Past Bookworms Selections

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's library by Chris Grabenstein

Rump : the true story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

Freaky Fast Frankie Joe by Lutricia Clifton

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

The Young Healer by Frank N. McMillan, III

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner

Operation Yes by Sarah Lewis Holmes

In front of God and Everybody by K.D. McCrite

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

The Unwanteds by Lisa McCann

Mockingbird by Katherine Erskine

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Will at the Battle of Gettysburg by Laurie Chalkhoven

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer

The Underdogs by Mike Lupica

The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein

Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynn Reid Banks

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherine Valente

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs

Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

Half Upon a Time by James Riley

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm

Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Perry

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LeFluer

The Potato Chip Puzzles by Eric Berlin

The Strange Case of Oragami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Faith, Hope and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

Cryptid Hunters by Roland Smith

Holes by Louis Sacher

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Stolen Children by Peg Kehret

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

No Talking by Andrew Clements

The Seer of Shadows by Avi

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Al Capone Does by Shirts by Jennifer Choldenko

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Night of the Howling Dogs by Graham Salisbury

Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn

The Naked Mole-Rat Letters by Mary Amato


Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

  Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

Twelve-year-old Kyle gets to stay overnight in the new town library, designed by his hero (the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello), with other students but finds that come morning he must work with friends to solve puzzles in order to escape.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the essay contest for? Who are the twelve winners?
  2. Why do you think Kyle was chosen as a winner?
  3. What does Kyle do with his winnings?
  4. What is on the library cards?
  5. What are some of the unusual things about the library?
  6. What is the new challenge?
  7. Why is Haley so determined to win the challenge?
  8. What clues are Charles’s team trying to solve?
  9. What clues are Kyle’s team trying to solve?
  10. Do both the teams play fair? What happens?
  11. What are some of the Lemoncello games mentioned in the book?
  12. How many book references did you find while reading this book?

If you liked Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, you might also like:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman

The potato chip puzzles by Eric Berlin

Floors by Patrick Carman

The name of this book is secret by Pseudonymous Bosch

Horten's incredible illusions : magic, mystery & another very strange adventure by Lissa Evans

The Game of Sunken Places by M.T. Anderson

The forbidden library by Django Wexler

The ninja librarians : the accidental keyhand by Jen Swann Downey


Rump : the true story of Rumpelstiltskin

  Rump : the true story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

Relates the tale of Rumpelstiltskin's childhood and youth, explaining why his name is so important, how he is able to spin straw into gold, and why a first-born child is his reward for helping the miller's daughter-turned-queen.

Discussion Questions

  1. How is this story different from the original Grimm Brothers’ tale?
  2. In the magical kingdom where Rump is set, a name determines a person’s destiny. How does this affect Rumpelstiltskin? How does it affect others in the story?
  3. Who or what helps Rump on his journey to discover his name and his destiny?
  4. Who is Red? What is the relationship like between Rump and Red?
  5. Are pixies helpful or harmful in this story?
  6. What secrets are revealed during this story?
  7. What happens when Rump uses magic?
  8. What is a rumpel? What is a stiltskin?
  9. How is Rump’s story similar to his mother’s?
  10. What other fairy tales are mentioned in this book?

If you liked Rump, you might also like:

A question of magic by E.D. Baker

The magician's boy by Susan Cooper

Fortune's folly by Deva Fagan

Tuesdays at the castle by Jessica Day George

A tale dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

The goose girl by Shannon Hale

The castle behind thorns by Merrie Haskell

The hero's guide to saving your kingdom by Christopher Healy

Ivy's ever after by Dawn Lairamore

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

Where the mountain meets the moon by Grace Lin

Beauty and the beast : the only one who didn't run away by Wendy Mass

Half upon a time by James Riley

Curse of the Thirteenth Fey : the true tale of sleeping beauty by Jane Yolen


Freaky Fast Frankie Joe

  Freaky Fast Frankie Joe by Lutricia Clifton

Twelve-year-old Frankie Joe Huckaby, forced to live with the father he never knew, a stepmother, and four half-brothers in Illinois, starts a delivery service to finance his escape back to his mother in Texas, not realizing he is making a better life for himself than he ever had with her.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How are things different for Frankie Joe in Clearview than they were in Laredo?
  2. How does Frankie Joe feel when he finds out he has four half-brothers? How do the brothers feel about Frankie Joe?
  3. What does Frankie Joe think about his dad FJ and Lizzie?
  4. How does Frankie Joe feel about his mom and her situation?
  5. How does Frankie Joe come up with his enterprising business, Frankie Joe’s Freaky Fast Delivery Service?
  6. Why does Frankie Joe want to go back to Laredo? What is his plan for getting there? What changes his mind?
  7. Why are all of Frankie Joe’s friends older people? Who is his only friend his own age?
  8. Why do people keep telling Frankie Joe about his mom chasing rainbows? What does that mean?
  9. Is Frankie Joe happy at the end of the book? Why do you think so?

If you liked Freaky Fast Frankie Joe, you might also like:

Boys of blur by N.D. Wilson

Eggs over Evie by Alison Jackson

Out of order by Betty Hicks

Scarlett by Cathy Cassidy

A smidgen of sky by Dianna Dorisi Winget

Summer of the wolves by by Lisa Williams Kline

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt


Splendors and Glooms

  Splendors and glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

When Clara vanishes after the puppeteer Grisini and two orphaned assistants were at her twelfth birthday party, suspicion of kidnapping chases the trio away from London and soon the two orphans are caught in a trap set by Grisini's ancient rival, a witch with a deadly inheritance to shed before it is too late.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What has happened to Clara’s family?
  2. Why do Parsefall and Lizzie Rose live with Grisini?
  3. What happens to Clara after the puppet show? How do Parsefall and Lizzie Rose find out?
  4. What happens to Grisini?
  5. Who is Cassandra? What do we learn about her childhood?
  6. Why does she want the children to live with her?
  7. What is the fire opal and what kind of power does it have?
  8. How is everything resolved at the end?

If you liked Splendors and Glooms, you might also like:

You will call me Drog by Sue Cowing

Wooden bones by Scott William Carter

Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

The master puppeteer by Katherine Paterson

The Night Gardener : a scary story by Jonathan Auxier

Crispin : the cross of lead by Avi

The great unexpected by Sharon Creech

The ghost of Crutchfield Hall by by Mary Downing Hahn

The Great Trouble : a mystery of London, the blue death, and a boy called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson

How to catch a bogle by Catherine Jinks

Twelve minutes to midnight by Christopher Edge



A Single Shard

  A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park

Tree-ear, a thirteen-year-old orphan in medieval Korea, lives under a bridge in a potters' village, and longs to learn how to throw the delicate celadon ceramics himself.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Tree-ear is a homeless orphan, but he has all he needs. How does Crane-man provide for him? What does Tree-ear do in return?
  2. What word do you think best describes the relationship between Crane-man and Tree-ear? What does each character give the other?
  3. At the beginning of the book, Tree-ear sees a farmer with a bag of leaking rice. Tree-ear made the decision to wait until the man losing the rice reached the bend in the road before he ran to catch him. Why did he wait? What does his decision during that incident tell you about his character?
  4. How do Min and Ajima treat Tree-ear differently? Why do each of these characters behave the way they do with Tree-ear?
  5. What were the steps in getting the clay ready for the potter? 1. Cut the clay 2. Dig a shallow hole and line it with grass cloth 3. Shovel clay into pit. 4. Mix clay with water. 5. Stir repeatedly with wooden paddle until uniformly mixed. 6. Scoop sludge and pour through sieve into another pit. 7. Winnow out pebble and other impurities. 8. Leave clay a few days to settle. 9. Take water off top. 10. Test purified clay with fingers.
  6. Describe the differences between the work that Min and Kang do. What do these differences suggest about the kinds of people they are? Which kind of work does the emissary prefer, and why? When it comes to art, is it better to be able to produce quality or quantity?
  7. Does Min treat Tree-ear fairly as an apprentice? Would you want to work for Min? Is Tree-ear a valuable apprentice? Would you want Tree-ear to work for you?
  8. Should Tree-ear have gone to Songdo? What changed after his journey? If you could advise him to do something differently about his trip, what would it be?
  9. The Rock of the Falling Flowers inspires courage. How is Tree-ear courageous?
  10. What do you predict will happen to Tree-ear after the book ends?

If you liked A Single Shard, you might also like:

Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan

The Kite Fighters by Linda Sue Park

The Kite Rider by Gerald McCaughrean

Archer’s Quest by Linda Sue Park

Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Little White Duck by Na Liu

Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

Spring Pearl by Laurence Yep


The Young Healer

  The Young Healer by Frank N. McMillan, III

What starts out as just another day becomes anything but that for Feather Anderson. Her beloved grandfather, a traditional Lakota healer, pulls her out of class one snowy morning and takes her on a traditional vision quest in the heart of New York City in hopes to find the perfect Lakota medicine. It becomes the most magical day of Feather's life as she saves her little brother's life and earns her newly-given secret Lakota name.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do Feather and her grandfather go on their spirit quest?
  2. What stops do they make along the way?
  3. Who helps them during their quest?
  4. Feather and her grandfather have several encounters that seem magical or out of this world. What are they?
  5. What is Feather’s mom’s reaction to the spirit quest?
  6. How does Feather help her brother?
  7. What does her mom think at the end?
  8. Her grandfather tells her they are going to find her story. What is Feather’s story?

If you liked The Young Healer, you might also like:

All that's missing by Sarah Sullivan
Charlie's raven by Jean Craighead George
Crazy horse : brave warrior by Ann Hood
Night wings by Joseph Bruchac
The birchbark house by Louise Erdrich
Rain is not my Indian name by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen
Kokopelli's flute by Will Hobbs


The Westing Game

  The Westing Game by Ellen Rankin

This highly inventive mystery involves sixteen people who are invited to the reading of Samuel W. Westing's will. They could become millionaires-it all depends on how they play the tricky and dangerous Westing game, a game involving blizzards, burglaries, and bombings! Ellen Raskin has created a remarkable cast of characters in a puzzle-knotted, word-twisting plot filled with humor, intrigue, and suspense.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Which tenant was chosen by mistake? What was Sam Westing's mistake?
  2. Sam Westing turns out to be a man with many different identities. What five different names and identities does he use?
  3. At the end of the story, how is Judge Ford able to finally repay her debt to Sam Westing?
  4. After the second bomb in Chapter 13, Angela and Theo have a conversation in which they discuss their separate future plans. What did Theo and Angela confide to each other? What do we learn about them here? Why couldn't Angela answer Theo's question?
  5. At her bridal shower, why do you think Angela turned the gold box containing the bomb toward herself?
  6. Who did the burglar turn out to be, and why do you think he or she stole the jewelry and the clock?
  7. Did you feel sorry for any of the characters here? Why? How would you help that character if you could?
  8. Turtle, or T. R. Wexler as she came to be called, always kept her secret about Sam Westing, even from her own family, including her husband Theo. Why do you think she kept the secret? What would you do in her shoes? Can you imagine keeping such a secret from the people most important to you?
  9. What do the words of the song "America the Beautiful" have to do with the Westing mystery? Do the words to the song help the heirs as they try to solve the puzzle?
  10. The Westing heirs are asked two times in the story to give their signatures and titles on a receipt. Compare the original titles of the heirs in Chapter 7 to the titles they give later in Chapter 23. How do the titles change, and what does this show about what each heir is experiencing?
  11. Why do you think Sam Westing set up this elaborate "game," and do you think it turned out as he hoped?
  12. Most of this book takes place in the apartment building Sunset Towers. How does this location affect the story? Can you imagine this story in another setting? What other kinds of places could a story like this take place?
  13. Why do you think Angela waited more than five years to marry Denton Deere? Do you think she made the right decision?
  14. As you were reading, which of the heirs did you trust the most? Who did you find the most suspicious?
  15. The will states that the heirs were each given their perfect partners. Is this true?

