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

Barbara

 

 

 

Discussion Questions: The Wolf’s Boy

Discussion Questions for The Wolf’s Boy by Susan Williams Beckhorn

 

wolf's boy

As many of you know, when I read a book I really love – one that is literature full of meaning and beauty – I have the irresistible urge to write discussion questions. The Wolf’s Boy is just such a book. I can’t help myself!

 

Questions:

 

  1. Why does the law of the People demand that the baby be abandoned? Why does Yellow Mother decide to nurture the baby? Why does the human mother decide to return the baby to the People?

 

  1. Why do Sen and the other boys pick on Kai? What do you thing about the comment, “A lame pup makes good bait” (pg. 8)? Sen spits on Kai but later apologizes. What do you think is the reason?

 

  1. Why doesn’t Yellow Mother fear Kai?

 

  1. Why is a keerta so important? Do you believe they are full of magic? Why does Kai think so?

 

  1. Why doesn’t Kai have a sign or a real name?

 

  1. When Kai discovers that Torn Ear (Yellow Mother’s daughter) is dead, he takes the small pup that still needs her milk. Why does Shine allow this?

 

  1. Who do you think the Ice Men are? Do you believe they really eat children?

 

  1. Why is Kai’s father concerned about keeping the wolf pup?

 

  1. When Xar’s home is struck by “sky fire,” he believes it is Kai’s fault. Why?

 

  1. Kai is forbidden to hunt or use a keerta because he is tabbat. How will he teach Uff to hunt?

 

  1. Analyze the following quotations (all from page 70):

“Words were not just words. They were aimed like keertas at a mark.”

“A man fights those who hurt him,” my father had said.

“A bad foot isn’t everything. You must find what there is in you that is strong.” (Apa-Da)

 

  1. Uff is growing quickly. How does Kai know this? Why do you think his snares have been unsuccessful so far?

 

  1. Sen is often conflicted. Publicly he ridicules Kai but privately often apologizes. What is the reason for his behavior?

 

  1. Why does Moc-Atu warn Kai that Rhar (headman) fears the boy and his wolf? Yet he advises Kai to “Listen to your wolf.” What do you think he means or thinks Kai should do?

 

  1. What do you think is Kai’s power? Is it sufficient to survive in his world?

 

  1. Apa does not completely trust Uff. How do you think he feels when he realizes Uff has saved the family from the big cat?

 

  1. Do you think the tragedy that befalls Sen is Kai’s fault, Uff’s fault or Sen’s own fault?

 

  1. Do you think it is necessary for Kai to leave the People?

 

  1. Do you think Kai is the wolf’s boy? Is Uff his power? A living sign?

 

  1. Kai has two weapons now. Which is more powerful?

 

  1. Winter brings new and unexpected dangers – and a new reason to be grateful to Uff. Do you think Kai can survive? What if he did not have Uff?

 

  1. Ice Men have a bad reputation. So why does Oooni save Kai and heal his arm?

 

  1. Kai and Oooni have things to teach each other. In what ways are they alike? In what ways are they different? (This is a good time for a Venn diagram!!!)

 

  1. Why does Oooni leave?

 

  1. Why does Uff leave?

 

  1. Now that Uff is gone, is Kai powerless?

 

  1. When Uff returns, is she the same? Is Kai the same or has he changed, too?

 

  1. In the new world, Kai and Uff encounter a cave bear. How do they work together to protect each other?

 

  1. Kai returns to the cave for “magic” so Uff will survive. Is this visit important to Uff only?

 

  1. What do you think will happen when Kai and Uff return to the People?

 

Extension Activities:

 

As I mentioned in my review, this story just made me want to learn more about so many things. Here are a few of the ideas that especially peaked my curiosity:

 

  1. As the Author’s Note tells us, Uff is not really a wolf but an early dog. Beckhorn had the opportunity to visit the Wolf Conservation Center, and she listed a research source in her acknowledgments, How Dog Became Dog by Mark Derr. Here are a couple of websites that help us understand the distinctions between the two animals and how they developed: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-02/ and https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201111/how-the-dog-became-the-dog (based on Mark Derr’s book)

 

  1. Research Ice Age man. Who were the Neanderthals and who were the Cro-Magnons? The information suggests that for a short period of time, they existed simultaneously. Complete a Venn diagram for the two, then compare it to the Venn diagrams completed earlier for Kai and Oooni. I found an interesting website on topic: http://earlyhumans.mrdonn.org/cromagnon.html

 

  1. Learn more about the Chauvat Cave paintings. There are lots of websites to choose from and some of them offer wonderful photographs. Try drawing some of your own “cave art.”

