by Richard Peck
A rollicking celebration of an eccentric grandmother and childhood memories. Set in the 1930s, the book follows Joe and Mary Alice Dowdel as they make their annual August trek to visit their grandmother who lives in a sleepy Illinois town somewhere between Chicago and St. Louis. A woman with plenty of moxie, she keeps to herself, a difficult task in this small community. However, Grandma Dowdel uses her wit and ability to tell whoppers to get the best of manipulative people or those who put on airs. She takes matters into her own hands to intimidate a father who won't control his unruly sons, and forces the bank to rescind a foreclosure on an elderly woman's house. Whether it's scaring a pretentious newspaper man back to the city or stealing the sheriff's boat and sailing right past him as he drunkenly dances with his buddies at the Rod & Gun Club, she never ceases to amaze her grandchildren with her gall and cunning behavior. Each chapter resembles a concise short story. Peck's conversational style has a true storyteller's wit, humor, and rhythm. Joe, the narrator, is an adult looking back on his childhood memories; in the prologue, readers are reminded that while these tales may seem unbelievable, "all memories are true." Perfect for reading aloud, A Long Way from Chicago is a great choice for family sharing.