Saturday, May 9, 2015

Classics Review: A Long Way from Chicago

Premise: Joey and Mary Alice spend one week each summer in a small town with their grandmother, a liar, shotgun shooter, and terrible influence. Set during the 1930s, and told in 9 short stories (one for each summer), this book is wildly unforgettable.

39963Title: A Long Way From Chicago
Author: Richard Peck
Length: 160 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series or Stand Alone: Book 1 of 3
Content appropriate for: Grades 5-7

Three adjectives that describe this book: hilarious, unique, entertaining

I have been avoiding this book forever. Absolutely nothing about it appealed to me. Luckily I'm doing the Classics Club challenge, so I needed to read it. I read A Long Way From Chicago as an audiobook, and it's the perfect book for that format - the novel is really a collection of 7 stories, so the audiobook feels like having your own personal storyteller. The narrator, Ron McLarty, has great comedic timing and his voices for Grandma Dowdel and her neighbors were spot-on.

The situations in this book are over-the-top, in a similar style to adult Southern Fiction. It's full of fun caricatures like a shotgun-toting Grandma and an arrogant local sheriff. This book made me laugh out loud and holler, "Get it Grandma!" I also thought it painted a good picture of life in the 1930s.

This week I started it as a read aloud and my students are absolutely loving it. I'm trying to stick to that storyteller feel, and the classroom is full of laughter.

Sidenote: Parents, guardians, and teachers may want to know that this book contains several references to alcohol and one scene with drunk old men in their underwear.

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