If you liked The Westing Game, you might also like:

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

Shakespeare's Secret by Elise Broach

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

Holes by Louis Sachar 

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster 

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein

The Potato Chip Puzzles by Eric Berlin

The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman



  Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

When the difficult star of the reality television show "Expedition Survival" disappears while filming an episode in the Florida Everglades using animals from the wildlife refuge run by Wahoo Crane's family, Wahoo and classmate Tuna Gordon set out to find him while avoiding Tuna's gun-happy father.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is Wahoo’s relationship like with his father?
  2. Why has his mom gone to China?
  3. What is Derek Badger different in real life than on his show?
  4. How real is Expedition Survival?
  5. What is different in the way Mickey Cray and Derek Badger treat the wildlife around them?
  6. Why does Tuna run away with Mickey and Wahoo?
  7. Why do you think Raven Stark puts up with Derek Badger?
  8. Why does Link throw Mickey out of the boat?
  9. What happens with Tuna’s dad shows up?
  10. How many injuries does Derek Badger receive during the Everglades episode?
  11. How is Wahoo’s life different from other kids?
  12. Why do Wahoo and Tuna call each other Lance and Lucille?

If you liked Chomp, you might also like:

Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner

Rainforest Rescue by Jan Burchett

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett

Treasure Hunters by James Patterson

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

The Upside of Ordinary by Susan Lubner


Laugh with the Moon

 Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg

Thirteen-year-old Clare Silver is stuck. Stuck in denial about her mother's recent death. Stuck in the African jungle for sixty-four days without phone reception. Stuck with her father, a doctor who seems able to heal everyone but Clare. Clare feels like a fish out of water at Mzanga Full Primary School, where she must learn a new language. Soon, though, she becomes immersed in her new surroundings and impressed with her fellow students, who are crowded into a tiny space, working on the floor among roosters and centipedes. When Clare's new friends take her on an outing to see the country, the trip goes horribly wrong, and Clare must face another heartbreak head-on. Only an orphan named Memory, who knows about love and loss, can teach Clare how to laugh with the moon. Told from an American girl's perspective, this story about how death teaches us to live and how love endures through our memories will capture the hearts of readers everywhere.

Discussion Questions

  1. At the beginning of the book, why isn’t Claire talking to her dad? How does her attitude towards her dad change throughout the book?
  2. Why are they moving to Malawi?
  3. Why doesn’t Claire feel like she has a home anymore?
  4. How is school different in Malawi than it is in the United States?
  5. How does Claire teach the first graders English?
  6. How is her friendship with the kids in Malawi different than her friendships with kids in the U.S.?
  7. Why does Claire receive different medical care when she gets pneumonia than Innocent did when he had malaria?
  8. Claire receives a chicken. Who gave it to her and why?
  9. Why does Saidi leave school?
  10. Do you think Claire is glad to have experienced life in Malawi by the end of the book?
  11. How does Claire’s mom help her deal with things in Malawi?

If you liked Laugh with the Moon, you might also like:

Flying the Dragon by Natalie Diaz Lorenzi

Candyfloss by Jacqueline Wilson

Dancing Home by Alma Flor Ada and Gabriel M. Zubizarreta

Sway by Amber McRee Turner

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Sylvia and Aki by Winifred Conkling

Inside out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez

Ruby Lu, empress of everything by Lenore Look

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

Hope in My Heart by Katherine Lasky

Beyond the Western Sea by Avi

Kira Kira by Cynthia Kadohata

Katerina’s Wish by Jeannie Mobley 


Tuesdays at the Castle

  Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George


Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic.

Discussion Questions:

  1. After her parents disappear, Princess Celie refuses to believe they're dead. What makes her think they're still alive?
  2. Visitors from two of the neighboring kingdoms come for the funeral, but don't seem to want to leave. Why?
  3. Why doesn't Prince Rolf want to be crowned king?
  4. When the royal family discovers the plot against Prince Rolf how do they fight back? How does Castle Glower help?
  5. What part does Prince Lulath of Grath play in the rebellion? Why do they decide to trust him?
  6. What does Prince Khelsh of Vhervhine want with Castle Glower?
  7. What does Khelsh do to Castle Glower?
  8. How does Celie heal the Castle?
  9. How do the things in the Spy Glass Tower help Celie, Lilah and Rolf?
  10. Who is Rufus and what does he do?

If you liked Tuesdays at the Castle, you might also like:

The Battle for the Castle by Elizabeth Winthrop
Measle and the Mallockee by Ian Ogilvy
Pure dead magic by Debi Gliori
Wednesdays in the tower by Jessica Day George
Howl's moving castle by Diana Wynne Jones
A tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine
The frog princess by E.D. Baker
Ivy's ever after by Dawn Lairamore



Capture the Flag

 Capture the Flag by Kate Messner

When the original Star Spangled Banner is stolen, seventh-graders Anne, José, and Henry, all descendants of the Silver Jaguar Society, pursue suspects on airport carts and through baggage handling tunnels while stranded at a Washington, D.C., airport during a snowstorm.

Discussion Questions

  1. How was the flag stolen?
  2. How much of an impact does the weather have on this story? Can you think of things that would have happened differently in the airport if it hadn’t been for the big snowstorm?
  3. What is the Silver Jaguar Society?
  4. Is it logical for Anna to think the flag might be at the airport? Why do you think she wants to investigate?
  5. Who do the police suspect stole the flag?
  6. Who do the kids think stole the flag?
  7. What does Snake-Arm’s do that makes the kids suspicious?
  8. Why do you think José quotes people all the time?
  9. When it becomes clear who stole the flag, what do you think the motive might have been? Was there any evidence earlier in the story that pointed in this direction?
  10. Were you surprised about what you learned about Snake-Arm? Looking back, were there any clues about who he really was?
  11. What will happen with Anna, Henry and Jose now that the mystery is solved?

If you liked Capture the Flag, you might also like:

Edison's Gold by Geoff Watson
Moonshadow: Rise of the Ninja by Simon Higgins
Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead
Potato Chip Puzzles by Eric Berlin
Independence Hall by Roland Smith
NERDS by Michael Buckley


Operation Yes

 Operation Yes by Sarah Lewis Holmes

In her first ever teaching job, Miss Loupe uses improvisational acting exercises with her sixth-grade students at an Air Force base school, and when she experiences a family tragedy, her previously skeptical class members use what they have learned to help her, her brother, and other wounded soldiers.

Discussion Questions

  1. How does Miss Loupe surprise the students of Room 208?
  2. If you were in Miss Loupe’s class, how would you answer the roll on the first day of school?
  3. What is the Taped Space?
  4. Why is Gari so upset by her mom’s news?
  5. How does Bo feel about Gari staying with his family?
  6. Miss Loupe played the “Yes, and...” game with the class. What is the “Yes, and” game?
  7. What makes Miss Loupe different from the rest of her family?
  8. Why did Miss Loupe’s brother, Marc, send her a cracked photograph?
  9. The students of Room 208 find cracks everywhere, and decide that some are good,
  10. and some are not. Miss Loupe’s brother says that “...cracks are painful, but they can
  11. bring good things, too.” What does he mean by that?
  12. Why does Miss Loupe want to start a theater camp?
  13. Miss Loupe quotes an ancient Greek philosopher when she says, “Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a great battle.” What does this mean? What kind of battles are fought in this book?
  14. What happens on Gari’s first day of school?
  15. Why didn’t Bo sign up for the Ugly Couch Players? Why did Bo finally decide to sign up for the Ugly Couch Players? Why did he sign Gari’s name, too?
  16. What happened to Miss Loupe’s brother?
  17. Why do you think Bo started the jody call at lunch? What is a jody call?
  18. How has Miss Loupe changed now that she has returned to school? Why do you think Miss Loupe is avoiding the Taped Space?
  19. What are Gari’s Plans? A, B and C?
  20. What is the importance of the LGM?
  21. How did the students of Room 208 “make the circle bigger”?
  22. Where did Gari and Bo end up?

If you liked Operation Yes, you might also like:

Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell
Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle
Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
The Fabled Fifth Graders of Aesop Elementary School by Candace Fleming
Invisible Lines by Mary Amato
Curtains by Michael Dahl
Drama by Raina Telgemeier


In front of God and Everybody

  In front of God and Everybody by KD McCrite

If God wanted April Grace to be kind to her neighbors, He should have made them nicer!

Growing up in the country is never easy, but it sure is funny-especially if you happen to have a sister obsessed with being glamorous, a grandma just discovering make-up, hippie friends who never shower, and brand new neighbors from the city who test everyone's patience. From disastrous dye jobs to forced apologies and elderly date tagalongs, you'll laugh 'til you cry as you read the Confessions of April Grace!

Here are just a couple of April's thoughts: On her sister, Myra Sue: "How anyone can be that dumb and still be able to eat with a fork is beyond me." On senior citizen lovebirds: "What if they started smooching right at the table in front of God and everybody?"

In spite of all the loony characters in her life, April Grace is able to learn from her parents as they share the love of God-to even the craziest of characters!

Discussion Questions:

  1. How did Isabel and Ian act when they first came to town?
  2. What was surprising in the way they were treated in return?
  3. Why did April Grace’s parents invite them to stay?
  4. Why did Grace put up with Mr. Rance when she didn’t love him?
  5. Why was April Grace suspicious of Mr. Rance?
  6. Why does no one believe her when she tries to tell people about him?
  7. How does Myra Sue change after Isabel moves in?
  8. What happens to her as a result of Isabel’s influence?
  9. How do Isabel and Ian change?
  10. What lessons does April Grace learn?

