Coming of Age; Family Drama; Historical Fiction
Coming of Age
Each chapter of A Long Way from Chicago represents a different year in which Joey and Mary Alice spend a week with their grandmother during summer vacation. Because the book starts with their very first year—when they are just little whippersnappers—and goes all the way up to their teenage years, readers get to watch as the two kids grow up and become young adults.
They definitely "come of age" over the years, and they come to understand their grandmother better in the process.
There's plenty of family drama in A Long Way from Chicago—the entire book is about a brother and sister who are going to see their grandmother every summer.
But it's not just the relationship between Joey, Mary Alice, and Grandma Dowdel that comes out in the story. As the kids get to know the other townspeople, they witness a lot of drama in other families, like the big hoopla that occurs when Vandalia Eubanks runs away from her abusive mother.
A Long Way from Chicago is definitely a book that explores history and the time period between the Great Depression and World War II in America. When the kids start visiting their grandmother, they can see the poverty and desperation in a lot of the people around them, people who have fallen victim to the Great Depression.
And at the end of the book, it's revealed that Joey grows up and goes on to fly planes in World War II. Not that we're surprised at all—he was always a brave little dude, and he always liked airplanes.