**See Parent Note at the end of this post.**
I was so excited to pick up yet another sequel to A Long Way from Chicago, starring my favorite rambunctious grandmother of literature, Grandma Dowdel. And, for the most part, this book met my expectations. I think that a good number of my students that read A Long Way from Chicago last year might enjoy this book. However, since they are still elementary-aged kids, I know some of their parents probably wouldn’t want this recommendation yet.
The main character is Bob, a preacher’s son who moves to town with his family to start a new church. It is the era of bobby socks and Elvis Presley, but their neighbor, Mrs. Dowdel, has not really embraced the changing times. She is still as feisty and independent in her nineties as she was when her grandkids, Joey and Mary Alice visited her all those years ago.
Each chapter focuses on a different Grandma Dowdel escapade-this time with Bob and his younger sister in tow. His older sister is 14 and has no time for small town antics. Some of the cast of characters introduced in Chicago are still present, and others are mentioned as the parent or grandparents of the current high school students in town. It was interesting to see Mrs. Dowdel through the eyes of her new neighbors, and I enjoyed her antics as much as ever. I felt like I was in on the joke when comments were made about her grandkids or Effie Wilcox, so I think that reading the other books first would be a great plan and make this a worthwhile companion piece for lower middle school grades.
At the start of the book, the main character is bullied by the bigger boys in town. This results in him being stripped and tied up in Mrs. Dowdel’s outhouse. Additionally, towards the end of the story, Bob’s younger sister declares that she no longer believes in Santa Claus. By the end of the novel, there is a shotgun wedding at the church for a teenage girl and her army-private beau. There is reference made to her dress fitting very snug across her middle.
For these reasons, I don’t see that this is a book I could read with my upper elementary students. However, parents could make this call for their own children if they feel comfortable with the subject matter.