If you liked In Front of God and Everybody, you might like:

Mary Mae and the gospel truth by Sandra Dutton
With a name like Love by Tess Hilmo
Fourmile by Watt Key
Ask my mood ring how I feel by Diana López
Spring with the Moodys by Sarah Maxwell
Chocolate-covered baloney by K.D. McCrite
Cliques, hicks, and ugly sticks by K.D. McCrite
Heart of a shepherd by Rosanne Parry
Octavia Boone's big questions about life, the universe, and everything by Rebecca Rupp
The Georges and the Jewels by Jane Smiley


Where the Red Fern Grows

  Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Billy, Old Dan and Little Ann -- a Boy and His Two Dogs ... A loving threesome, they ranged the dark hills and river bottoms of Cherokee country. Old Dan had the brawn, Little Ann had the brains -- and Billy had the will to train them to be the finest hunting team in the valley. Glory and victory were coming to them, but sadness waited too. And close by was the strange and wonderful power that's only found ... An exciting tale of love and adventure you'll never forget.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is Grandpa dumbfounded when Billy brings in his $50?
  2. Why doesn't Billy tell his parents he is going to Tahlequah?
  3. How is Billy's life different from that of the children in town?
  4. Why does Grandpa say that Billy shouldn't tell his father about the dogs?
  5. Why do the names carved in the tree seem perfect to Billy for his pups?
  6. Why do Billy's parents think they should move to town?
  7. How do the curiosity and stubbornness of a raccoon enable Billy to trap one?
  8. Why do Billy and his father care about whether a raccoon is caught in a sports-manlike way?
  9. What does it show about Billy's character when he buys gifts for his family?
  10. Why does Mama worry about Billy?
  11. How does Papa's treatment of Billy change?
  12. Why doesn't Billy give up when his dogs have a raccoon up the “big tree”?
  13. How do the Pritchard boys get Billy to accept their bet?
  14. Why would a hunter respect raccoons?
  15. Why does Grandpa lock the store when he goes to the mill?
  16. How did you feel about Grandpa accepting the Pritchards' bet?
  17. Do miracles really happen to Billy, or does he solve his own problems?
  18. Why doesn't Billy want to kill the ghost coon?
  19. Would Rubin have killed Billy's dogs if he hadn't tripped on the ax?
  20. Why do the hunters at the contest treat Billy like an equal?
  21. How do you know that Billy is a good hunter?
  22. Does Billy needlessly expose himself and others to danger during the storm?
  23. Why are Billy's dogs unusual?
  24. How does Big Dan's behavior get Billy and the dogs in trouble?
  25. Why does Billy bury Old Dan on the hillside?
  26. How is Billy helped to understand his dogs' deaths?

If you liked Where the Red Fern Grows, you might like:

Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
Shiloh by Phyllis Naylor Reynolds
Sounder by William H. Armstrong
Big Red by Jim Kjelgaard
The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Hatchet by Gary Paulson
White Fang by Jack London
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George


The Unwanteds


  The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into categories: the strong, intelligent Wanteds go to university, and the artistic Unwanteds are sent to their deaths. Thirteen-year-old Alex tries his hardest to be stoic when his fate is announced as Unwanted, even while leaving behind his twin, Aaron, a Wanted. Upon arrival at the destination where he expected to be eliminated, however, Alex discovers a stunning secret--behind the mirage of the "death farm" there is instead a place called Artime. In Artime, each child is taught to cultivate their creative abilities and learn how to use them magically, weaving spells through paintbrushes and musical instruments. Everything Alex has ever known changes before his eyes, and it's a wondrous transformation. But it's a rare, unique occurence for twins to be separated between Wanted and Unwanted, and as Alex and Aaron's bond stretches across their separation, a threat arises for the survival of Artime that will pit brother against brother in an ultimate, magical battle.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think you would have been one of the "Unwanteds"? Why or why not?
  2. Why was creativity banned in Quill?
  3. In what ways are Quill and Artime different? Which of the two would you prefer?
  4. Would you have reported the infractions of your neighbors, like Aaron did?
  5. How were Alex and Aaron different? the same?
  6. What role does Isolationism play in Quill?
  7. Why doesn't anyone challenge the High Priest Justine?
  8. Did Mr. Today do the right thing by delaying Alex's magic training? Why do you think he did it?
  9. Why do you think Lani kept trying her spells on Alex? Why didn’t she understand his reaction?
  10. Why did Samheed go along with Will Blair’s plans? Why didn’t he report him?
  11. How would you choose to fight? Would you use lethal weapons? Why or why not?
  12. How would you react when faced with your parent trying to kill you? What do you think of Samheed and Lani’s reactions?
  13. Once they are discovered, why does Mr. Today choose not to seal off Artime from the people of Quill?
  14. Is fighting less violent if you are using "artistic weapons"?
  15. What will happen to Quill now?

If you liked The Unwanteds, you might also like:

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann
Merlin's dragon by T.A. Barron
Hollow Earth by John Barrowman & Carole E. Barrowman
The Brimstone Key by Derek Benz & J.S. Lewis
Reckless by written and illustrated by Cornelia Funke
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The hound of Rowan by Henry H. Neff
A world without heroes by Brandon Mull
Book of Names by John Peel
Sandry's book by Tamora Pierce
The red pyramid by Rick Riordan
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner



  Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white—the world is full of colors—messy and beautiful.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. In what ways is Devon’s unfinished chest symbolic of the loss of Devon? How has it has impacted the rest of Caitlin’s family? Although her father has covered the chest with a sheet, why do you think he chooses to keep it in their home?
  2. How do readers know Caitlin isn’t dealing with the loss of her brother? What are some of the behaviors she displays that verify how she’s doing?
  3. Devon served as a navigator to Caitlin as he helped her understand and explore the world; how does his absence make it significantly more difficult for her to deal with others? What are some of the specific kinds of things Devon did to help his sister? What was his motivation in doing these things? Did he stand to gain anything for assisting her?
  4. Do you believe Caitlin’s father is providing her the support she needs? Why or why not?
  5. Based on instructions on how to act, Caitlin reminds herself to “Look At The Person.” Why do you think this is particularly difficult for her? Why is each word in that phrase capitalized? What other phrases have that same treatment?
  6. Why is Mrs. Brook important to Caitlin? Why does Caitlin trust her and not some of the other adults at school? What does her absence at school mean to Caitlin?
  7. Asperger’s and autism often exhibit ritualistic behaviors; what are some of Caitlin’s? How do these actions make her feel? Discuss whether you believe she should be allowed to engage in these activities or if she would be better served by being forbidden or stopped.
  8. What are the reasons Caitlin dislikes recess?
  9. Describe Josh. What motivates him to behave the way he does? Do you think he has a valid reason for being so angry? How does Caitlin feel about Josh? Why might she feel so strongly about him? Why might others?
  10. When considering her passion for books, Caitlin states, “You can open and close books a million times and they stay the same. They look the same. They say the same words. The charts and pictures are the same colors. Books are not like people. Books are safe.” (p.34) What can we infer about her statement? Do you agree with Caitlin?
  11. When Josh and Caitlin have an altercation on the playground, their classmates come to Caitlin’s defense and even team up against Josh, but later, some of these same students laugh and tease Caitlin about her behavior—why would they chose to behave this way and what do we learn from this contradictory behavior?
  12. One of the ways Devon and Caitlin connected was through their shared appreciation for the movie, To Kill a Mockingbird. Why was this particular movie so special to them? In what ways were they similar to the characters in the film?
  13. Throughout the course of the novel, Caitlin tries to understand the meaning of closure. What are some of the events that help her achieve closure? How does her understanding of the concept of closure change?
  14. Why is Caitlin so insistent that she and her father finish Devon’s chest? What does she hope to accomplish by completing this project? What happens during the course of finishing the chest and how does that affect both Caitlin and her father?
  15. Though she is a gifted artist, Caitlin is fearful of using color in her work and her work doesn’t involve human subjects. Why do these things make her uncomfortable? How is this indicative of her disability?
  16. How has Caitlin matured from dealing with the loss of her brother? What has she learned? How have the people to whom Caitlin is closest learned from her as well?

If you liked Mockingbird, you might also like: 

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd
The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous by Suzanne Crowley
Of Mice and Aliens by Kathy Hoopman
Here's How I See It: Here's How It Is by Heather Henson
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Rules by Cynthia Lord
The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
Strong Deaf by Lynn McElfresh
Freak the Mighty by W.R. Philbrick
Small Steps by Louis Sachar
Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin



City of Ember

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

In the year 241, twelve-year-old Lina trades jobs on Assignment Day to be a Messenger to run to new places in her decaying but beloved city, perhaps even to glimpse Unknown Regions.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think Lina and the others do not rebel against life in Ember?
  2. Why do the children of Ember start work at the age of 12 instead of continuing to go to school?
  3. Are the work assignments fair?
  4. What about working in Pipeworks convinces Doon that Ember is in even worse shape than he thought?
  5. Why has no one invented the moveable light (flashlight/candle) in Ember?
  6. Why is Lina’s grandma so determined to find what is missing? What do they find?
  7. Lina believes The Instructions are important. Why doesn’t anyone else?
  8. What do the people of Ember think of their mayor? What do you think?
  9. How did Ember become so rundown?
  10. What do Doon and Lina find in the Pipeworks?
  11. Who is Lizzie and what is her job? What secret does she have?
  12. How do the guards react when Doon and Lina report the mayor?
  13. How do Lina and Doon discover the way out of Ember? What do they find?
  14. Do you think the other citizens of Ember will follow them?

