Discussion Questions: Elektra’s Adventures in Tragedy

elektra's adventuresDiscussion Questions for Elektra’s Adventures in Tragedy by Douglas Rees


  1. On the trip from Mississippi to Guadalupe Slough, Elektra complains that the trip is “running away” while Mama sees the trip as an “adventure” and a “rescue from Mississippi.” Who do you think is right?


  1. Elektra claims that Mama has left her father because he wouldn’t leave Mississippi. Could Elektra be mistaken?


  1. When Mama, Elektra, and Thalia arrive at their new home, Elektra feels a ray of hope. She is sure they will be returning to Mississippi pronto. Do you think this will happen?


  1. What do you think of the new neighbors?


  1. Once again, we see a difference of opinion between Elektra and Mama. Mama couldn’t handle Mississippi because it was “rigid, hypocritical, and, worst of all, boring.” Elektra feels that life in Mississippi was “rich as delta soil and sweet as molasses” (pg. 41). What might be some of the reasons behind their differing opinions?


  1. We meet more neighbors and Mama’s tone of voice makes it clear that they, at least, are not boring. How might Elektra feel about this?


  1. The family receives a rather unique gift from one of their new neighbors (Ralph). How would you feel about receiving George?


  1. The girls explore the town by going to the library. They meet more of the residents of the area. How would you feel about these people? Interesting or boring? Elektra thinks they might be interesting, but do you think that will make her want to stay?


  1. Thalia likes their new town, but Elektra feels trapped. Why do they have such different opinions?


  1. Elektra meets Carlos Gonzales. How do you think she feels about him at this first meeting?


  1. After multiple tries to reach her father, he finally answers one of Elektra’s calls. Instead of saying she should return to him, he claims it is best for her to stay with her mother. He refuses to let her go home, but doesn’t really explain his reasons. Why do you think he feels that Elektra belongs with her mother?


  1. After this conversation, Elektra convinces herself that her father needs her and was just confused about what he really wanted. Do you agree with this?


  1. Elektra begins to wonder: What Would Odysseus Do? “Odysseus never complained unless he thought it would do him some good” (pg. 111). Elektra has done plenty of complaining. Has it done her any good?  Has it changed her situation? What do you think about her plans for action?


  1. As Mama evaluates her prospects for employment, Elektra responds with a smart-ass answer about their outlook. Mama slaps Elektra’s face. How do you feel about Mama right now? What about Elektra’s response?


  1. Elektra knows that to get back to Mississippi, she will need money.  How successful do you think she will be earning enough in Guadalupe Slough?


  1. Even as she plans to return to Mississippi, Elektra suddenly remembers a family trip to the Aegean Sea. Looking back, she now wonders about her father’s behavior toward her mother during that time. Do you think that summer caused this summer to happen? Do you think this revelation will change Elektra’s mind?


  1. How does Elektra feel about Carlos now that he is no longer Carlos-the-geek but Carlos the nineteen-year-old Stanford grad? Obviously, there is more to Carlos than she first realized. Could this be true of others, too? Evaluate the ways this is both good and bad.


  1. Mama comes home to find the girls missing. They were at get-together with the neighbors. Mama is angry, even though she learns that Ralph has fixed her car. Does she have a right to be?


  1. Thalia believed the incident was just her and Elektra having a good time with good people. Elektra explains that Mama was upset because she went by what she saw – Thalia and Elektra in a room full of adults where there was drinking going on – not by what they (Elektra and Thalia) knew. Could Elektra be making the same mistake in some of her relationships? Do we all do this at times?


  1. How do you think Thalia knew how to handle the situation with Ralph? (pgs. 157-159). We haven’t discussed much about Thalia, but what do you think about her outlook on everything – the change in her life, her new circumstances?


  1. Elektra knows that her actions in trying to get home are not truthful or honorable. She rationalizes that she can start being a good person again once she gets home. Do you think it is right for her to be “skeevy” just because she didn’t get what she wanted?


  1. Mama claimed she could never write because she never had a day to spend on her work. She couldn’t just walk away from taking care of her family. Will this new living situation really change that? Do you think that was Mama’s real problem?


  1. Elektra reads the following quote in one of her mother’s books on writing: “Your characters are defined by their actions…” (pg. 179). What do Elektra’s actions say about her? What about the actions of Mama and Thalia? Carlos or Ralph?


  1. Mama goes off on her interview and Elektra uses the opportunity to make her escape. En route, she finds out that her father has resigned his job, moved, and has a new wife. What do you think about Elektra’s plan now? What do you think about her father?


  1. At the same time Elektra receives this shocking news, she also learns her mother has been in a terrible accident on the way home from her interview.  What do you think of her next actions?


  1. What do you think about the neighbors after Mama’s accident? Has your opinion of them changed at all?


  1. Elektra wants to earn Ralph’s respect. She also needs to respect herself. Is this important?


  1. Mama finally comes clean about the circumstances of the divorce. Do you think she should have explained to the girls sooner? Was her plan to wait until they were older reasonable?


  1. What do you think of Elektra and Thalia’s plan to get some money? And what of their plan to tell Mama the truth, but slant?


  1. What do you think about the relationship between Rob and Mama. And what do you feel about the way Elektra and Thalia handled the fact that he “likes our Mama” (pg. 270)?


  1. Carlos thinks Elektra belongs in Guadalupe Slough. “The slough can be a good place for people who aren’t trying to be someone they’re not” (pg. 275). Was Elektra trying to be someone else when she arrived in California? What about now?


  1. Elektra’s father finally calls and admits he has been “remiss.” What do you think of Elektra’s response (pg. 281) to him?


  1. Elektra says Mama could have played it safe, but didn’t has Elektra come to understand her decision? Does Elektra always play it safe? Do you think that even though they don’t play it safe, they will be safe?

