Study Guide

A Long Way from Chicago Perseverance

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Grandma Dowdel is a go-getter of the highest order—and she passes this attitude on to her grandchildren. At first, Joey and Mary Alice just watch in awe (and consternation) as Grandma does whatever it takes to get things done…like shooting into Shotgun's coffin in order to teach Effie Wilcox and the reporter a lesson about nosing around in other people's business.

But then they start to become accomplices to her activities, even engaging in illegal acts like stealing the sheriff's boat in order to go fishing and feed the poor. She shows them that you have to do whatever you can—including bending the rules—in order to get things done.

Chicago may be lawless, but things are a lot more lawless when you're A Long Way from Chicago.

Questions About Perseverance

  1. Why doesn't Grandma Dowdel accept that the bank has taken Effie Wilcox's home?
  2. Why do Joey and Mary Alice go to see their grandmother every single summer?
  3. Does Grandma Dowdel let Mrs. Weidenbach take over the Centennial Celebration? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Through staying with Grandma Dowdel for the summers, Joey and Mary Alice learn to not let anything get in the way of their goals—not even the law. Their grandmother shows them how to break the law and lie in order to get things done.

At the beginning of the book, Joey sees Mary Alice as his weak, feminine younger sister. But she soon proves him wrong when she cuts off the catfish heads and helps Vandalia run away from home—proving that she's just as tough (if not tougher) than any boy her age.

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