If you liked City of Ember, you might also like:

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
Search for Wondla by Tony Diterlizzi
Wildwood by Colin Meloy
Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
Holes by Louis Sachar
The space between by Kiki Thorpe
First Light by Rebecca Stead
The Borrowers by Mary Norton



Number the Stars

  Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

It’s 1943 Copenhagen and the Jews of Denmark are being “relocated,” so Annemarie Johansen’s best friend, Ellen, moves in with the Johansens and pretends to be part of the family. When Annemarie is asked to go on a dangerous mission, she must find the courage to save her friend’s life.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Were you surprised when the Johansens agreed to take in Ellen? Why?
  2. How does Annemarie behave around the German soldiers? How does Kirsti?
  3. Why might the sisters behave so differently?
  4. Whom does Ellen pretend to be when the soldiers come to the Johansens? Why?
  5. What lie does Uncle Henrik tell Annemarie?
  6. Why did Mama send Annemarie with the packet for Uncle Henrik instead of
  7. taking it herself?
  8. How does Annemarie use what her uncle has taught her and her observations of
  9. Kirsti’s earlier behavior to deal with the German soldiers?
  10. When Henrik returns from taking the Rosens to Sweden, how does he show that
  11. he now regards Annemarie as an equal?
  12. What kind of friendship do Annemarie and Ellen have?
  13. How are Annemarie and Ellen alike? What are some of their differences?
  14. How does the encounter with the Nazi soliders on the way home from school affect Annemarie? How would it make you feel to be in a similar situation? Is it hard to even imagine?
  15. What does Mrs. Rosen mean when she tells the girls, "It is important to be one of the crowd, always?"
  16. Sometimes the adults in the book don't always tell the truth. Why is it all right for them to lie? What's dangerous about the truth in their situation?
  17. Why do Uncle Henrik and Mrs. Johansen pretend that their Great-Aunt Birte has died?
  18. Why do Peter, the Johansens, and Uncle Henrik risk their own lives to save their Jewish friends?
  19. Why did Lois Lowry choose Number The Stars for the story’s title?
  20. What did you think about the soldier who touched Kirsti’s hair and said she reminded him of his own daughter? What did you think of the soldier who tore Lise’s baby picture, threw it on the floor, and ground his boot heel into it?
  21. Who has the harder time: Mama who was slapped by a Nazi and broke her ankle or Papa who waits, worries, and follows his normal routine of buying the newspaper and going to the office?
  22. Annemarie tells her uncle that she wasn’t brave because she was frightened while she was delivering the basket with the hidden package. Do you agree with her? What did Uncle Henrik mean when he said, “It is much easier to be brave if you do not know everything?”
  23. Why did Mrs. Rosen tell the girls not to give the soldiers any reason to remember them?

If you liked Number the Stars, you might also like:

Is it night or day? by Fern Schumer Chapman
The key is lost by Ida Vos
Jacob's rescue by Malka Drucker
Escaping into the night by Dina Friedman
Yellow star by Jennifer Roy
Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli
Night crossing by Karen Ackerman
Run boy run by Uri Orlev
Daniel's story by Carol Matas
Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Darkness over Denmark by Ellen Levine
Terezin by Ruth Thompson
The Grand Mosque of Paris by Karen Gray Ruelle
Irena Sendler and the children of the Warsaw Ghetto by Susan Goldman Rubin
Lily Renée, escape artist : from Holocaust survivor to comic book pioneer by Trina Robbins


Will at the Battle of Gettysburg

  Will at the Battle of Gettysburg by Laurie Chalkhoven

In 1863, twelve-year-old Will, who longs to be a drummer in the Union army, is stuck in his sleepy hometown of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, but when the Union and Confederate armies meet right there in his town, he and his family are caught up in the fight. Includes historical notes, glossary, and a timeline of events.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What were Will’s dreams about war? How did his perception of war change through the book?
  2. Will describes how the Union and Confederate soldiers who ate at their table acted like old friends. How were they able to do this?
  3. Who is Abel? What happens between Will and Abel?
  4. Will dreams of joining up with the Union army, but each time he’s offered a chance, he turns it down. Why?
  5. Early in the book, Will says his father and brother would want him to join the army. Do you think he’s right?
  6. What was the role of the drummer in the Army? Why did Will want to be one?
  7. What was Will’s first impression of the Rebs when he sees them?
  8. Why doesn’t Will’s mother leave even after Mrs. Shriver says they’ll be killed if they stay?
  9. What did the townspeople do when the soldiers came to Gettysburg?
  10. What role did Will play in the battle?
  11. What did Will’s mother do during the battle?
  12. Who won the Battle of Gettysburg? What impact did the battle have on the war? What impact did it have on the townspeople?

If you Liked Will at the Battle of Gettysburg, you might also like:

Retreat from Gettysburg by Kathleen Ernst
The 290 by Scott O'Dell
Amelia's war by Ann Rinaldi
Escape by night : a Civil War adventure by Laurie Myers
The storm before Atlanta by Karen Schwabach
The mostly true adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick
The totally made-up Civil War diary of Amanda MacLeish by Claudia Mills
Red moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells
Ghosts of the Civil War by Cheryl Harness
A light in the storm : the Civil War diary of Amelia Martin by Karen Hesse
Soldier's heart : a novel of the Civil War by Gary Paulsen
Mr. Lincoln's drummer by G. Clifton Wisler
Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith


Close to Famous

  Close to Famous by Joan Bauer

Twelve-year-old Foster McFee and her mother escape from her mother's abusive boyfriend and end up in the small town of Culpepper, West Virginia, where they use their strengths and challenge themselves to build a new life, with the help of the friends they make there.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Close to Famous opens with Foster and her mother being chased out of Memphis by “Elvis” in a yellow Cadillac. What has happened and where are they going?
  2. Why do Kitty and Lester connect with Foster and her mother?
  3. Why do you think Foster idolizes Sonny Kroll?
  4. Why does Foster’s mother returns to Memphis?
  5. Why does Macon react the way he does when Foster meets Miss Charleena?
  6. Is “Angry Wayne” a fitting name for the owner of the diner?
  7. In what ways are Foster and Miss Charleena alike? How do these similarities contribute to their ability to work together?
  8. Foster is haunted by a former teacher’s use of the word “limited” in describing her academic ability. How does Miss Charleena alter that meaning?
  9. How does the small West Virginia town change Foster? What impact does she have on its inhabitants?
  10. How does Foster change throughout the story?

If you liked Close to Famous, you might also like:

My chocolate year : a novel with 12 recipes by Charlotte Herman

Rule of three by Megan McDonald

It's raining cupcakes by Lisa Schroeder

Words in the dust by Trent Reedy

A finders-keepers place by Ann Haywood Leal

My name is Mina by David Almond

The new kid by Mavis Jukes

Almost home by Joan Bauer

Best foot forward by Joan Bauer



The Underdogs

  The Underdogs by Mike Lupica

Small but fast twelve-year-old Will Tyler, an avid football player in the down-and-out town of Forbes, Pennsylvania, takes matters into his own hands to try and finance the city's football team, giving the whole community hope in the process.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Will’s dad tells him that it is not about getting knocked down; it’s how you get back up. What are some of the biggest knock-downs (obstacles) Will, Hannah, Mr. Tyler, Toby, and Mr. Keenan encounter and how does each of them overcome these stumbling blocks?
  2. Compare and contrast Mr. Tyler and Mr. Keenan.
  3. Do you think that Mr. Tyler should have the knee replacement surgery? Why?
  4. On page 167, Mr. Tyler says, “...because I didn’t see how we lost anything with Chris Aielo at QB.” However, Lupica writes, “It wasn’t true. Will knew it and his dad knew it, because they’d talked about it. But he was trying to pump up his quarterback...” and boost the team’s morale. Do you think that it is all right to tell “little white lies”? Discuss your reasons.
  5. Do you think Mr. Tyler is the right person to coach The Bulldogs? Find specific examples of his coaching style to support your opinion.
  6. To you, which is the most exciting game or moment in the story? Analyze this scene and discuss how the author manages to keep the readers engaged.
  7. On page 192, we learn that the “big players” (not just in size) are supposed to make everybody around them better. In what ways are Will, Hannah, and Mr. Tyler big players?
  8. There are quite a few conflicts in the story and several characters find creative ways to resolve them. Identify two such conflicts and discuss how they are resolved.
  9. Will never wants an unhappy ending in movies, or in his own life story. Do you feel the same way?  First describe your reactions to the ending of The Underdogs. Then, based on what you’ve come to know about Will and Mr. Tyler, predict how they will act and feel if the outcome of the championship game is the opposite. Also imagine how you, as a reader, will feel if this happens.

If you liked The Underdogs, you might also like:

The Big Time by Tim Green

Game Changers by Mike Lupica

Halfback Tough by Thomas Dygard

Last Chance Quarterback by Tommy Hallowell 

No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman

Touchdown Trouble by Fred Bowen



The Familiars


  The Familiars by Jay Epstein

When a scrappy alley cat named Aldwyn passes himself off as a magical animal companion to Jack, a young wizard in training, Aldwyn and his fellow "familiars," a know-it-all blue jay and bumbling tree frog, must save the kingdom after the evil queen of Vastia kidnaps Jack and two other wizards. 

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is Aldwyn on the run? Who is chasing him?
  2. Who do the familiars meet on their quest to rescue their loyals? What did they have to do at each destination?
  3. What magical powers do each of the familiars possess?
  4. Where are each of the familiars from?
  5. What familiar do you think possess the greatest power - Aldwyn, Gilbert, or Skylar? Why?
  6. What do the familiars discover in the cave on Kailasa?
  7. Describe Gilbert's relationship with his dad. Does it change by the end of the book?
  8. Who is truly responsible for Kalstaff's death?
  9. Who are the three original "prophesized three"? Who are the new "prophesized three"?
  10. What was each familiar afraid of on the Bridge of Betrayal?
  11. How do you think Aldwyn’s relationship with Gilbert and Skylar changed in the story?

If you like The Familiars, you might also like:

Babymouse by Jennifer Holm

Geronimo Stilton by Geronimo Stilton

The Warriors by Erin Hunter

Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel

The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carman Agra Deedy

Pie by Sarah Weeks

The Books of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West

Toes by Tor Seidler

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

Magyk by Angie Sage

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas

Beastologist by R.L. LaFevers


Young Fredle

  Young Fredle by Cynthia Voigt

Fredle, a young mouse cast out of his home, faces dangers and predators outside, makes some important discoveries and allies, and learns the meaning of freedom as he struggles to return home.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why does Fredle get went? What is went?
  2. What does Fredle experience outside for the first time?
  3. What friends does Fredle make on the outside? How do his friends help him?
  4. Who do you think Fredle would continue to be friends with after the story ends?
  5. How does Fredle stay safe outside? How much of Fredle’s survival is due to his own instincts and how much is due to help from friends?
  6. What dangers does Fredle face? How does he overcome them?
  7. What does Fredle learn that changes his opinion of outside? of the cellar?
  8. What happens when Fredle returns to the pantry?
  9. How do his family members react upon his return?
  10. What does Fredle ultimately decide to do?