Discussion Questions: Restart

restartRestart Discussion Questions:

  1. Chase Ambrose has amnesia due to a fall from the roof. He can remember some things – like how to talk. He doesn’t remember other things – like his own name. He doesn’t recognize his parents. He has one memory of a girl in a blue dress, but no idea who she is. How would your feel if this (memory loss) happened to you?


  1. Shoshanna Weber’s brother has been sent to a boarding school because he was the target of school bullies. And the biggest bully of all was none other than Chase Ambrose. Yet when he sees Shoshanna after his accident, he actually smiles at her. How would you feel if you were Shoshanna?


  1. Chase discusses the yogurt-over-the-head incident with his mother (pgs. 20-21). Do you think his mother is being entirely honest with him?


  1. At school Chase meets his friends again. What do you think of them?


  1. Since his accident, what are the first indications of major changes in Chase?


  1. In the principal’s office Chase sees two framed photographs – one of himself and one of his father. In these pictures, both were captains of the state champion football team. How might have Chase felt about these photos before his accident? What do you think he feels now?


  1. What do you think about Dr. Fitzwallace’s conversation with Chase? Do you agree with him that the accident, while terrible, may also provide Chase with an opportunity?


  1. Brendan Esponoza was bullied by Chase and his gang almost as much as Shoshanna’s brother. What do you think makes him ask Chase to be the cameraman for his YouTube video stunt?


  1. At the park, Chase sees his half-sister, Helene. What do you think about her reaction to Chase? What do you think about his father’s comments?


  1. Chase realizes that he has been famous at Hiawassee Middle School, yet some students seem afraid of him. Chase can’t understand what he has done. Explain the difference in the explanations between Aaron and Bear and his mom. How would you feel if you learned that you had been arrested for your actions? Who should Chase believe?


  1. At the car wash the manager immediately jumps to the conclusion that the stunt was Chase’s idea/fault until Brendan explains the truth. Is the manager’s conclusion justified?


  1. What do you think of Chase joining the video club?  What do you think of Shoshanna’s reaction to Chase becoming a member of the video club?


  1. Chase attends a football game but this time he is a member of the video club. What do you think about his interactions with his dad? With Helene? Watching the game, Chase’s memory about how to play begins to return. Do you think Helene has forgotten the teddy bear incident? Do you agree with Chase’s analysis: “Helene is perfectly happy now. No harm, no foul” (pg. 67).


  1. After the game, Chase goes to the locker room for interviews. Compare the reaction of the players to Chase’s questions to the answers they give Hugo.


  1. Chase was exempt from his community service at the Portland Street Assisted Living Residence due to his accident. So why does he go back to do it?


  1. After the pep rally incident, do you think that Chase has changed or, like Shoshanna, do you think he is still a “goon?”


  1. Do you think Kimberly Tooley’s reason for joining the video club is a good one?


  1. Aaron Hakimian asks the question: Is Chase Ambrose really the same person? What do you think?


  1. As more memories return, Chase remembers bringing his older brother Johnny to school. What do you think about this memory? “I am starting to wonder if that person is still inside me, emerging from the darkness, bit by bit, along with my memories” (pgs. 93-94). What do you think?


  1. Are Chase and Mr. Solway alike or different? How and why?


  1. “I hope I never hate anybody as much as that girl (Shoshanna) hates me” (pg. 101). Why does Chase say this and what does it show?


  1. Shoshanna goes to meet Mr. Solway about her video project. She doesn’t get far with him and is astonished at the change in Mr. Solway when Chase arrives. Chase and Shoshanna become partners on the project. Should Shoshanna tell her brother and parents?


  1. Ambrose tells Chase that he is taking Chase to a new doctor and then Chase will have his old life back. Should Chase agree to this plan? Is it a wise decision? Does Chase really want his old life back?


  1. Chase suspects Aaron and Bear of stealing Mr. Solway’s Medal of Honor. Do you think he is correct?


  1. The project with Mr. Solway and Chase has become the biggest thing in Shoshanna’s life – and yet she feels she can’t tell Joel. Do you agree with her? Do you agree with her new view of Chase or do you think her parents are correct?


  1. Chase’s friendship with Shoshanna is growing. Even her family is beginning to believe that Chase is someone different now. But what is happening to his relationships with his other friends?


  1. Bear and Aaron set up the incident to frame Chase. Why doesn’t Chase tell the truth to Dr. Fitzwallace? What do you think of his father’s attitude? Why does Chase regret his choices?


  1. Although Chase “gets away” with the fire extinguisher incident, what is the cost?


  1. When Chase gets the OK from the new doctor to play football again, does he have a choice? What are his choices?


  1. What do you think about the revelation about who stole Mr. Solway’s Medal of Honor?


  1. Brendan discovers the truth – with evidence – about Chase’s true actions in the fire extinguisher fiasco. What do you think will happen next?


  1. Chase discovers the girl in the blue dress with the lace collar and the full memory of what happened came back to him. How with this memory make you feel?


  1. What do you think of this statement made by Joel Weber just as Brendan shares the video evidence with him: “I’ve been victimized, but I don’t have to let that define me as a victim” (pg. 212).


  1. In the end Chase tries to do the right thing and return the Medal of Honor. What obstacles does he face? What help does he have?


  1. Chase takes full blame and ends up back in court. Does this seem fair? What do you think of the outcome?


  1. Do you believe that Chase has really changed? Do you think he can ever live down his reputation as a bully?

Discussion Questions: Children of Refuge

Children of RefugeDiscussion Questions for Children of Refuge:


  1. What do you think of Mr. Watanaboneset? Edwy feels that his father wants to rule him? Do you think this impression is correct?


  1. Edwy is being sent to boarding school – immediately. Why do you think his father does this?


  1. Edwy learns that he has an older brother (Enu) and sister (Kiandra), which raises more questions. One big question is why weren’t they taken by the Freds, too?


