Study Guide

A Long Way from Chicago Chapter 4

By Richard Peck

Chapter 4

The Day of Judgment (1932)

  • By the next year, Mary Alice has stopped complaining about the annual trip to see Grandma because she's decided that their grandmother is not a good influence (i.e., awesome).
  • When they arrive, Grandma puts them to work steaming berries for her famous gooseberry pie. There's a knock on the door and the banker's wife, Mrs. Weidenbach, comes in.
  • She's come to ask Grandma to enter her gooseberry pie in the local fair contest so that she can represent their proud town. Grandma retorts that she cooks to eat, not to show off.
  • She's throwing a lot of shade at Mrs. Weidenbach because the bank has been foreclosing on peoples' homes and throwing them out lately—and that obviously doesn't sit well with Grandma.
  • But Mrs. Weidenbach wheedles on and offers to drive them on the day of the fair, and so Grandma finally relents.
  • Over the next three days, the kids help Grandma cook gooseberry pie after gooseberry pie. She's trying to refine her recipe to get it just right, which means that they're basically eating gooseberry pies all day long.
  • Ooh, that sounds just awful.
  • The day of judgment finally comes, and Grandma even gets all gussied up in a dress and jewelry for once. She's even wearing a hat decorated with blue ribbons.
  • It's obvious that she's excited…although she'd never say so.
  • When they get to the fair, Joey is all excited because there's an actual small airplane that's offering rides for 75 cents. (That was kind of expensive in 1932—about 11 bucks.) Too bad he doesn't have any money.
  • But then, he hears that they'll be offering a free ride to any blue-ribbon winner at the fair. Maybe there's a chance that he'll get to go up in an airplane for the first time after all.
  • When they get to the food tent where all the different culinary delights will be judged, Grandma panics because there's another very nice-looking gooseberry pie competing against hers.
  • It turns out that the pie belongs to Rupert Pennypacker, who's the best home baker in the state of Illinois, according to Grandma.
  • Right before the judging happens, Joey thinks that he sees Grandma switching her pie's card with Mr. Pennypacker's, but he can't be sure. In the end, Mr. Pennypacker wins anyway, and Grandma gets second place.
  • But then, Grandma pulls the blue ribbon off of her hat and goes up to the airplane man to demand a ride, pretending that she's the winner for pies.
  • Grandma hops on the plane, and it takes off, but she's too heavy and the plane almost crashes. When they land again, the pilot apologizes, and she says that he can take Joey up instead.
  • Joey is thrilled, and he finally gets the plane ride he's always dreamed of. How awesome of his grandma to lie and set that up for him.
  • That night, Joey confronts Grandma about having seen her switch the cards to win, and she admits to it—which means that it was her delicious gooseberry pie that won this whole time.

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