Joey and his sister Mary Alice took the train from Chicago to spend a week with their Grandma in small town Illinois. And when they got there they never knew what to expect, because, you see, Grandma Dowdel was the scandal of the town. As a matter of fact, each year the surprises grew more outrageous with their never predictable grandma.


Joey and Mary Alice are being shipped off to their grandmother’s house.

Every year during summer break, Joey and his little sister Mary Alice are packed off and set on a train to go visit their grandmother.  She lives in a small town a good ways off from the wild Chicago life that the kids are used to, and so it takes them a little while to adjust.  Every year, though, is a new adventure.

From dead bodies to the oldest living settler, every summer is filled with surprises for the kids, who never quite know what their grandmother is up to!

This book was a delight.

The writing style of A Long Way From Chicago reminds me of Anne of Green Gables.  It is sweet, sincere, and shocking at times.  The narrator, Ron McLarty, did an incredible job fluctuation between different characters and bringing them all to life.  I love the snapshots into Joey’s life.  Peck presents the different aspects of this book in such as way that it’s like sitting with someone over dinner and listening to them reminisce about the good old days.  It’s charming.

And yet, Peck also bring’s Grandma’s town to life.  You really get a sense of the old houses and society circles and the backwoods and the rumbling train that cuts the town in half.  That’s not always present in this type of book, but it makes the stories much more animated and interesting.

Grandma is a hoot.

You can’t help but love the rascally old woman.  When you’re first introduced to Grandma, she’s correcting some gossip the kids heard in town.  A minute later, she’s talking to a reporter and giving a completely different story!  Grandma’s trickery is a consistent theme throughout the book.  She’s the type of lady who knows what she wants and goes out to get it.  And as a reader, you’re on the edge of your seat wondering what she’s up to now.

For all her lying and cheating, Grandma is a good-hearted soul and does things for the right reasons.  The last story in the book pulled at my heartstrings.  That’s all I’m going to say.

This is an endearing read for all ages.

I don’t care if you’re 6 or 60 – A Long Way From Chicago is a quick read with great characters and a wonderful spin of tales.  Especially for those who are enchanted by the past, this is a rewarding read.  I recommend it and it’s definitely one I’m glad I experienced!

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★ 1/2
Plot: ★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★


Have you read this book or anything by this author?  If so, did you enjoy it?  Tell me all about your experience in the comments!

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4 responses to “A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck

    • Amber

      I don’t even remember when I put it on my TBR and almost took it off when it reached the top of the list… but it’s gotten a bunch of recognition and appears on a bunch of school reading lists, so I must have missed it when I was younger. It was such a quick and easy one – I read it in a day. 🙂

    • Amber

      Aw, thanks Ioana! It’s definitely a cute summer adventure story collection. The grandmother and sister are such fun characters, especially. :D. Thank you! <3