  1. What do you think of Udans? Is he just Mr. Watanaboneset’s lackey or is he something more?


  1. How is Refuge City different from Cursed Town? How is it the same?


  1. What is your first impression of Enu and Kiandra?


  1. Words that he learned in Fredtown keep coming back to Edwy. “You need to take a little time to ponder your words and actions more carefully…” (pg. 65). Once Edwy would have rebelled against such advice. Why do you think he keeps remembering it now?


  1. What do you think about Enu and Kiandra’s attitudes toward their parents? And what might their feelings toward Edwy be?


  1. What do you think of the values of the Watanaboneset family members? (father, Enu, Kiandra) Edwy, even though he always cheated and lied in Fredtown, now questions why others would cheer when someone cheats (see pg. 93).


  1. Enu tells Edwy, “The past has nothing to do with us.” Enu also says, “Why think about unpleasant you can’t do anything about?” What do you think about these two statements? Are they true? Should we ignore the past and anything unpleasant?


  1. Adults have always hidden information from Edwy and Rosi. Reread the list given on page 127. Do you think this list is complete?


  1. Edwy searches for other children raised by Freds who might be willing to help in his search for Rosi. Do you think they would be the only ones willing to help him?


  1. Edwy – with help from many others – comes up with a daring plan to rescue Rosi, Bobo and Cana. Do you think the plan can succeed?


  1. What do you think is next for Edwy and Rosi?


  1. Final questions: Is it OK to do a bad thing for a good reason?

Discussion Questions: Children of Exile

Children of ExileDiscussion Questions for Children of Exile

  1. Rosi learns she is not an orphan and now she is being returned to her biological family.
    1. What do you think is the reason she (and all the other children) were taken by the Freds in the first place?
    2. Why do you think the Freds never shared this information at an earlier time?
    3. How do you think Rosi and the children feel about leaving the Freds?
    4. How do you think they feel about meeting their biological families?


  1. Why do you think the Freds are not going to be allowed to accompany the children on the return trip to their parents?


  1. Do a compare/contrast of the Fred-parents vs. biological parents/Fredtown vs. “home.”


  1. Why do you think Rosi refers to her biological parents are “the mother” and “the father.” Do you think if they were nicer to her she might call them something else?


  1. Look up some synonyms for the word “missionary.” (proselytizer, preacher, apostle, teacher, campaigner, champion, propagandist, activist, messenger) Which of these meanings seem to fit? Who do you think the missionary is?


  1. Together Edwy and Rosi try to discover just what has happened in their hometown. Edwy says “if nobody lies to us and nobody tells us the truth either, that just leaves us ….. stupid”. (pg. 159) Are lying and not telling (revealing) the whole truth the same thing?


  1. Edwy returns Rosi and Bobo’s suitcases to them. Why? Should he have done this? What are the results of his action?


  1. What do you think about the reaction to Rosi’s announcement in the marketplace that she fears that Edwy Watanaboneset has been kidnapped? And what do you think about her punishment?


  1. The missionary is allowed to visit Rosi in prison. He explains a bit of the history of her hometown (see page 226). We learn that the Freds stepped in an stopped the ongoing war by taking the people’s children. The Freds did this because they felt that these people couldn’t be trusted with their own children. Do you think this was the right action?


  1. The missionary helps Rosi escape.  Do you think she can really make it somewhere safe?


  1. Rosi’s father and mother also help in Rosi’s escape. Now that you have a better understanding of their situation, how do you feel about them? Have your feelings changed? Have Rosi’s feelings changed and how do you know?


  1. Rosi escapes with Bobo and Cana. She is helped by a Fred, Mrs. Osemwe. We learn about some unexpected powers that Freds have which will help the children in their escape. She explains some of the reasoning behind the Freds actions for taking the children. Now she is going to step in again and take these three children back to Fredtown. Is this right? And is Rosi’s decision not to go right?


  1. What do you think is going to happen to Rosi, Bobo, and Cana? What do you think has happened to Edwy?

Discussion Questions: Beyond the Bright Sea

bright seaDiscussion Questions for Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk:


  1. Where do you think Crow has come from?


  1. Compare/contrast the arrivals of Osh and Crow to the island.


  1. Think about their names. Osh is also known as Painter and Daniel. Do you think perhaps he has had another name, too? Does Crow also have other names? Are these names important?


  1. Why might the other islanders be afraid of Crow? Why was Miss Maggie never afraid?


  1. In Chapter 3, Crow mentions treasure. Is that what Crow is really looking for?


  1. Crow learns the truth about the hospital that was once on Penikese. How does Crow feel about this? Do you blame the other islanders for their fear, especially since Daniel and Miss Maggie are not afraid of her? Do you think Crow is really from Penikese?


  1. Do you think it is important for Crow to learn about her past? Will it make a difference in her life? Will it make a difference to others?


  1. Penikese is going to be a bird sanctuary. Will this make people feel differently about the island?


  1. Who is right about the campfire on Penikese – Miss Maggie, Osh, Crow? Could it have real significance to them?


  1. Osh has a part of a letter and a ring that came attached to Crow. Why did he not tell her about these items sooner?


  1. Crow learns that Miss Maggie had previously done research into the hospital on Penikese. Why did Miss Maggie do this? And why didn’t she share this information earlier?


  1. When Crow, Osh, and Miss Maggie visit Penikese, they meet the bird keeper. What do you think about this meeting?


  1. Do you, like Crow, believe there is a connection between the lamb in the cottage and on the headstone?


  1. Crow writes the letter to Dr. Eastman looking for information. Osh tells her, “What you do is who you are” (pg. 75). What does he mean by this?


  1. Now that Crow has received the reply from Dr. Eastman, do you think she comes from Penikese? She has further clues to follow, including the possibility of having a brother. Osh tells her, “But I think you should look in as much as you’re looking out” (pg. 87). What does he mean by this?