Discussion Questions: Hoodoo

Discussion Questions for Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smithhoodoo

 

  1. Hoodoo Hatcher is given his name because he is marked, but he can’t cast a simple spell. Do you believe his birthmark is a sign?

 

  1. Hoodoo’s daddy came to a “bad end.” What do you think happened to him?

 

  1. Why is believing so important for Hoodoo to cast a spell?

 

  1. Who is the stranger in Miss Carter’s store? Why does Cousin Zeke seem nervous?

 

  1. When returning home from his Aunt Jelly’s house, Hoodoo hears a scream in the woods. He returns, thinking perhaps it was Aunt Jelly screaming. She is fine and suggests someone killed a pig. Do you believe that? Do you think she believes it?

 

  1. At the county fair, Hoodoo goes to see Mrs. Snuff, the fortune teller. She tells him that darkness follows him and that his people are in danger. She also tells him to search for the black crow and beware the Stranger. What do you think she means by this warning?

 

  1. Bunny tells Hoodoo that someone had dug up bodies at the graveyard and chopped off the hands. What do you think this means?

 

  1. Hoodoo has a nightmare and when he wakes up yelling he tells Mama Frances about the fortune teller. Mama Frances tells him to go back to sleep. She says that there is nothing to fear because they have the power of the Lord in their house. She adds, “And other things too.” What does she mean?

 

  1. Hoodoo asks Mama Frances about Mandragore, a word he heard in his dream. Mama Frances explains that dreams are full of symbols, but that this one seems like an omen. Omens can be good or bad. Which do you think this is?

 

  1. Hoodoo goes to the river and while there he meets the crow. The crow tells Hoodoo he was sent by his daddy who is stuck at the crossroads. The crow tells Hoodoo that he must kill the Stranger. Do you think this is a dream? Is the crow a trickster?

 

  1. When Hoodoo goes to find Mrs. Snuff (Miss Addy) at her house, he meets the Stranger. How does he know it is the Stranger? The Stranger tells Hoodoo that his daddy owes him a debt. Why do you think he comes to collect from Hoodoo?

 

  1. At Mrs. Snuff’s little shack, Hoodoo finds a book titled Pow-Wows. It helps Hoodoo begin to understand what the Stranger is looking for. Hoodoo steals the book (although Mrs. Snuff is aware of this fact). Should he have done this?

 

  1. When Mrs. Snuff returns, she listens to Hoodoo’s tale.  She tells him that the crow was drawn to him because of his deep magick. Do you believe Hoodoo has deep magick when he doesn’t seem to be able to cast even a simple spell?

 

  1. Snuff tells Hoodoo “A wise man don’t look for danger but he’ll die for a cause he knows is righteous.” What does she mean?

 

  1.  After this visit, Hoodoo heads home and up to his room. Suddenly he finds himself flying and then in the presence of the Stranger. What do you think of this experience? Why does the Stranger want his hand?

 

  1. After his experience with the Stranger, Hoodoo lies to Mama Frances about it. Why? Is this a good reason to lie?

 

  1. Bunny helps Hoodoo gather together items for his mojo bag. He steals a few more items from Miss Carter’s store. But to make the bag work, Hoodoo has to place a spell on it. Do you think it will work? Or is an essential ingredient still lacking?

 

  1. At a family meeting, Mama Frances, Pa Manuel and Cousin Zeke finally tell Hoodoo the complete story about his daddy. Hoodoo begins to fully understand what the Stranger is after. The family claims that their reason for not telling Hoodoo was to protect him. He feels they were lying. Which side is right? (And what about Hoodoo’s lies to protect them?)

 

  1. Cousin Zeke said, “If people don’t face the danger that is seeking them, evil will find them first.” Does this conflict with the advice Mrs. Snuff has given him (question 14)? Do you think he is wise to look for the Stranger? After reading what happens to Mama Frances do you still feel the same way?

 

  1. Why do you think Hoodoo’s hand becomes so hot that it hurts Bunny to touch it?

 

  1. In his conversation with his daddy, Hoodoo is told that “You gotta use your head, son, and your heart.” What does his father mean? Is one more important than the other?

 

  1. After his meeting with his daddy, Hoodoo learns something more about him, another fact that no one had shared with him. Why is this important? What message does it send to Hoodoo?

 

  1. All of the clues have led to Hoodoo confronting the Stranger. But first he needs one important piece of information. What is it and why will it help Hoodoo defeat the Stranger?

 

  1. After the final showdown between Hoodoo and the Stranger, Hoodoo learns that Mrs. Snuff is also Miss Addy and Miss Carter. “There’s power in names,” she says. Do you agree?

