Saturday, March 29, 2008

Richard Peck

A Long Way From Chicago
by Richard Peck
Recommended Age: 10+

This Newbery Honor Book was followed by a sequel, A Year Down Yonder, which won the Newbery gold in 2001. It takes place during the great depression, when a boy and his sister from the big city (Chicago) are sent to stay with ther large, scary, big-hearted, trigger-happy Grandma in a hick town in Piatt County, Illinois, during a succession of summers.

Joey and Mary Alice start out at about ages 9 and 7 respectively, riding the train all by themselves to spend a week each summer with Grandma Dowdel. At first they hate it. But as one summer follows another, they become co-conspirators in Grandma's schemes. She is basically a "one-woman crime wave," borrowing all sorts of things from her neighbors, but using them for (mostly) charitable purposes. And everyone is a little frightened of her.

This book is a "novel in the form of stories," and good stories they are indeed, each summer having a sparkling highlight of its own. Full of humor, love, and nostalgia, and even a touch of spookiness, I think you'll enjoy it.

A Year Down Yonder
by Richard Peck
Recommended Age: 10+

This Newbery Medal-winning sequel to A Long Way From Chicago has Mary Alice coming to live with Grandma Dowdel for a whole year, while her brother is in the Civilian Conservation Corps and her parents are tightening the belt due to the Depression and unemployment. She grows closer than ever to her Grandma, but also has to deal with a school full of no-account boys and stuck-up girls. On top of all the rip-roaring adventures you would expect, there's even a love story in the mix, besides the ever-present love story of the child and her Grandma. Children grow up, and this book takes the next step...

Well worth the time, and well worth the award.

EDIT: Wiki this author and you will find an impressive list of works, including five works that have been adapted into movies. Among his more recent titles are The Teacher's Funeral, Here Lies the Librarian, and The Last Safe Place on Earth. He has literally written the book on writing for young readers - two books in fact - and, just last year, he published two books, including a biography of Houdini. So don't let my narrow selection stop you from exploring the works of this interesting author - not to be confused with another author (primarily of adult fiction) named Richard E. Peck.

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