  1. Crow writes a cryptic letter to the nurse, Evelyn Morgan. Do you think the nurse will understand?


  1. Crow realizes that the man that she, Osh, and Miss Maggie met on Penikese cannot be the bird keeper. They make a return trip to the island and find the real bird keeper bound and gagged. Who is the other man and why is he there? Is he looking for treasure? Something else?


  1. Crow remembers that the imposter bird keeper had mentioned a nurse. Do you think this is just coincidence or a connection?


  1. Crow wants to look for her (possible) brother, Jason. Do you think she will be able to find him?


  1. Crow asks Osh, “If you had a brother somewhere and might be able to find him, wouldn’t you go looking?” (pg. 137) Osh does have a brother (and other relatives), but chooses not to look. What is the difference?


  1. Crow goes to New Bedford alone to look for Jason. Was it right for her to do this? What does she learn about Jason? the bird keeper imposter?


  1. When on the ferry to New Bedford, Crow sees a sailor on another ship, The Shearwater, who looks like her. She believes he may be her brother. Do you think he might be?


  1. Crow receives her response from Nurse Evelyn. She learns several things:


  1. Who her parents were
  2. Who the imposter bird keeper really is and what he is after
  3. She does have a brother


How might all of these things affect Crow?


  1. Is Crow still Crow – or is she Morgan now? Are they the same? Different?


  1. Decide: Is Osh’s name important or not?


  1. Now that the police know what Mr. Kendall was looking for, other treasure hunters invade the island. Do you think Crow really knows where the treasure is hidden?


  1. Miss Maggie, Osh, and Crow go to Penikese to get the treasure. They meet the police officers looking for Mr. Kendall. Do you think he will return?


  1. When they find the treasure, it brings unexpected problems. It is a burden. What do you think they should do? Turn it in? Hide it? Give it away?


  1. Will the treasure change Crow? And if so, how?


  1. Benson touches Crow and allows her to handle the chocolate. He behaves as though she is not different at all. Has something changed?


  1. Crow sees a sail leaving Penikese harbor. Is danger coming her way and is there anything she can do to stop it?


  1. When questioned by the police, Crow admits she is the daughter of people who died on Penikese. When this news gets out, will things change for Crow?


  1. Osh, Crow, and Miss Maggie identify Mr. Kendall for the police. Do you think it is over between them? Are they now safe that Mr. Kendall is in jail?


  1. Just as a storm is coming, they learn Mr. Kendall has escaped. Do you think he is coming for them?


  1. During the storm, a ship is wrecked. It is The Shearwater. The young sailor that Crow hopes will prove to be her brother is injured and nearly drowned. Do you think he is Jason?


  1. While Crow is tending the young sailor, Mr. Kendall returns. His anger is worse than the storm. Can Crow do anything to save herself and help Osh and Miss Maggie?


  1. The young sailor is not Jason. It is possible Crow may never find her brother. How does she feel about this?


  1. “What you do is who you are.” (pg. 283) Who is Crow? Osh? Miss Maggie?


Discussion Questions: Touching Spirit Bear

Touching the Spirit BearDiscussion Questions for Touching Spirit Bear:


  1. Do you think that spending a year completely alone on a remote Alaskan island is going to be easier than jail time?


  1. Cole is angry with his parents for letting this (facing jail) happen to him. Is it their fault?


  1. Do you think Cole truly understands Circle Justice? Do you think he knows what it means and how it works?


  1. Cole thinks that if someone (Garvey) is scared of him, he can trust them. Is this how trust works?


  1. According to Edwin, in order to survive, Cole will need to learn “patience, gentleness, strength and honesty” (pg. 17). How will these traits help Cole to survive in the wilderness?


  1. Cole also learns about Spirit Bear from Edwin. Spirit Bear has “pride, dignity, and honor” (pg. 17). Cole responds by saying he will kill the bear. Why would he do this? Edwin responds to Cole by saying, “Whatever you do to the animals, you do to yourself” (pg. 18). What does he mean?


  1. Garvey shares his at.óow with Cole, but do you think he can really trust Cole?


  1. Cole thinks that his stay on the island is a “game” of which he is in charge. Is he really? What do his actions show?


  1. Cole thinks that if Peter forgives him, his punishment should be lessened. Garvey tells him, “Forgiving isn’t forgetting” (pg. 33). What does he mean?


  1. Cole thinks he can escape the island by swimming to another nearby island. He quickly realizes that Nature is not something he can control. How does this make him feel? Does he truly understand Garvey’s comment: “Try manipulating a storm or lying to your hunger. Try cheating the cold” (pg 57)?


  1. When Cole sees the Spirit Bear, he challenges it. Why does he do this?


  1. How does Cole feel when he sees the baby sparrows after the storm? Has his experience changed him?


  1. Why does Spirit Bear return to the spot where Cole lay? Why doesn’t it attack him? Cole feels that at least before his life ends it is important that “He had trusted and been trusted” (pg. 97). Has he really learned about trust?


  1. Why has Garvey helped Cole? Is it for Cole or for himself?


  1. Edwin has told Cole that “anger was a memory never forgotten” (pg. 112). Are there other memories, too, that are never forgotten?


  1. After six months of medical care, Cole is once again going to face sentencing. Since he broke his first contract with Circle Justice, it seems unlikely he will get another. However, with Garvey and Edwin’s help, he does. Do you think Cole should be given this chance? Do you think it will turn out differently?


  1. What is the lesson to be learned from Edwin’s stick?


  1. In addition to building his own shelter on the island, Edwin gives Cole other daily tasks. These include the early morning swims in the pond, carrying the rock, and animal dances. Why are these tasks so important?


  1. When Cole finds the log, his first thought is to make a canoe and escape. However, he changes his mind. Why? And what do you think of his plan for the log?


