In this hilarious and poignant sequel to A Long Way to Chicago, Peck once again shows that country life is anything but boring. Chicago-bred Mary Alice (who has previously weathered annual week-long visits with Grandma Dowdel) has been sentenced to a year-long stay in rural Illinois with her irrepressible, rough and gruff grandmother, while Joey heads west with the Civilian Conservation Corps, and her parents struggle to get back on their feet during the 1937 recession. Each season brings new adventures to 15-year-old Mary Alice as she becomes Grandma's partner in crime, helping to carry out madcap schemes to benefit friends and avenge enemies. Around Halloween, for example, the woman, armed with wire, a railroad spike and a bucket of glue, outsmarts a gang of pranksters bent on upturning her privy. Later on, she proves just as apt at squeezing change out of the pockets of skinflints, putting prim and proper DAR ladies in their place and arranging an unlikely match between a schoolmarm and a WPA artist of nude models. Between antic capers, Peck reveals a marshmallow heart inside Grandma's rock-hard exterior and adroitly exposes the mutual, unspoken affection she shares with her granddaughter. Like Mary Alice, audience members will breathe a sigh of regret when the eventful year "down yonder" draws to a close. Ages 10-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Gr. 6^-10. With the same combination of wit, gentleness, and outrageous farce as Peck's Newbery Honor book, Long Way from Chicago (1998), this sequel tells the story of Joey's younger sister, Mary Alice, 15, who spends the year of 1937 back with Grandma Dowdel in a small town in Illinois. It's still the Depression; Dad has lost his job, and Mary Alice has been sent from Chicago to live with Grandma and enroll in the "hick-town's" 25-student high school. As in the first book, much of the fun comes from the larger-than-life characters, whether it's the snobbish DAR ladies or the visiting WPA artist, who paints a nude picture of the postmistress (nude, not naked; he studied in Paris). The wry one-liners and tall tales are usually Grandma's ("When I was a girl, we had to walk in our sleep to keep from freezing to death"), or Mary Alice's commentary as she looks back ("Everybody in this town knew everything about you. They knew things that hadn't even happened yet" ). That adult perspective is occasionally intrusive and Mary Alice sometimes seems younger than 15, though her awkward romance with a classmate is timeless. The heart of the book is Grandma--huge and overbearing, totally outside polite society. Just as powerful is what's hidden: Mary Alice discovers kindness and grace as well as snakes in the attic. Most moving is Mary Alice's own growth. During a tornado she leaves her shelter to make sure that Grandma is safe at home. In fact, as Mary Alice looks back, it's clear that Grandma has remained her role model, never more generous than when she helped her granddaughter leave. --Hazel Rochman
Gr 5-8-Peck charms readers once again with this entertaining sequel to A Long Way from Chicago (Dial, 1998). This time, 15-year-old Mary Alice visits Grandma Dowdel alone for a one-year stay, while her parents struggle through the recession of 1937 looking for jobs and better housing. With her older brother, Joey, working out west in a government program, Mary Alice takes a turn at recounting memorable and pivotal moments of her year with Grandma. Beneath the woman's fierce independence and nonconformity, Mary Alice discovers compassion, humor, and intuition. She watches her grandmother exact the perfect revenge on a classmate who bullies her on the first day of school, and she witnesses her "shameless" tactics to solicit donations from Veteran's Day "burgoo" eaters whose contributions are given to Mrs. Abernathy's blind, paralyzed, war-veteran son. From her energetic, eccentric, but devoted Grandma, she learns not only how to cook but also how to deal honestly and fairly with people. At story's end, Mary Alice returns several years later to wed the soldier, Royce McNabb, who was her classmate during the year spent with Grandma. Again, Peck has created a delightful, insightful tale that resounds with a storyteller's wit, humor, and vivid description. Mary Alice's memories capture the atmosphere, attitudes, and lifestyle of the times while shedding light on human strengths and weak- nesses.-Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.