“I read because one life isn’t enough, and in the page of a book I can be anybody;
I read because the words that build the story become mine, to build my life;
I read not for happy endings but for new beginnings; I’m just beginning myself, and I wouldn’t mind a map;
I read because I have friends who don’t, and young though they are, they’re beginning to run out of material;
I read because every journey begins at the library, and it’s time for me to start packing;
I read because one of these days I’m going to get out of this town, and I’m going to go everywhere and meet everybody, and I want to be ready.”
written by Richard Peck in his autobiography Anonymously Yours
Every summer from 1929-1935, in A Long Way from Chicago, Joey Dowdel and his younger sister, Mary Alice, are sent to spend a week with their grandmother in her small Illinois town located halfway between Chicago and St. Louis. Not even the big city crimes of Chicago offer as much excitement as Grandma Dowdel when she outwits the banker, sets illegal fish traps, catches the town’s poker playing business men in their underwear, and saves the town from the terror of the Cowgill boys. Now an old man, Joe Dowdel remembers these seven summers and the “larger than life” woman who out-smarted the law and used blackmail to help those in need.
Richard Peck has written over twenty books including: Strays Like Us, The Great Interactive Dream Machine, Lost in Cyberspace, Father Figure, The Ghost Belonged to Me , Ghost I Have Been, Blossom Culp and the Sleep of Death, The Last Safe Place on Earth, and Voices After Midnight.
As you are reading the book, A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck, answer the following blog questions. Also, respond to the answers and comments of your fellow bloggers.
Where do Joey and Mary Alice go for the summer? Why?
Is it true that Grandma Dowdel doesn’t give two hoots about the town? Why or why not?
Who won the blue ribbon for the best Gooseberry pie? Explain.
Who is the “One Woman Crime Wave.” Why is she described that way?
How do Joey and Mary Alice change during The Day of Judgement? What do they believe at the beginning of the chapter? What do they believe by the end?
List all the things (activities, money, tools, etc.) that were different in the 1930’s from today. Then make a list of all the things that are the same.
When do you think Joe stops thinking of Grandma Dowdel as a bad influence? Why? Does Mary Alice have different ideas about Grandma Dowdel? Why?
Describe how Grandma Dowdel goes about getting justice from the Cowgills? What do you think would be Grandma’s definition of justice?
Do you notice any different rules or expectations for men and women in Grandma Dowdel’s town? Are there things men can do that women can’t? Are there things that women cando that men can’t? How do you think Grandma Dowdel would behave differently if she were a man?
How does Joey feel about Grandma Dowdel’s fish trap? Does he have any problems with it? What does he like about it?
Even though they never appear in the story, what do you think Joe’s and Mary Alice’s parents are like? What clues can you find in the story to their personalities?
Explain what Grandma Dowdel means by “apart from its historical value” on page 117.
Who is the better role model for the kids: O. B. Dickerson or Grandma Dowdel? What is a role model supposed to provide?
Look at young Weidenbach’s song at the end of the book. What is its message? Is it the same message of the book?