  1. On one of Edwin’s check-in visits, Cole asks about Peter. What does this show about Cole?


  1. What do you think about the two questions that are haunting Cole? “What was the one thing that would help him heal? And how could he become invisible?” (pg. 188)


  1. What has Cole learned about his anger?


  1. Describe Cole’s relationships with his mother and father. How have they changed?


  1. As Cole heals, Peter’s situation worsens. What do you think of Cole’s plan to help Peter?


  1. Moving forward, beyond the island, what do you think will be the outcome for the boys? How has Spirit Bear helped each of them?

Discussion Questions: The Someday Birds

The Someday BirdsDiscussion Questions for The Someday Birds:

  1. Charlie admits that he is no expert on feelings, but knowing that he is going to visit his dad in the hospital after sustaining a brain injury, how do you think he might feel?
  2. When Charlie tells people he is ‘fine,’ he says it because he thinks this is what they want to hear. Do you think he is right?
  3. Do you think that Gram is right about Ludmila that she has a story to tell?
  4. Why does Gram get angry with Charlie when he says, “Even if I did say hello… Dad doesn’t hear me” (pg. 17).
  5. What do you think of Charlie’s bird book and his list of someday birds?
  6. Gram cries when she gives the family the “great news” that their dad is going to be receiving treatment from a world-class research hospital for free. Do you think she is happy or sad?
  7. After Gram and dad go to Virginia, Gram’s babysitter plans fall through. Davis and the twins take the opportunity to do as they please, but Charlie is upset and calls Grams to inform. She calls in a backup babysitter. What do you think of her choice?
  8. Now that Ludmila is at their house, Davis decides to make other arrangement for the family. What do you think of her new plan?
  9. After the accident, the twins disappear and Charlie goes to look for them. Charlie makes a find at the junk shop. The twins also come back with a “find.” What do you think of these new items?
  10. Ludmila is back on the scene but instead of heading back home, she is going to take them on a road trip that will bring them to their father. How do you think Charlie – or any of them – feels about this plan? Do you, like Charlie, think she is heading for some scary cult headquarters?
  11. The road trip may not have been Charlie’s idea of a good rime, but it is one that turns out to have unexpected birding opportunities. Joel complains that checking off birds on a list will not help dad; it will only satisfy Charlie. Ludmila says that might just be a good enough reason to do it. What do you think?
  12. At Yellowstone, Joel and Jake discover that bison are not tame, and Davis discovers a new interest. This interest mystifies Charlie. It also seems to point to changes in the relationship between Charlie and Davis. What do you think these changes mean?
  13. Charlie makes an unexpected friend. Why do you think Charlie and Tiberius become so close?
  14. They stop at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument where a reenactment is scheduled to take place. Ludmila doesn’t like war monuments and is strangely quiet after the visit. What do you think is going on?
  15. Ludmila begins to tell her story. Do you think she is like the fire bird?
  16. At Wall Drug Charlie has a run-in with a very unusual bird. Would this encounter make you scared or would you be like Charlie and feel braver?
  17. We learn a little more of Ludmila’s story. How do you think it is going to end?
  18. Charlie’s next experience is with a “bird” of another kind. What do you think of his Duck tour?
  19. What do you think about Charlie’s ride at the waterpark? What does he learn? How does this change things between Charlie and his brothers?
  20. Charlie compares his Someday list to a hundred hand-washings of calm. Why does Charlie need this right now? With that in mind, has it been worth his time keeping the list? Is that the only reason?
  21. At the Hall of Birds at the Field Museum, Charlie gets more new experiences with birds – and people. Why is he frustrated with himself?
  22. What do Joel and Jake do for Charlie that points to the change in their relationship?
  23. While staying with Ludmila’s friend Mariana, Charlie and Davis overhear their conversation and finally learn the connection between Ludmila and their father. What do you think of Davis’s decision to share her father’s files with Ludmila. And after she does, how do you think Ludmila feels? What about Charlie and Davis?
  24. Ludmila finally finishes her story. Do you think she will now be able to take her brothers advice and find that “bit of good” that exists everywhere (pg. 250)?
  25. In the Amish country in Pennsylvania, Charlie has yet another wild experience in the corn field. Yet instead of being overly frightened and running away, he uses it as an opportunity to sight another bird. How does he feel about this opportunity?
  26. In Colonial Williamsburg, Charlie gets involved in the act. Does this surprise you? Would this be something you would expect of Charlie at the beginning of the story?
  27. While trying to plan the last few days of their trip, the family gets a call from Gram. Dad is going in for surgery. Their plans are scrapped as they head for the hospital. How are the children feeling? Do you think Charlie will ever get his opportunity to speak with Tiberius Shaw and have his questions about bird behavior and human behavior answered?
  28. How might Charlie feel when even Davis and Gram struggle to understand the behavior of the doctors?
  29. Charlie is very disturbed by the actions of those around him. Is running away the answer? And what do you think of his choice of location?
  30. What do you think of this quote from Tiberius Shaw’s journal: “Change is possible. It is not to be feared.” (pg. 272) Now think of all the things that Charlie has faced. Think of all his new experiences. Do you think Charlie would agree with Tiberius Shaw?


Discussion Questions: Race the Night

race-the-nightDiscussion Questions:


Chapter 1 – The Sea That Was


  1. Who do you think Robin is?


  1. Why is it important to Teacher that Eider get “the sea out of your system” (pg. 4)?


Chapter 2 – The Desert Ranch


  1. We learn that the world has ended at least three years earlier. Why is structure so important now that the world has ended?


  1. Why do you think the Word Books have missing pages?


  1. If the world has really ended and there is nothing beyond the desert ranch, why would anyone need to keep making the fence taller and stronger?