 

  1. Hoodoo explains what heart is. What do you think heart is?

Discussion Questions: Raymie Nightingale

Raymie

Raymie Nightingale was such a great book, I just had to do it. Yup, I had to write up some discussion questions.

 

  1. Raymie’s father left her and her mother. She believes that if she wins the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition he will come home. Do you think she is right?

 

  1. Louisiana says that everything, absolutely everything, depends on you. Raymie knows this is true and feels her soul expand. Is this a true statement? Why does Raymie feel this way?

 

  1. Borkowski says people let their souls shrivel, but doesn’t explain how they do this. How do you believe people let their souls shrivel?

 

  1. Beverly says that fear is a waste of time. She claims she is not afraid of anything. Do you agree with her? Do you believe her?

 

  1. Beverly asks Raymie to tell her a secret. Raymie shares that her father has left her and her mother. This secret seems to make Beverly angry, and she starts beating the gravel with her baton. Why is she so upset?

 

  1. Staphopoulos, Raymie’s swimming instructor, asks the question, “Are you a problem causer or a problem solver?” Which characters do you believe to be problem causers and which are problem solvers? Do we always have a choice?

 

  1. When Mr. Staphopoulos moved, he said good-bye to Raymie. Why are these words so important?

 

  1. Do you believe that Raymie’s mother, in Louisiana’s words, is too terrified to go on?

 

  1. Why do you think Raymie chooses A Bright and Shining Path: The Life of Florence Nightingale to bring to read at the nursing home? Why do you think the school librarian, Mr. Option, gave it to her?

 

  1. Raymie often has the feeling that she will finally understand things, that some great truth is going to be revealed. She believes that the feeling has never really panned out. Why?

 

  1. In the Golden Glen nursing home, Isabelle claims that good deeds are pointless. Are they? What about Raymie’s good deeds up to this point? Revisit this question at the end of the book.

 

  1. Why does Raymie want to get her book back? Why not just leave it at Golden Glen?

 

  1. Are wishes dangerous?

 

  1. Why is it so surprising during the return visit at Golden Glen to see Beverly holding the hand of Alice Nebbley and humming?

 

  1. Louisiana releases a small yellow bird. Why? Was this the extra good deed she believes it to be or not?

 

  1. Why isn’t Raymie afraid when riding in the car with Louisiana’s grandmother?

 

  1. When we learn that Beverly is also fatherless, Louisiana’s grandmother says to beware the brokenhearted. Why do you think she makes this statement?

 

  1. What makes Raymie agree to get Archie from the Very Friendly Animal Center? Why is it so important for Louisiana to make up for her betrayal?

 

  1. When Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly go to the Very Friendly Animal Center, the woman explains that cats are put down soon after they arrive, yet Louisiana refuses to believe the cat is dead. Why can’t she accept this? And why, even though they believe it to be true, do Raymie and Beverly agree to break in at night and rescue Archie?

 

  1. When she spends the night at Raymie’s house, Louisiana makes up her own version of A Bright and Shining Path: The Life of Florence Nightingale. In Louisiana’s rendition, Florence Nightingale carries a magic globe filled with wishes, hope, and love. This is how she sees to help the wounded soldiers. If someone steals the magic globe, Florence will be just wandering through the darkness. During the story Raymie falls asleep and dreams of Mrs. Borkowski who tells Raymie that Archie isn’t dead. What do you think of the story? What about the dream?

 

  1. When they pass the Golden Glen on the way to the Very Friendly Animal Center, they hear beautiful, sad music being played on the piano. They see the bird Louisiana rescued and see the janitor looking out the window when he hears the bird sing. The two sing to each other. Why does this incident fill Raymie with happiness?

 

  1. When they get to the Very Friendly Animal Center (and manage to break in), there are no cats there. Instead they come across a very mangy, unhappy dog. Louisiana decides to rescue him, even though he isn’t Archie. Why does she rescue the dog?

 

  1. After pushing Louisiana in the shopping cart, the cart starts careening down the hill uncontrollably. Raymie hears Mrs. Borkowski voice telling her she can do this. Why this? Why now?

 

  1. After Louisiana’s near drowning, Raymie is Raymie Nightingale. Why this name?

 

  1. Two “miracles” happen after Raymie’s rescue. What were they? What do you think about Raymie’s response, especially to the second incident?

 

  1. Talk a little bit about the relationship between Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly. Compare and contrast the three girls.