If you liked Young Fredle, you might also like:

Bless this mouse by Lois Lowry

The Cheshire Cheese cat : a Dickens of a tale by Carmen Agra Deedy & Randall Wright

Mousenet by Prudence Breitrose

A nest for Celeste : a story about art, inspiration, and the meaning of home by Henry Cole

Secrets at sea by Richard Peck

The tale of Despereaux : being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread by Kate DiCamillo

Tumtum & Nutmeg : adventures beyond Nutmouse Hall by Emily Bearn

Geronimo Stilton series

Babymouse series



Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there's still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Smile is a graphic novel, have you read these types of books before? Was reading a graphic novel different than reading a text novel, how so? Would this book have been better or worse without the pictures?
  2. Does this story take place during present day? What are the clues in the story that let the reader know when the book takes place? (For example; no cell phones, older style of clothing, etc.)
  3. Are you afraid of the dentist? Why do you think so many people are? Ask everyone to share their funniest or most unpleasant dentist story.
  4. Have you ever had braces? How long did you have them? What is the worst thing about them?
  5. In Smile, Raina deals with a lot of issues besides her teeth. What are some of the other difficult things that are going on in Raina’s life?
  6. Is Raina’s experience of middle school realistic? Are there things that happen to Raina that have happened to you or someone you know?
  7. Raina has lots of embarrassing moments in middle school, how did she deal with them? What do you do when you are embarrassed at school?
  8. How do feel about Raina’s friends in the book? How do they treat her? What causes Raina to “break up” with her friends? How should good friends treat each other? How do you tell the difference between friends playfully teasing each other and people just being mean?
  9. When Raina finally gets her braces off, she thinks she looks weird. Why?
  10. Why do you think the author named the book Smile? Where does the word smile come up in the book?

If you liked Smile, you might also like:

Middle School, the Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson

Amelia Rules by Jimmy Gownley

Dear Dumb Diary by Jim Benton

Baby Mouse by Jennifer Holm

How to survive middle school by Donna Gephart

How I survived middle school by Nancy Krulik

The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow

Nerd girls : the rise of the dorkasaurus by Alan Lawrence Sitomer

The reinvention of Bessica Lefter by Kristen Tracy

Gossip from the girls' room : a Blogtastic! novel by Rose Cooper

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell


The Indian in the Cupboard

  The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks

A nine-year-old boy receives a plastic Indian, a cupboard, and a little key for his birthday and finds himself involved in adventure when the Indian comes to life in the cupboard and befriends him.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is Omri disappointed with Patrick's gift?
  2. Why doesn't Omri call his family when he discovers the Indian is alive?
  3. Why does Omri do almost everything Little Bear wants? Why does Omri sometimes wonder if he's right to give Little Bear certain things?
  4. Why does Omri agree to show the Indian to Patrick?
  5. Why is Omri so sure that Patrick has put a plastic figure in the cupboard while he is in the kitchen?
  6. How does Omri show he is more responsible about the little men than Patrick?
  7. What do you think about the idea of Omri taking Little Bear and Boone to school?
  8. Why is Omri surprised that Boone and Little Bear Want to go back to their own worlds?
  9. Do you think Omri and Patrick are right to send Little Bear and Boone back to their own time?


If you liked The Indian in the Cupboard, you might like:

Crows and Cards by Joseph Helgerson

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

Moccasin Trail by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

Adaline Falling Star by Mary Pope Osborne

Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

Ghost Canoe by Will Hobbs

Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow: The Diary of Sarah Nita, a Navajo Girl by Ann Turner

Journal of Jesse Smoke: A Cherokee Boy by Joseph Bruchac

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

Meet Kaya: An American Girl by Janet Beeler Shaw

Morning Girl by Michael Dorris

My Heart is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl by Ann Rinaldi

Paddle-to-the-Sea by Hollings Clancy Hollings

Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

Soft Rain: A Story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears by Cornelia Cornelissen

Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill

Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac

Sweetgrass by Jan Hudson

Crossing Bok Chitto; a Choctaw tale of friendship & freedom by Tim Tingle

Jim & Me: a Baseball Card Adventure by Dan Gutman


The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

If you liked The Girl Who Circumnavigated, you might like:

Fairies and the quest for Never Land by Gail Carson Levine

The fairies of Nutfolk Wood by Barb Bentler Ullman

Firefly and the quest of the black squirrel by J.H. Sweet

The last of the high kings by Kate Thompson

The low road by Daniel Kirk

A midsummer night's dream retold by Nel Yomtov

The night fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann

Emily Windsnap and the monster from the deep by Liz Kessler

Philippa Fisher's fairy godsister by Liz Kessler

The Brimstone Key by Derek Benz & J.S. Lewis

The secret of Grim Hill written by Linda DeMeulemeester

Small persons with wings by Ellen Booraem

Spell hunter by R.J. Anderson

The flower fairies by Emily Rodda


Out of My Mind

  Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there's no delete button. She's the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows it. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don't think she's capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again. If only she could speak up, if only she could tell people what she thinks and knows . . . but she can't, because Melody can't talk. She can't walk. She can't write. Being stuck inside her head is making Melody go out of her mind—that is, until she discovers something that will allow her to speak for the first time ever. At last Melody has a voice . . . but not everyone around her is ready to hear it.

Discussion Questions


  1. Why does the author begin and end the book with the same passages?
  2. Melody is a typical fifth-grader in many ways. How she is similar to other eleven year-olds.
  3. In a world that does not work for her, what seems to cause the biggest frustrations for Melody?
  4. Describe Melody’s parents. How do they learn to communicate with Melody and help her to overcome everyday problems? Why are those efforts sometimes a complete failure?
  5. How does Melody feel about school? How does she fit in with her classmates and what makes her different from the rest of the children in H-5? What would be Melody’s ideal school situation?
  6. Discuss Melody’s teachers since she began going to school. What does this say about her school system, or about attitudes at her school about teaching children with special needs?
  7. Why does Melody decide to enter the quiz team competition? What obstacles must she face and overcome just to get on the team?
  8. How do the Medi-Talker and her electric wheelchair change Melody‘s life?
  9. What does Melody learn about friendship and the relationships of children working together as she practices and competes with the quiz team? What does she learn about herself?
  10. What is ironic about the events at the restaurant after the competition? How does this scene foreshadow the events that led up to the airport fiasco?
  11. Describe Melody’s feelings before the trip to the airport, while she is there, and after she gets home. How would you have coped with the same situation?
  12. Describe Melody’s extreme range of emotions as she tries to tell her mother that Penny is behind the car. How did the scene make you feel?
  13. Discuss the scene in which Melody confronts the kids on the quiz team. What is satisfying about how she handles the situation? What else might Melody have done?
  14. When Melody takes her friend Rose with her to the aquarium, she is very excited about the fun they are going to have. What does Rose learn about friendship at the aquarium?
  15. How does Mr. Dimming change over the course of the story?
  16. Do you have classmates with a physical disability and if so, how are they treated?
  17. Imagine a conversation between Melody and Rose on the last day of fifth grade.
  18. If you were transported to Oz, what would you ask for?

If you liked Out of My Mind, you might also like:

Small Steps by Louis Sachar

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine


Belly Up

  Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs

12 year old Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt Fitzroy has got a murder on his hands and trouble on his tail. Henry, the hippopatamus at the brand-new nationally known FunJungle, has gone belly up. Even though it's claimed he died of natural causes, Teddy smells something fishy and it sure ain't the polar bear's lunch. Dealing with the zoo's top brass proves to be nothing but a waste of time. They want to see any trace of Henry's death disappear like yesterday's paper. So Teddy sets out to find the truth. With the help of Summer McCraken, a fiesty girl with secrets of her own, the two narrow down their prime suspects. Is it Martin Del Gato, FunJungle's head of operations who hates kids and hates animals even more? Or J.J McCraken, the owner of FunJungle and and hates animals even more? Or J.J McCraken, the owner of FunJungle and Summer's father, who has more concern for the dough he's raking in than the animals in the zoo? As their investigation goes on, Teddy gets squeezed on all sides to quit asking questions or Henry won't be the only animal in the zoo to turn up dead. The deeper Teddy and Summer get, they had better make sure they want to know what they want to know because when it comes to hippo homicide, the truth can't be kept in a cage!

Discussion Questions

  1. Would you want to visit Fun Jungle? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think that Fun Jungle is a good environment for the animals? Why or why not?
  3. What do you think about zoos in general? Should all animals be free, or are there really good reasons to keep some locked up?
  4. Before the mystery was solved, who did you think killed Henry?
  5. Who is your favorite character in the story? Why?
  6. Who is your least favorite character in the story? Why?
  7. Do you think it was hard for Teddy to get used to living in Texas at Fun Jungle after living in the Congo? Which place would you rather live?
  8. Summer and Teddy are friends but come from different backgrounds. Which lifestyle would you rather have, Teddy’s or Summer’s. Why?
  9. Do you think Teddy and Summer remain friends? Why?
  10. Would you rather have Teddy or Summer as your friend? Why?
  11. Do you like J.J. McCracken? Do you think he is a nice person? Why?
  12. What are your feelings about Doc? Do you consider him a villain or a hero? Why?
  13. What kind of animal do you think would make a better mascot than Henry?

If you liked Belly Up, you might also like:

Edgar Allan's Official Crime Investigation Notebook by Mary Amato

Sounder by William Howard Armstrong

Saving Zasha by Randi G. Barrow

The World According to Humphrey by Betty G. Birney

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford

Strider by Beverly Cleary

The Great Cheese Conspiracy by Jean van Leeuwen

The Cheshire Cheese Cat: a Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

Frightful's Mountain by Jean Craighead George

King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny--Detectives Extraordinaire by Polly Horvarth

Invasion of the Dognappers by Patrick Jennings

Cracker by Cynthia Kadohata

Zoobreak by George Korman

A Dog's Life by Ann M. Martin

The Leanin' Dog by K.A. Nuzum

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

Paint the Wind by Pam Munoz Ryan

Walls within Walls by Maureen Sherry



Because of Mr. Terupt

  Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

It’s the start of fifth grade for seven kids at Snow Hill School. There’s . . .  Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who’s having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next; Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffrey, who hates school.

Only Mr. Terupt, their new and energetic teacher, seems to know how to deal with them all. He makes the classroom a fun place, even if he doesn’t let them get away with much . . . until the snowy winter day when an accident changes everything-and everyone.

Discussion Questions

  1. Would you like to have a teacher like Mr. Terupt?
  2. Do you think the accident was anybody's fault? If so, whose fault do you think it was?
  3. Does the accident have to be someone's fault?
  4. Do you think Mr. Terupt should have stepped in and stopped some of the antics before things got out of hand?
  5. Jeffrey bravely tried to use his body to save his brother. It did not work. Do you agree or disagree with Jessica? Was Michael's death Jeffrey's fault? Why or why not?
  6. Do you think Jeffrey's family is going to heal?
  7. Do you think it was ok that Danielle's family would not let her play with Anna?
  8. Do you think it is right to shun someone for a mistake they make? How long should someone have to pay for their mistakes?
  9. Change the ending: How do you think the kids would have gone on if Mr. Terupt hadn’t come out of the coma?
  10. Why don’t you think Mr. Terupt has any family or even talks about them?
  11. Why do you think people like Lexie start girl wars? Why do people like Danielle continue to be friends with people like that?
  12. During the plant experiment, Peter and Luke are happy that they each have partners who will leave them alone and let them do whatever they want. What makes a successful partnership for school projects? What kinds of partnerships don·t work at all? Why do teachers ask students to work with partners?
  13. Which character in this book is your favorite? Which character is the most realistic? Which character is the least realistic? Why?
  14. What did Mr. Terupt·s students learn about themselves from working with the Collaborative Classroom? What is the value of learning experiences like that?