  1. Why would Teacher interpret meanness as confidence?


Chapter 3 – Fairytales


  1. If you were one of the only people left in the world, how would you feel? Special? Important? Lonely?


  1. Why should Eider feel the need to keep her papers secret?


  1. Why does she still think (hope?) Teacher is mistaken about things, for instance, the sea?


  1. An alarm sounds. If you are the only people left in the world, what kind of danger could there be?


  1. Paper is to be conserved only for important things. Is Art important?


Chapter 4 – The Night Lesson


  1. What does darkness help the kids to do?


  1. While looking up at ‘star soup,” Eider faints. Why do you think this happened?


Chapter 5 – Nonsense Things


  1. The storage room is filled with food which never seems to diminish. Where does the food come from?


Chapter 6 – Bone Deep Kind of Wonder


  1. Who is the Handyman? Where do you think he comes from? What about the stuff he delivers?


  1. When Eider is discovered at the fence by Teacher, Teacher comments, “I just want to make sure you’re looking inward instead of outward” (pg. 47). Is looking outward bad? Is looking inward good?


  1. Later when Eider goes to the fence, she is more careful. Why does she feel the need to hide her curiosity?


  1. When Eider goes through the gap in the fence Beyond, what does she find?


Chapter 7 – Extrasensory


  1. When practicing the mazes, Teacher is trying to learn whether or not the kids are ‘a natural’ at certain activities. What are Eider’s natural talents? Are these valuable things?


Chapter 8 – Welcome Home


  1. Teacher has begun sharing the results of her lessons with the kids. Eider thinks she did better in the mazes than Linnet, yet she scored lower. What might this mean?


  1. What do you think of the paper that Eider found Beyond?


  1. Teacher claims she can’t control what the kids think, but she can guide their thoughts. Do you think she is controlling them or is she really guiding them?


  1. Families are a distasteful topic. Teacher claims, “Families aren’t special… they were common” (pg. 64). Does the fact that something is common mean it is not special? What do you think of Teacher’s ideas?


Chapter 9 – The First Step


  1. Eider encourages Finch to go beyond the fence with her. Is this wise?


  1. Eider finds a shard of ceramic. She keeps it because she thinks it is pretty. Finch says it is not useful, but Eider asks, “Does everything need to be?” (pg. 71) What do you think?


  1. What do you think Finch’s secret is?


Chapter 10 – Something Special


  1. What do you think of the third Extrasensory lesson?
  2. What do you think of Teacher’s comment: “Brains are like clay. They can become almost anything with the right pinching and prodding.” (pg. 77)


  1. Eider gives the pretty shard to Linnet. Why does Linnet think it is so special when it is not useful?


Chapter 11 – All That World


  1. Finch builds a radio. Why does he think there may be something “out there?” When the results are disappointing, why doesn’t he just give up?


Chapter 12 – War Games


  1. The kids are all playing pretend war games. During the play, Jay mentions that soldiers sometimes go M.I.A. – like Robin. If Robin is an imaginary sister, why would Jay say this?


  1. What is the cause of Teacher’s disappointment?


  1. Teacher doesn’t often talk about when or why the world ended. When she does, she says it is because “the world was going rotten” (pg. 95). And she says it doesn’t matter what happened to the Other People. Why do you think Teacher doesn’t want to discuss the topic more thoroughly and deeply?


Chapter 13 – Natural Causes


  1. Why doesn’t Eider trust Jay? Why doesn’t he trust her? If they are the only ones left in the world, shouldn’t they trust each other?


  1. What do you think of Jay’s collection? Why does he hide it?


  1. Finch’s radio works and they hear the voice of someone broadcasted loud and clear. What does this mean?


Chapter 14 – Other People


  1. Now that the kids have proof of Other People existing, Eider feels more confused than ever. Why?


  1. Eider guesses that Jay’s word is scorpion. Do you believe this is telepathy?


Chapter 15 – The Point


  1. Teacher explains the point of all their lessons. The world is beginning again and one of the kids is going to be the leader, not only of each other but all the Other People. Teacher claims the Other People are dangerous and evil. How do you think she can know this?


Chapter 16 – Allies, Not Enemies


  1. One of the kids is “better and more brilliant and more special than the others” (125). Why is it Teacher’s job to figure out who that is? Who do you think it might be and why?


  1. Eider becomes much more focused on her lessons. After all, she wants to be the best she can be. She thinks about Robin much less often. She isn’t interested in the radio any more either because the Other People didn’t matter. She considers them “pointless.” What do you think of this change in Eider?


Chapter 17 – Secrets


  1. What do you make of Nurse’s words: “the world didn’t end just once”? (pg. 132)


  1. Someone has taken Teacher’s permanent marker. She accuses them, saying someone is keeping secrets. She claims keeping secrets, even for someone else, is dangerous. Who is keeping secrets and what are those secrets?


Chapter 18 – Intrepid Explorer


  1. Eider decides she must get rid of her book and papers. Will this really get rid of her secrets?


  1. What is more important to Eider: exploring or earning Teacher’s approval?


  1. In the Beyond, Eider meets a hiker. Does he seem evil to you? He talks about his children. Does he seem like someone for whom the world has ended?


Chapter 19 – A Disease of the Mind


  1. When Teacher discovers Finch’s radio – and that all the kids know about it – she says his curiosity is “a disease of the mind.” Is curiosity a bad thing? Why would Finch’s curiosity make her so angry?


Chapter 20 – The Space Between


  1. Finch has been disciplined. What do you think of Teacher’s punishment?


  1. Why does Eider think that it is a relief that Robin is not real?


  1. How does Eider know that Robin is real?


Chapter 21 – Once Upon A Time


  1. Eider clearly remembers what has happened to Robin. Why has Teacher lied and told her that she has no sister?


Chapter 22 – Memories That Were


  1. What do you think has happened to Robin?


Chapter 23 – Lies


  1. What do you think the point of Teacher’s lies are? What about the lies of the other kids and Nurse?


Chapter 24 – Missing Things


  1. What does Eider learn during the drill?


Chapter 25 – Only Here


  1. Where has the world ended? Why has Teacher lied about it to them?


Chapter 26 – Choices


  1. Eider confronts Teacher about her lies. What do you think of Teacher’s responses?


  1. Teacher admits to telling the kids lies, claiming that it was for their own good. Do you think this is a valid argument?


