A Long Way from Chicago
by Richard Peck
Richard Peck has been described as an author with magnificent storytelling that is comparable to American humorists Mark Twain and Flannelly O'Connor. I completely agree! Richard Peck has created a memorable world filled with characters who, like Grandma Dowdel, who are larger than life and twice as entertaining. Grandma Dowdel is eccentric, spirited, quick-witted and unafraid of authority. I should also add that she has a mischievous side to her.
The story begins in rural Illinois during the Depression; the children arrive at their Grandmothers to encounter their first corpse, Shotgun Cheatham. Word is buzzing at The Coffee Pot Café with many stories surrounding his death. Leave it to Grandma Dowdel to host the viewing and funeral for a stranger who becomes a war hero and philanthropist. Many more exciting adventures happen during those eight years such as spiders and cats that attack Joey and Alice on trips to the privy, the Cowgill boys that bully the townsfolk and sheriff O. B. Dickerson and President of the Chamber of Commerce Earl T. Askew in their underwear while singing The Night that Paddy Murphy died.
Richard Peck creates a loveable and unforgettable cast of characters such as; Effie Wilcox, Grandma’s arch enemy who is described as “cross-eyed ugly” and “has a tongue attached in the middle and flaps at both ends.” Yet the author discreetly weaves a variety of political, social, and moral issues into the fabric of the story. Examples include: the way that Grandma takes care of old Aunt Pus saves Effie Wilcox, the outcome of Grandma switching her gooseberry pie with Mr. Pennypacker’s pie at the county fair, and most of all the love that is shared with a family no matter what is going on in the outside world.
The primary point is that the book is first and foremost an entertaining and enjoyable historical novel. Readers will find much food for thought and discussion. The savvy teacher or parent can use this book on many different levels. Our son had no idea what a privy or the depression was, or who mobsters were. The character building discussions of what would you do created many vibrant conversations, and what fun is it to hear your father or friend sing Sweet Adeline.
“Nobody but a reader becomes a writer.”
― Richard Peck,
― Richard Peck,
With unforgettable imagery, impeccable writing, and breathtakingly poignant writing, this novel is a masterpiece of a story. The author maintains the pace and drama by providing unique and believable adventures. It is a page turner. My favorite part was the ending, as I lay beside my son in bed and we read this ending many tears were flowing. I guarantee this novel will light up your heart with the special ending as the train chugs by Grandma Dowel’s house!
I highly recommend Richard Peck’s young adult novel, A Long Way from Chicago.