 

Barbara

Discussion Questions: Orbiting Jupiter

Discussion Questions for Orbiting Jupiter

  1. Jack’s parents want Jack to know just what they are getting into when they take a foster child (Joseph) into their home. Do you think this information really prepares Jack?
  2. What do cows tell Jack about Joseph? Do you think this is an accurate and reliable impression?
  3. Right away Joseph faces opposition, starting from the moment he gets on the bus. When Joseph walks off the bus, Jack follows him even though he barely knows Joseph yet. Why do you suppose he does this?
  4. What do you think about Mr. Canton’s comment, “Kids like Joseph Brook aren’t always normal.” (pg. 21)
  5. Some of the teachers, like Coach Swieteck and Mr. D’Ulney, give Joseph a chance. Why do you think they were willing to do this, especially in view of Mr. Canton’s comments?
  6. When Joseph’s father shows up at the farm, what do the cows say about him? Do you think they are right?
  7. Why does Joseph walk out onto the Alliance when the ice is unsafe? Why does Mr. Canton save them personally? What are the results of this incident? How does this incident affect Jack and Joseph’s relationship?
  8. What does Jack’s reaction to Jay Perkin’s comment “bust your foster brother up” mean?
  9. What do you think of Mr. Canton’s definition of responsibility? (pg. 59)
  10. As we read Chapter 4, we learn Joseph’s whole story. What do you think of Madeleine’s family and their reactions? What about those of Joseph’s father?
  11. As we hear Joseph’s history, we learn that after Joseph had spent a month in Stone Mountain, Mrs. Stroud (social worker) decides to see if she can move Joseph to the farm owned by Jack’s family. Why does she do this? Why do you think they accept him when they haven’t taken in any boys in nearly twelve years?
  12. Ernie Hupfer warns Jack that trouble is coming Joseph’s way and that he, Jack, should be careful, too. Mr. Canton reminds Jack that “Trouble follows him (Joseph) like a yellow dog.” (pg. 97) Even Jack’s parents warn him not to not to get pulled into Joseph’s trouble. Do you think they believe that the three-on-one fight was fair? Was there a better action for Jack to take to help Joseph?
  13. Christmas Eve is the first time Joseph ever attends any type of religious service. He gets into a theological debate with Reverend Ballou, though Joseph really has no background to do so. What do you think of Joseph’s ideas? What do you think of Reverend Ballou’s reaction?
  14. What do you think of the present that Jack’s parents give Joseph? Do you think they should get involved?
  15. Brook hires a lawyer and is allowed to visit Joseph. What do you think about Mr. Brook’s feelings toward Joseph and Jupiter? What do you believe are his real intentions?
  16. The minute Joseph learns where Jupiter is, he takes off. Jack knows immediately where he had gone. Two days later, Jack and his parents go looking for Joseph. Do you think they are right about his whereabouts? Although they are advised not to go after him, do you think they should?
  17. Pastor Greenleaf asks Jack, “The boy isn’t your brother?” Why would he think they were brothers? And what about Jack’s answer, “I’ve got his back?” (147)
  18. While looking for Joseph, Jack decides to go into the library and by chance meets the librarian who has given Jupiter a foster home. What do you think of her comment, “But he can’t love her just for himself. He has to love her for her, too.” (pg. 154)
  19. The foster mother/librarian agrees to keep Joseph informed about Jupiter. Does this have a positive effect on Joseph? How do you know?
  20. After reading the end of chapter eight and chapter nine, answer the question: What is greater love?

Discussion Questions: Tale of Gwyn vs. Scarlet

Sometimes when preparing a post, I’ll be struck with an idea that I just have to follow up on. This is one of those times.

I happened to read The Tale of Gwyn by Cynthia Voigt immediately after finishing Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen. Both were good stories with strong female protagonists, and each story reminded me of the other. I just can’t resist the fun of a compare and contrast (I can hear my students groaning now!)

  1. Both Scarlet and Gwyn become outlaws to help the less fortunate. Why do you think they choose this particular path?
  1. Compared to Scarlet’s feats of derring-do, Gwyn’s actions, at least initially, are far tamer. Do you think this is more or less realistic of what a young girl might expect to accomplish?
  1. Scarlet is a noblewoman pretending to be a commoner. Gwyn is a commoner, pretending to be someone who is possibly a nobleman but certainly uses skills only a nobleman would possess. Why do these reversals help them achieve their goals?
  1. In the past, life was difficult for unmarried women. Yet marriage is what Scarlet is running away from, and Gwyn also chooses not to marry. Why do they feel like this? Are their reasons the same?
  1. To achieve their goals, both girls pretend to be men. But others know their secret. Some know because they have been told; others recognize that they are girls. Do you think that this makes a difference? Does it make Scarlet and Gwyn more or less powerful themselves?
  1. Who makes the more believable outlaw – Scarlet or Gwyn? What does each girl bring to that role and how does it help (or hurt) her?
  1. Do you think that the circumstances in each story justified the girls in becoming outlaws? Were there other courses of action that they might have taken?