Chapter 27 – Darkness


  1. The other kids distract Teacher so that Eider can make her escape. Do you think their idea will work?


  1. Do you think Eider can make it across the desert?


Chapter 28 – The Sea That Wasn’t


  1. Would you feel nervous if you were Finch or Eider?


  1. How far do you think Robin could have walked?


Chapter 29 – Real Leaders


  1. Let’s talk about choices. Eider realizes we all have choices: “You could choose to trust. You could choose to listen. You could choose to believe” (pg. 244). What do you think of her choice to jump?


Chapter 30 – West


  1. Do you think Eider is going in the right direction?


Chapter 31 – Birdsong


  1. There are clues all around Eider. What are they?


  1. What do you think has happened to the other kids as Eider hikes away from the desert ranch?


Chapter 32 – Like A Fox


  1. What do you think of the world Eider finds? How do you think she feels?


Chapter 33 and 34 – Wish You Were Here/Ever After


  1. What do you think of Eider’s (and Robin’s) fairytale?


Don’t forget to check out my review of Race the Night from earlier this week!


Discussion Questions: Watch the Sky

Discussion Questions for Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbardwatch-the-sky


  1. Caleb is always seeing signs. What might these signs mean? Who do you think will arrive and when?


  1. What is the family preparing for? Will these preparations keep them safe?


  1. Who do you think Kit really is? Where might she have come from? Do you think the family should keep her a secret?


  1. What might be the reason that Kit does not speak?


  1. Caleb claims that some reasons for parents’ homeschooling children are acceptable; others are unacceptable. Who makes this decision?


  1. School is a way for Jory to “hide in plain sight.” It exposes Jory to new ideas and new ways of thinking. Is this a good or a bad thing? How does Caleb feel about it? Do you think it will keep Jory hidden or endanger the family? Why might Caleb really want Jory in school?


  1. Jory doesn’t trust anyone enough to have friends. Why not?


  1. What are some of the reasons that the canyon represents Danger. Are these valid reasons?


  1. When Mom marries Caleb, she no longer has to work. She can stay at home where she feels safe. Why doesn’t she want to leave home? Does Caleb really make everything safe?


  1. Who comes to the house asking about the family, and why does Caleb lie about Kit?


  1. Is it safe to keep secrets?


  1. What do you think of the plan to dig a tunnel in the canyon at night? How does Jory feel?


  1. Caleb and Mom have obviously been preparing and planning while Jory is in school. How does this make Jory feel?


  1. Why did Kit and Jory try to keep Worldbuilding a secret from Mom and Caleb?


  1. Caleb’s warning about Worldbuilding is to not let their imaginations get carried away. How do you feel about this statement, especially from Caleb?


  1. Caleb says you can’t save everybody, though Mom feels that people should try. Who is right?


  1. When Mom thinks Kit needs special help but Caleb thinks she is just a problem, Kit’s behavior changes. What could this mean?


  1. Reread Caleb’s story on page 78. What do you think of Caleb’s actions? Does this change your opinion of Caleb?


  1. Jory decides to use “tunnels” as the topic of his school project. Do you think this might give away the family’s secret?


  1. Was there anything wrong with Jory stopping over at Alice’s house? Why does he seem to feel so guilty about it?


  1. Alice tells her mother a lie about Jory’s computer not working. Why did she do this? Is it ever OK to lie?


  1. What do you think of Jory hiding in the doghouse? Caleb approved; do you?


  1. What is Kit’s first sentence after three years of not speaking? What do you think of her choice of words?


  1. During the family’s game of Survival, Kit seems to intentionally knock over a glass of milk. Caleb believes it was done deliberately and becomes angry. Do you think Kit did it on purpose? If so, why?


  1. When researching tunnels, Jory realizes that tunnels have a purpose: they lead to something. What will the family’s tunnel lead to?


  1. Jory is becoming more familiar with the night now that he spends most nights digging. Yet it still does not seem safe. Why not?


  1. Do you think Kit really does not remember where she comes from? Is Kit hiding something?


  1. Jory and Kit both admit that they hate to dig. Is this a betrayal?


  1. Jory brings Kit to meet his friends, and they go to the park. Why does he do this when Kit is supposed to be a secret?


  1. Mom tells Jory, “Caleb will tell us everything as soon as it is safe” (pg. 161). Do you think Jory believes her?


  1. When Jory snoops in the barn, Caleb finally tells him the truth. How does Jory feel now?


  1. What do you think of the statement: “Innocence encourages trust, and trust breeds obedience. With knowledge, however, come questions.” (pg. 170)


  1. Caleb claims that Kit never has any ideas (pg. 172). Do you believe him? Why or why not?


  1. Jory wonders if anybody else (his school friends, for example) knows about the danger. Why doesn’t he just tell them? Explain his dilemma.


  1. Jory wonders how you know a sign is really a sign. Does he believe Caleb any longer? Does Mom? What are her reasons for believing Caleb?


  1. What do you think of Alice’s statement: “When you spend so much of your life worried about the future… you forget to live.” Afterward, when Jory “lives” with Alice, he becomes a bubble of glee. Has he forgotten how to live? Has he ever had a chance?


  1. Jory realizes that he does have friends. Why does he feel so guilty? Is it because he thinks he shouldn’t have friends or because he doesn’t think it is fair that they have no one to warn them of the danger.


  1. “Trust was a fragile thing. So was belief” (pg. 200). If you don’t trust a person, do you believe them? Can Jory trust Mom? Caleb? Kit? His friends?