If you liked Because of Mr. Terupt, you might also like:

Operation yes by Sara Holmes

The secret life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters

Miss Spitfire: reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Elizabeth Miller

The magical Ms. Plum by Bonny Becker

The fabled fifth graders of Aesop Elementary School by Candace Fleming.

Addie on the inside by James Howe

The brilliant fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner

A crooked kind of perfect by Linda Urban

The terrible secrets of the Tell-All Club by Catherine Stier


Half Upon a Time

   Half Upon a Time by James Riley

In the village of Giant's Hand Jack's grandfather has been pushing him to find a princess and get married, so when a young lady falls out of the sky wearing a shirt that says "Punk Princess," and she tells Jack that her grandmother, who looks suspiciously like the long-missing Snow White, has been kidnapped, Jack decides to help her.

Discussion Questions

  1. Who is Jack’s father? His grandfather?
  2. Who does Jack think May’s grandmother is? Why does he think that?
  3. Jack, May, and Phillip are on a quest. What is their quest?
  4. What happens the first time Jack and May fall asleep? How do they get away?
  5. How do they meet Phillip? What is he doing? What fairy tale does he belong to?
  6. What or who is the Eye? What does he give Jack?
  7. Who do they meet in the Black Forest?
  8. What happens when they find the mirror?
  9. Who is Merriweather? How does she know May?
  10. Who is Malevolent? How does she help the trio?
  11. What happens at the Palace of the Snow Queen? What truth is revealed?
  12. Jack and May are both strong characters. How are they alike? How are they different? How does Phillip fit into the story? What role does he play? How does he affect the relationship between Jack and May?
  13. What do you predict will happen in the future? Which boy will betray May? Which will die?
  14. What is the meaning of the title of the book?
  15. What fairy tale characters are present in the book? Which fairy tales do they belong to?
  16. Is May a character from a fairy tale? Who do you think she is?

If you liked Half Upon a Time, you might also like:

A tale dark and grimm by Adam Gidwitz

A world without heroes by Brandon Mull

Emerald atlas by John Stephens

Tuesdays at the castle by Jessica Day George

Igraine the brave by Cornelia Funke

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

The flint heart by John Paterson

Ivy and the meanstalk by Dawn Lairamore

Where the mountain meets the moon by Grace Lin

Tales From The Brothers Grimm And The Sisters Weird by Vivian Vande Velde


Turtle in Paradise

  Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm

Inspired by family stories, two-time Newbery Honor winner and New York Times bestselling author Jennifer L. Holm beautifully blends family lore with America's past in this charming gem of a novel, rich in historical detail, humor, and the unique flavors of Key West.

Life isn't like the movies, and eleven-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple. She's smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending. After all, it's 1935, and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce. So when Turtle's mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn't like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida, to stay with relatives she's never met.

Florida's like nothing Turtle has ever seen. It's hot and strange, full of wild green peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure. Before she knows what's happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she has spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways.

Discussion Questions

  1. What is the thing most surprising to Turtle about life in Key West?
  2. What surprised you about Key West?
  3. Cousins Buddy and Beans run the Diaper Gang for fussy babies - what did you think about the whole project?
  4. What did you think of everyone’s names in the book? Did their names have any significance?
  5. Turtle finds a treasure map in the piano of the old lady Nana Philly - did your idea about the woman change when Turtle discovered she was her Grandma?
  6. Did you think maybe Slow Poke was Turtle's father before she did? Why?
  7. Have you ever been outside at night during a terrible storm? What was it like?
  8. Do you like the way the treasure money was divided and spent?
  9. How were Aunt Minnie and Turtle's mother alike? Different?
  10. Was the ending just right for the story?

If you liked Turtle in Paradise, you might also like:

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Junonia by Kevin Henkes

Lexie by Audrey Couloumbis

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck

Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko

The Wonder of Charlie Anne by Kimberly Newton Fusco

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse



Heart of a Shepherd

  Heart of a shepherd by Rosanne Parry

When Brother's dad is shipped off to Iraq, along with the rest of his reserve unit, Brother must help his grandparents keep the ranch going. He’s determined to maintain it just as his father left it, in the hope that doing so will ensure his father’s safe return. The hardships Brother faces will not only change the ranch, but also reveal his true calling.

Discussion Questions

  1. Describe the setting for the story. When do you predict this story took place?
  2. Describe Brother and his relationship with Grandpa, father, and Grandma.
  3. List several of the conflicts Brother had. What do you feel was Brother’s most important conflict?
  4. Why didn’t Brother’s mother live on the ranch?
  5. In the first chapter, Brother does not play by the traditional rules of chess. What does the way they play the game together tell you about Brother’s character? What does it tell you about his relationship with his grandpa?
  6. The story opens with a chess game. Why do you think the author did that?
  7. Who was the only person that had ever beaten Grandpa at chess?
  8. What did Grandpa do while Grandma attended church every Sunday?
  9. What were “bum lambs”?
  10. Which constellation did Mr. Alderman pick to watch over his son while he was in Iraq?
  11. List two reasons why Brother favored acid branding the calves rather than hot iron branding.
  12. What simile did Ernesto use to describe the cow’s contractions?
  13. When Brother’s dad leaves for Iraq, Brother makes a promise he can’t keep. Brother tells his dad "I'm going to take care of this place...It's going to be just the way you remember it when you get back" (p.10). Do you think that was a reasonable promise to make? If not, why do you think his father doesn't set him straight about it?
  14. At the beginning of the story Brother says, “I never get to be the hero.” Does he do things later that seem heroic to you? According to this author, what is a hero? Do you agree or disagree? Are there different kinds of heroes? Do you think Brother would think of himself as a hero? Who else in the story seems heroic to you?
  15. Toward the end of the story grandpa sets a backfire to protect the sheep from a wildfire. How does a backfire work?
  16. When the Alderman’s celebrate Christmas, what traditions do they keep the same from year to year? How is the holiday different with the dad in Iraq?
  17. Why do you think Brother’s dad and older brothers chose to become soldiers? What leads Brother to choose a different job?
  18. What branch of the Army did Brother decide to pursue?
  19. Are there foreshadows or clues to the path Brother will choose as an adult? Do you think it will be a fitting path for him? Why or why not?
  20. What do you think about the main character's name? Would you like to be called Brother?
  21. What does the title mean?
  22. Do you remember how Pete's head wound is treated? Why do you think they treat it that way?

If you liked Heart of a Shepherd, you might also like:

Operation yes by Sarah Holmes
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Old Yeller by Fred Gipson
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen
The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
The Georges and the Jewels by Jane Smiley
Mary Mae and the Gospel Truth by Sandra Dutton
Octavia Boone's Big Questions About Life, The Universe and Everything by Rebecca Rupp
With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo


From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler

   From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

When suburban Claudia Kincaid decides to run away, she knows she doesn’t just want to run from somewhere, she wants to run to somewhere — to a place that is comfortable, beautiful, and, preferably, elegant. She chooses the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Knowing her younger brother Jamie has money and thus can help her with a serious cash-flow problem, she invites him along.

Once settled into the museum, Claudia and Jamie find themselves caught up in the mystery of an angel statue that the museum purchased at auction for a bargain price of $225. The statue is possibly an early work of the Renaissance master, Michelangelo, and therefore worth millions. Is it? Or isn’t it?

Claudia is determined to find out. Her quest leads her to Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the remarkable old woman who sold the statue, and to some equally remarkable discoveries about herself.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why does Claudia pick Jamie to run away with?
  2. How does Jamie get his money?
  3. Why does Claudia enjoy planning?
  4. Why does Mrs. Frankweiler say that flattery is an important machine?  How does Claudia use this on Jamie?
  5. How would you describe Claudia's escape plans?
  6. Why does Mrs. Frankweiler identify with Claudia?
  7. Claudia sends in two coupons just as they leave home. What does that suggest about her future plans?
  8. “Often the search proves more profitable than the goal.” Why does Mrs. Frankweiler say this to her lawyer?
  9. How do you think Mr. and Mrs. Kincaid felt when Claudia and Jamie ran away?
  10. How does the author get your attention in the first paragraph?
  11. Who is telling the story? To whom is she telling it?
  12. How does the New York Times article connect Claudia and Jamie to Mrs. Frankweiler?
  13. Claudia thinks she is running away because of injustice. What's your opinion about Claudia's sense of injustice?
  14. Have you ever wanted to escape or run away from something you didn't like? Do you think Claudia and Jamie were fair to their family when they ran away?
  15. How do you feel about the way Jamie wins in cards against Bruce? How do you think friends should treat one another?
  16. What section of the museum would you have chosen to study?
  17. How do experts determine the authenticity of an artwork?
  18. How do Claudia and Jamie get more money?
  19. What is the name Jamie uses for the post office box?  Why?
  20. Why don't Claudia and Jamie ask one of the children in the museum to deliver their letter to the office?
  21. Why is the dust under a bed in the museum important to Claudia and Jamie?
  22. What do you think Claudia was running away from?
  23. Why does Claudia say they'll take a “long, long bath” when they rent a post office box?
  24. How does the author remind readers that this story is being told by Mrs. Frankweiler?
  25. Claudia and Jamie talk about homesickness. Have you ever been homesick? How would you define it?
  26. Claudia says, “When you hug someone, you learn something else about them. An important something else.” What do you think she means?
  27. Why is the letter from the museum a disappointment?
  28. How does Claudia keep Jamie from going home?
  29. Why doesn't Claudia want to tell Mrs. Frankweiler where they were hiding?
  30. Why are Mrs. Frankweiler's files mixed up?
  31. Why does Jamie suggest that they go home after they get the museum's letter? Why does Claudia want to stay?
  32. Why do Mrs. Frankweiler and the children get along so well?
  33. Mrs. Frankweiler says, “When the stakes are high, I never cheat. I consider myself too important to do that.” What does she mean?
  34. How does Mrs. Frankweiler help both Claudia and Jamie get something they want?
  35. How does the author foreshadow the file that holds Mrs. Frankweiler's secret?
  36. Is Mrs. Frankweiler the way you expected she would be? Why or why not?
  37. Claudia says you should learn something new every day. Mrs. Frankweiler says that some days you should learn a lot, but on others you should let “what is already in you to swell up inside you until it touches everything.” Which idea do you agree with and why?
  38. Why isn't a secret much fun if no one knows you have it?

