A Long Way from Chicago

By Richard Peck (1998)

A piece of Americana. Tallish tales from the Depression, though written in our modern era.

Richard Peck takes two children away from 1930s Chicago and sends them to visit their grandmother in the country. It’s a mere train ride away, but the differences in culture between urban Chicago and rural Illinois are as stark as the differences between the 2010s and the 1930s.

And that’s how the children experience it. Their grandmother is a character for the ages – part Auntie Mame and part Huck Finn. She talks how she wants, does what she wants – and yet is still somehow a proper, respectable lady.

And boy can she tell a story. That is the heart of A Long Way from Chicago – a series of tales – to enliven and instruct and surprise – each one told during a summer spent in the country, away from the city.

A Long Way from Chicago will be a challenging all-school read. Its prose, themes, and details will be a greater challenge for younger children and less experienced readers.

Read to Them offers it as a One School, One Book selection by popular demand – in this case the demands of students who have loved this book – and want it shared with a larger audience.

It is suggested for schools that want to challenge their audience and community with the full range that children’s literature has to offer. To travel to 1930s Illinois is to travel to another world – strange and unfamiliar. But to encounter Grandma Dowdel is to shake hands with a can-do, take-no-prisoners, suffer-no-fools, resourceful philosopher who bears worthy lessons for any age.

For schools looking for a challenge, take a flier on the Blue Bird Express and share the wit and wisdom and daring of Grandma Dowdel with your families and community.