A Long Way from Chicago

by Richard Peck
192 pages, Historical Fiction
Reviewed by bookRacoon

Good read; the history and creativity make this book fun and funny.


This story is broken up into eight segments, with each segment being about one summer between the years 1929-1942. Joe and Mary Alice Dowdel recount their annual vacations visiting their Grandma Dowdel. Although they are reluctant to spend their first summer with her, they soon learn that she is a boss in her town, and someone very mischievous and fun to be with. The book also chronicles Joe and Mary Alice growing up.


Grandma Dowdel makes sure that the punks in town get their due (for example, she puts a dead mouse in the Cowgill's milk because they bother the townspeople and deliver slightly rotten foods). She also poaches food to feed the homeless.

Spiritual Content

Joey and Mary Alice aren't seen going to church very often, but God is a part, although not necessarily a big part, of the villagers' lives.


One mention of the St. Valentine's Day massacre and of the violent state of Chicago during this time. There is also discussion of "stiffs" (dead bodies) and of one dead man in particular; Mary Alice suggests that during his life the man may have shot someone. Nothing is graphic or frightening in the least.

Drug and Alcohol Content

A mention of liquor and of brewing beer at home.

Sexual Content


Crude or Profane Language or Content



A very creative read by the Newberry Award-winning author of "A Year Down Yonder", with an insight on what life might have been like in the 30-40s. The morality is a bit iffy, but otherwise the content is clean.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 4
Written for Age: 11-12

Review Rating:

Did we miss something? Let us know!

bookRacoon This review is brought to you by bookRacoon.
Read more reviews by bookRacoon