Monday, May 23, 2011

Richard Peck's A Long Way from Chicago

My friend Jenny B. Jones pointed me to Richard Peck when I asked her for advice on age appropriate but challenging books for my ten year old to read. It's a challenge, isn't it, to find books they can enjoy.

A Long Way from Chicago tells the story of a brother and sister who spend one week of each summer with their grandma who lives in a small town that seems miles from Chicago. Each chapter tells an outrageous story from their stay in one year. My kids loved the stories and begged me to read just one more. The chapters are about twenty pages each, though the last one is only two pages and will grab your heart.

August 1929: They see their first corpse, and he isn't resting easy.
August 1930: The Cowgill boys terrorize the town, and Grandma fights back. August 1931: Joey and Mary Alice help Grandma trespass, poach, catch the sheriff in his underwear, and feed the hungry -- all in one day. And there's more, as Joey and Mary Alice make seven summer trips to Grandma's -- each one funnier than the year before -- in self-contained chapters that readers can enjoy as short stories or take together for a rollicking good novel.

The town is a character. And the people who populate it will make you think of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. But Grandma is the jewel in the book. She claims to be a loner who cares nothing for her neighbors. Instead, I'd label her a free-wheeling individual who won't follow what others want. Yet she has a way of helping those around her. In the process Joey and Mary Alice have some pretty incredible experiences in the midst of the Depression. 

The kids and I can't wait to start Mary Alice's story.
The School Library Journal slates this book at a 4-8th grade level.

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