  1. When Officials show up at the door looking for KIt, Jory tries to say it was his friend Alice who was at the house. The Official tells him it couldn’t have been Alice because it was Alice’s mother who called them.
  2. If you were Jory, how would you feel?
  3. Do you think the Official can be trusted? Did he tell the truth?


  1. Caleb claims that Kit isn’t special. He calls her subnormal. He claims she has brought unwanted attention to the real family members. Then he asks Jory not to tell Mom about the Officials. He claims Mom is too compassionate and that makes her weak. What do you think of Caleb’s words?


  1. Jory sees a sign himself. He knows that it means the danger is real. What do you think the real danger is?


  1. Jory doesn’t think Mr. Bradley will chase him, but the teacher does come after Jory. What do you think of the line: “Hiding is much harder when someone is seeking” (pg. 219). What do you think the consequences of this incident will be?


  1. Jory knows that danger is brewing. Then Kit is taken by the Officials. What do you think of Mom’s promise that they will get Kit back?


  1. What do you think of Kit’s message?


  1. “A mother’s love is an invisible cord linking her children heart to heart” (pg. 239). Is Kit Jory’s sister?


  1. Jory has to make choices: between daylight and safety, between friends and family. Is it possible to have both?


  1. How does Jory feel when he explains to his mother that it was Caleb who called Protective Services? How does Mom feel?


  1. What do you think will happen to Jory, Mom, and Ansel? What about Kit?

Discussion Questions: The Thing About Jellyfish

Discussion Questions for The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin:jellyfish

In reviewing my summer reading, I realized there was one book that I should have come up with discussion questions about but did not. Today I will remedy that oversight.

  1. Suzy Swanson believes that you can become invisible by staying quiet. “Being seen is more about the ears than the eyes…” (pg. 7) Is this true?
  1. When Suzy’s mother explains that Franny has drowned, Suzy can’t believe it. Why not? Do you think that science can give Suzy the answers she is looking for?
  1. Would it make a difference if Franny’s death could be attributed to another cause?
  1. On page 27, Suzy thinks making a friend – at least with Franny – is the easiest thing in the world. Is keeping a friend easy?
  1. Does Suzy deserve happiness? What does she mean by “the kind of life people get to have when their words don’t ruin everything” (pg. 36)?
  1. Do things “just happen” as Suzy’s mom claims?
  1. What is a conversation (as opposed to constant-talking)?
  1. When Suzy sees the “doctor she can talk to,” the doctor mentions that professionals can help a person see patterns – some good, some to change. Suzy’s connection is to realize that she does need a pro, but why one who can teach her about jellyfish?
  1. True or False: “Grown-ups… don’t actually want you to say what you’re thinking.” (pg. 66)
  1. Is non-talking the same as small talk?
  1. What do you think of Suzy’s lab partner, Justin Maloney? Would she have been better off choosing rather than waiting for it to “just happen”?
  1. Why do you think it is so difficult for Suzy to share the information about her family with Franny?
  1. What do you feel about the jellyfish experts that Suzy has found? What are the differences between Jamie (Dr. Jamie Seymour) and Angel Yanagihara?
  1. Dr. Legs explains to Suzy that we speak in order to meet our fundamental need to be understood. Suzy claims that “Finding the right words has never been a strength of mine” (pg. 123). Do you think this is what changed/destroyed her friendship with Franny?
  1. Jellies mate with no touching involved. “There is no touching or drama or passion or pain” (pg. 170). Is this what Suzy really wants in her life? No emotions of any kind?
  1. Suzy barely speaks in science class, but when she finally has to give her report, she refuses to stop talking. Why do you think this is? Afterward, she still feels misunderstood. Why?
  1. Do you think science is scary? Why or why not?
  1. Suzy found silence to be “unbearable.” Why does she choose to be silent herself? Who is she hurting?
  1. Now that the jellyfish report is done, why does Suzy still feel she must go to Australia to meet Jamie?
  1. When Sarah is asked to join Mrs. Turton’s little group, Suzy is glad when she does not because she doesn’t want people “cluttering up” her life just as she is about to leave it. Why does she feel this way?
  1. Suzy and Justin dissect the earthworm together. Has their relationship changed?
  1. Suzy’s final call before leaving for Australia is to Franny’s mother. Why her? Franny’s mother claims that Franny always admired Suzy because Suzy didn’t care what anyone thought of her. Is this true?
  1. Suzy’s plans to go to Australia go awry. Does it matter?
  1. We learn (along with Suzy) that one type of jellyfish can actually grow younger. Would it be a good thing if humans could do this? Would anything be possible?
  1. What do you think of Suzy’s decision to go to the Heroes and Villains Dance? Why does she call her dad now? And what about her thoughts on Justin and Sarah?


Well, that’s one set of questions. But as I was reading, I realized there is another way to approach this book using Mrs. Turton’s scientific method.

  1. Purpose:

What is Suzy’s purpose in researching jellyfish? Do you think that by understanding science she can also understand life?

  1. Hypothesis:

What are the real questions that underlie Suzy’s research?

  1. Background:

What is the background between Suzy and Franny?

  1. Variables:

Discuss some of the variables that affect Suzy’s research.

  1. What caused the change in Suzy and Franny’s relationship?
  2. Why does Suzy choose this particular method to grieve?
  3. Do you think that the idea of researching jellyfish may somehow provide Suzy understanding?
  1. Procedure:

Describe Suzy’s project. She’s researching jellyfish because she thinks Franny may have died from a jellyfish sting. But can she really prove this and does it matter?

  1. Results:

What were the results of Suzy’s jellyfish report?

What are the results of her actions between other characters (Mrs. Turton, her parents, other students, Justin)?

  1. Conclusion:

What does Suzy learn? How will this knowledge help her to move forward?


Don’t forget to check out our review of The Thing About Jellyfish