If you liked From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, you might like:

Bud, not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

The escape from home by Avi

A dog for life by L.S. Matthews

The hideout by Eve Bunting

The higher power of Lucky by Susan Patron

The maze by Will Hobbs

Nowhere to call home by Cynthia DeFelice

The outlandish adventures of Liberty Aimes by Kelly Easton

The runaway dolls by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin

Runaway twin by Peg Kehret

Starfish by James Crowley

Will Sparrow's road by Karen Cushman

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke



Love, Aubrey

   Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

"I had everything I needed to run a household: a house, food, and a new family. From now on it would just be me and Sammy–the two of us, and no one else."

A tragic accident has turned eleven-year-old Aubrey’s world upside down. Starting a new life all alone, Aubrey has everything she thinks she needs: SpaghettiOs and Sammy, her new pet fish. She cannot talk about what happened to her. Writing letters is the only thing that feels right to Aubrey, even if no one ever reads them.
With the aid of her loving grandmother and new friends, Aubrey learns that she is not alone, and gradually, she finds the words to express feelings that once seemed impossible to describe. The healing powers of friendship, love, and memory help Aubrey take her first steps toward the future.
Readers will care for Aubrey from page one and will watch her grow until the very end, when she has to make one of the biggest decisions of her life.
Love, Aubrey is devastating, brave, honest, funny, and hopeful, and it introduces a remarkable new writer, Suzanne LaFleur. No matter how old you are, this book is not to be missed.

Discussion Questions

  1. How is Aubrey living at the beginning of the book?
  2. What has happened to cause this?
  3. Who is Jilly? Why does Aubrey write to her?
  4. How is Bridget a good friend for Aubrey?
  5. How does Aubrey feel when her mother is found? What question does she want her mother to answer?
  6. Who is Amy Carlisle and how does she help Aubrey?
  7. How does Aubrey’s letter writing change through the story?
  8. What happens at Christmas?
  9. What does Aubrey realize after the hospital visit with Bridget’s family? What does Bridget learn about Aubrey from this event?
  10. Do you agree or disagree with Aubrey’s decision at the end of the book?

If you liked Love, Aubrey, you might like:

Small as an elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Bird in a box by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Bird Lake moon by Kevin Henkes

Claim to fame by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Each little bird that sings by Deborah Wiles

The garden of Eve by K.L. Going

The girl who threw butterflies by Mick Cochrane

Laugh with the moon by Shana Burg

Season of secrets by Sally Nicholls

Umbrella summer by Lisa Graff



The Potato Chip Puzzles

   The Potato Chip Puzzles by Eric Berlin

When puzzle addict Winston Breen and his best friends head to an all-day puzzle hunt with a $50,000 grand prize, they’re pumped. But the day is not all fun and games: not only do they have a highstrung and highly competitive teacher along for the ride, but the puzzles are hard even for Winston, the other schools’ teams are no joke, and someone in the contest is playing dirty in order to win. Trying to stop this mystery cheater before it’s too late takes an already tough challenge to a whole other level. Packed with a variety of fun puzzles to solve, this fast-paced sequel will pull readers right into the action from start to finish.


The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

   The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

In this funny, uncannily wise portrait of the dynamics of a sixth-grade class and of the greatness that sometimes comes in unlikely packages, Dwight, a loser, talks to his classmates via an origami finger puppet of Yoda. If that weren’t strange enough, the puppet is uncannily wise and prescient. Origami Yoda predicts the date of a pop quiz, guesses who stole the classroom Shakespeare bust, and saves a classmate from popularity-crushing embarrassment with some well-timed advice. Dwight’s classmate Tommy wonders how Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. With contributions from his puzzled classmates, he assembles the case file that forms this novel.

Discussion Questions

  1. Thumbs Up/Down and general thoughts about the book.
  2. What kind of person is Dwight? How do people's opinions of him change during the book?
  3. Name some of the different ways Origami Yoda helps people (water pants, baseball crying, shakespeare head, bad movie, cheetos)
  4. In the lunchroom, Tommy and his friends don't know what to do when Lance sits in Dwight's spot. What happened? What could they have done instead that would have been respectful to Dwight?
  5. On page 42 there are 10 Weird things that Dwight has done. Which things do you think was the weirdest? What's the strangest thing you've ever done? Why did you do it?
  6. Cassie breaks her teacher's Shakespeare Head. Have you ever broken or damaged something of someone else's? What did you do to fix it?
  7. What is Quavondo's other name? What mistake did Quavondo make? What could he have done with the Cheetos that would have been more fair to his classmates? What does he end up doing to clear his name, and was it worth it?
  8. What did Dwight wear to school one day that caused everyone to notice. Is it polite to tell someone about their clothing? When is it okay? Ex: TP stuck to your shoe, tag sticking up, fly is down, etc, button missing, etc.
  9. Origami Yoda predicts that there will be a pop quiz. The kids can't decide if it's cheating or not. What do you think? What would have been cheating?
  10. Dwight says nobody is nice to him except when they want to talk to Origami Yoda. Is this true? Why or Why not?
  11. What kind of person is Harvey? How does your opinion of him change as you read the book?
  12. Why did Tommy want to make a case file on Origami Yoda and why was it important for him to find out if Origami Yoda was for real or not? Because he had to make a decision on whether to risk making a fool of himself over Sara, because Origami Yoda told him to.
  14. How did the illustrations add to the story? Which was your favorite?
  15. Throughout history people have tried to predict the future. What other ways have people tried? (Horoscopes, magic 8 ball, needle spinning clockwise or counterclockwise, tea leaves, etc)

My Side of the Mountain

   My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Terribly unhappy in his family's crowded New York City apartment, Sam Gribley runs away to the solitude and danger of the mountains, where he finds a side of himself he never knew.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why has Sam run away to the mountains?
  2. What tasks does he set for himself once he finds the property?
  3. Sam uses various survival skills to make a home in the wilderness. What are some of these skills?
  4. Why doesn't Sam's father prevent him from leaving home?
  5. The book begins with a journal entry about a December storm. Then the story flashes back to the previous May. Why do you think the book begins with the winter event?
  6. In what ways does Sam seem unusual compared to other people of his age? In what ways does he seem much like other young people?
  7. Who is Bando? Why does Sam feel sad when Bando leaves?
  8. Sam sees signs of the coming winter in the way animals behave. What are some of these signs?
  9. As winter approaches, Sam gives a lot of attention to how to keep warm. One way to keep warm is through making warm clothes. What is the other way? What two major problems does Sam encounter? How does he solve the two problems?
  10. Why does Sam want to celebrate Halloween? As he does this, what does he learn about himself and about the animals around him?
  11. What newspaper story does Bando bring to Sam? How has the news gotten out about Sam?
  12. Who is Matt Spell? What bargain does Sam strike with him?
  13. Why does Sam's family move to the mountain?
  14. Toward the end of his year alone, what challenges from nature does Sam face? How is he able to cope with these problems?
  15. During winter and spring, Sam has several human visitors. What feelings does Sam have about this situation?
  16. Bando says to Sam, "Let's face it, Thoreau; you can't live in America today and be quietly different." What does Bando mean by this?
  17. Writers often foreshadow, or give clues about, what will happen next. Here are three events from Sam's story: Sam seeks out a friendship with Aaron; Sam enjoys Tom's stories about kids in town; Sam gets tired of writing in his journal, and goes to the library to get books to read. What major change do these events foreshadow?
  18. Do you like the way the book ends? Explain why or why not.
  19. Sam says of Frightful, "She was a captive, not a wild bird, and that is almost another kind of bird." What do you think Sam means by this? In what way might Sam's statement apply to himself?

Faith, Hope, and Ivy June

   Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Ivy June Mosely and Catherine Combs, two girls from different parts of Kentucky, are participating in the first seventh-grade student exchange program between their schools. The girls will stay at each other’s homes, attend school together, and record their experience in their journals. Catherine and her family have a beautiful home with plenty of space. Since Ivy June’s house is crowded, she lives with her grandparents. Her Pappaw works in the coal mines supporting four generations of kinfolk. Ivy June can’t wait until he leaves that mine forever and retires. As the girls get closer, they discover they’re more alike than different, especially when they face the terror of not knowing what’s happening to those they love most.

Discussion Questions

  1. What were the reasons for the exchange program? Ivy June is one of only six students who competed from her school for the exchange program. Why do so few mountain kids want to participate? What did Ivy June mean when she said “Takes a certain kind of courage to be one of the six”?
  2. On page 22, Ivy June’s mother says “Don’t be tryin’ to rise above your raisin’.” What does she mean? Do you think that’s good advice? Why or why not?
  3. Why are Jessie and Ruth unsupportive of Ivy June going to Lexington? Does it mean they are prejudice?
  4. How does Ivy June feel about her grandparents compared to how she feels about her parents and siblings? Why?
  5. What does it say about family when Ivy June gives her mom the forty dollars?
  6. How do you think Ivy June felt when no one in her family offered to put the painting on the wall?
  7. Papaw tells Ivy June that the secret to happiness is to be happy with what you have. Do you agree? Why or why not?
  8. What role does Papaw play in Ivy June’s life?
  9. Why do you think it is important that Ivy June write down her thoughts?
  10. In what ways can you relate to Ivy June when she says that people looking at her all the time is tiring?
  11. How does Ivy June almost jeopardize any chance of a real friendship with Catherine during the visit to Lexington? What does Catherine demand of Ivy June in return?
  12. When Ivy June told Catherine her most important secret, Catherine disagreed. What was Catherine’s argument?
  13. Catherine’s and Ivy June’s mother and father have very different ways of parenting. Why do you think this is so? Describe the differences. Catherine says “Probably whatever way you were raised feels right to you.” How can you relate that to your own life?
  14. Could you spend two weeks in a house like Ivy June’s? What would be the biggest challenges?
  15. Why didn’t Catherine go home when her mom got sick?
  16. Why do you think Rosemary acted the way she did towards Ivy June? Do you think accepting Rosemary is the best way to deal with her? How can we accept those people in our lives that we do not always get along with?
  17. What do you think about Papaw’s “secret to life?” What do you think Ivy June wants to reach for out of life? Which is more true, Papaw’s “secret to life” (“Want what you have”), or Ivy June’s (“Reach for something more”)?
  18. What differences do you see in the way Ivy June’s community spends their time, and the way Catherine’s does?
  19. In the book, Ivy June mentions that people view her as “disadvantaged.” Do you believe she is disadvantaged? What does being “disadvantaged” really mean?
  20. What do you think Catherine felt on the first day of school compared to what Ivy June felt?
  21. Are Catherine’s experiences at school similar to Ivy June’s experiences at school?
  22. Do you feel that “making over” Ivy June was sincere?
  23. Why do you think Papaw has sacrificed so much for his family?
  24. Can money buy happiness? How can you be happy and content no matter the circumstances?
  25. Catherine says that if she lived in the Mosley family she would run away. Why do you think none of the Mosley’s have? Why is family important?
  26. How would you feel if you were Papaw and stuck in the mine for so long?
  27. What type of courage does it take to be Papaw? To be Ivy June?
  28. How do you think Catherine’s friends and family will react to the stories that she tells of her time at Thunder Creek?
  29. Describe Ivy June’s family. How would her life be different if she lived with her parents? What is Catherine’s relationship like with her grandparents? What have the girls’ learned about own families?
  30. What does prejudice mean? Who in the Mosley family is most prejudiced against the people of Lexington? How does having an open mind towards others make an experience better? What does culture shock mean? What culture shocks did Ivy June and Catherine experience?
  31. Is Ivy June worried about how she looks while at Catherine’s home? Is she concerned about what Catherine will think when she comes to her home? Are the girls embarrassed by how they look or how their homes look?
  32. Describe Catherine’s friends. How do they treat Ivy June? How does Ivy June’s friends treat Catherine? When does Ivy June and Catherine’s relationship change?
  33. Both girls have to deal with peer jealousy. Compare how Catherine’s friends show jealousy to how Ivy June’s friend Shirley shows her jealousy. When does Ivy June realize her mother is jealous of her?
  34. Do you think that Ivy June and Catherine will see each other again?

The Magician's Elephant

   The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

What if? Why not? Could it be?

When a fortuneteller's tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her? The fortuneteller's mysterious answer (an elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true. With atmospheric illustrations by fine artist Yoko Tanaka, here is a dreamlike and captivating tale that could only be narrated by Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo. In this timeless fable, she evokes the largest of themes — hope and belonging, desire and compassion — with the lightness of a magician’s touch.

Discussion Questions

  1. Peter is told by the fortuneteller that the “truth is forever changing” (page 7). Do you agree? Can something that was once true become false? Are there important truths at the beginning of The Magician’s Elephant that aren’t true by the story’s end?
  2. The old magician keeps insisting that he intended to conjure a bouquet of lilies, not an elephant. But is he being honest? Why did he want to perform real magic that night in the Bliffendorf Opera House? Why couldn’t he undo his magic?
  3. What is the great lie that Vilna Lutz tells Peter? Why does he tell it? What lies do you think the old soldier tells himself?
  4. The elephant and the magician have been placed behind bars, but they aren’t the only confined characters in the novel. What restricts Madam LaVaughn? How free are Peter and Adele?
  5. One dark day Peter decides “that it was a terrible and complicated thing to hope, and that it might be easier, instead, to despair” (page 51). In what ways is despair easier than hope? Does Peter really believe that hope isn’t worth the fight? Do you?
  6. How does the arrival of the elephant stir up the people of Baltese? Why does the countess Quintet regret its arrival? How does she regain the upper hand?
  7. When does Peter realize that he doesn’t want to be a soldier anymore? What makes him turn against his military training (page 98)?
  8. Discuss the elephant’s predicament. How has she been failed by the magician’s trick? What is the magical transformation she seeks?
  9. Sister Marie has no doubt that every creature has its own name, even the elephant (page 90). Why are names so important? Would you be a different person if you had a different name?
  10. What does Gloria Matienne long for? Why does she fear she’ll never have it? When does she realize that she will?
  11. What promise does Peter make to the elephant? Why does he initially regret making it? How does he succeed in keeping it?
  12. An author makes a very important choice with the first line of any story. This story begins: "At the end of the century before last, in the market square of the city of Baltese, there stood a boy..."Why do you think that Kate DiCamillo made this choice? How long ago is the story set?
  13. Peter has been given money by Vilna Lutz to buy food, but he spends part of it on a fortuneteller instead. In "Jack and the Beanstalk," Jack makes a similar choice when he trades his cow for five magic beans instead of selling it. Can you think of any other stories that begin with an errand that is waylaid? What makes this an effective narrative device?
  14. When he is standing in line in the market, Peter overhears the fishmonger say, "Well, he wasn't much of a magician, and none of them was expecting much, you see—that's the thing. Nothing was expected.... He hadn't promised them nothing special, and they wasn't expecting it neither" (page 19).
  15. Who is the fishmonger talking about? What happened that was out of the ordinary? How does the unexpected event change the attitude of the city (see pages 55 and 59)? Does it affect everyone in the same way? Can you think of an unexpected event in your own life that changed you? How?
  16. In the middle of his usual trick to produce lilies, the magician adds the words of a different spell, even though he knows that "the words were powerful and also, given the circumstances, somewhat ill-advised. But he wanted to perform something spectacular" (pages 25–26). Why do you think he made this choice? Given what you know about what happened because of this choice, would you have done the same? Why?
  17. After her injury, Madam LaVaughn visits the prison every day to speak to the magician. Every day they say the same things to each other: the magician says that he intended only to produce flowers, and she responds that he doesn't understand that she is crippled. Madam LaVaughn's manservant, Hans, finally says to them: "It is important that you say what you mean to say. Time is too short. You must speak words that matter" (page 49). What inspires him to say this? What does he mean?
  18. When the elephant is on display, the entire city comes to see her. "And everyone, each person, had hopes and dreams, wishes for revenge, and desires for love. They stood together. They waited. And secretly, deep within their hearts, even though they knew it could not truly be so, they each expected that the mere sight of the elephant would somehow deliver them, would make their wishes and hopes and desires come true" (pages 113–114). Can you think of any people or events in contemporary society that have made people feel the same way? If the same thing were to happen tomorrow, do you think we would experience it differently? How?
  19. After Peter sees the elephant in the ballroom, he promises to help her. But as he walks away, he feels that it was the worst kind of promise to make (page 130)Why? Have you ever done the same?
  20. Faith and hope are central themes in this story. Peter believes that if he can find the elephant, he will find his sister. This faith overcomes even his doubt that he can keep his promise. As he asks the other characters to join him, they each believe because he asks them to. The elephant believes most of all: "In the ballroom of the countess Quintet, when the elephant opened her eyes and saw the boy standing before her, she was not at all surprised. She thought simply, You. Yes, you. I knew that you would come for me" (page 173). How would the story have unfolded if Peter had not believed? What other examples of faith do you find in the story?
  21. When Peter eats Gloria's stew, he begins to cry. Why? Is it just because he has been so hungry, or is it something more (pages 136–137)?
  22. When the magician goes to reverse his spell, he knows that "There is as much magic in making things disappear as there is in making them appear. More, perhaps. The undoing is almost always more difficult than the doing" (page 185). Have you ever had to undo something you wish you had never done? Do you agree with the statement?
  23. After the elephant has disappeared, the narrator says, "And that, after all, is how it ended. Quietly. In a world muffled by the gentle, forgiving hand of snow" (page 193).
  24. What did you think of the book's ending? Do all the characters have happy endings? Do you believe each character is where he or she belongs by the end? If you were the author, would you change anything about the story's ending? Why?


   Mudville by Kurtis Scaletta

Welcome to Moundville, where it’s been raining for longer than Roy McGuire has been alive. Most people say the town is cursed—right in the middle of their big baseball game against rival town Sinister Bend, black clouds crept across the sky and it started to rain. That was 22 years ago . . . and it’s still pouring.

Baseball camp is over, and Roy knows he’s in for a dreary, soggy summer. But when he returns home, he finds a foster kid named Sturgis sprawled out on his couch. As if this isn’t weird enough, just a few days after Sturgis’s arrival, the sun comes out. No one can explain why the rain has finally stopped, but as far as Roy’s concerned, it’s time to play some baseball. It’s time to get a Moundville team together and finish what was started 22 years ago. It’s time for a rematch.

Discussion Questions

  1. Many people, Peter especially, believe that the town of Moundville is cursed, but Roy believes it has to do with statistics. What do you believe and why?
  2. Sturgis exhibits both good and bad behavior. Why do you think he acts this way?
  3. How does Roy react to Sturgis’s arrival? Why do you think he acts this way? How would you react?
  4. Roy and Sturgis go from strangers, to teammates, to enemies, to cousins. Describe how Roy and Sturgis’s relationship progresses throughout the book and how these changes affect their perceptions of each other.
  5. Sturgis lies to Roy about how he got the scar on his face. Why?
  6. Why does Sturgis eventually join the Sinister Bend team? What would you have done if you were Sturgis? If you were Roy, would you have reacted the way he did?
  7. The rematch is considered to be very important to many people. It brings back Roy’s mom, Bobby Fitz, and more. Why is so important to everyone? Is it just about baseball?
  8. What does the Moundville team learn that helps them win against Sinister Bend? Explain the irony.
  9. When Roy initially forms the team, he is elected captain. How does this change him as a person?
  10. How do Sturgis and Roy’s relationships with their fathers differ? How does Roy’s dad try to be like a father to Sturgis?

The Penderwicks

   The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall

This summer the Penderwick sisters have a wonderful surprise: a holiday on the grounds of a beautiful estate called Arundel. Soon they are busy discovering the summertime magic of Arundel’s sprawling gardens, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and the cook who makes the best gingerbread in Massachusetts. But the best discovery of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner, who quickly proves to be the perfect companion for their adventures.

The icy-hearted Mrs. Tifton is not as pleased with the Penderwicks as Jeffrey is, though, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble. Which, of course, they will—won’t they? One thing’s for sure: it will be a summer the Penderwicks will never forget.

Deliciously nostalgic and quaintly witty, this is a story as breezy and carefree as a summer day.

Discussion Questions

  1. What makes the story have an "old fashioned" feel? From the cover, did you think this might be an old-fashioned story that took place a long time ago? What clues did you have about when this story is set? In what year do you think that this book is supposed to take place?
  2. Why is Jeffrey happier after the Penderwicks arrive? Do you think his life will be different in the future even after they go back home? What do you think will happen to Jeffrey? Will the girls stay in touch with him?
  3. Was it a good idea or a bad idea for Jeffrey to run away?
  4. Why do you suppose Skye is always saying and doing things that get her in trouble?
  5. Hound is as much as part of the family as any of the sisters. What ways might the stories have been different if Hound hadn't been with the girls?
  6. Why do you think Mr. Penderwick speaks Latin all the time, even if the girls don't understand him? Is Mr. Penderwick a good father?
  7. How many brothers and sisters do you have? Do you all ever act like the Penderwicks? In what ways? Which of the four sisters do you like the best? Which one is most like you?
  8. What do you think Batty thinks about being the youngest Penderwick? In what ways is she not like her older sisters? Since Batty seems to get into bad situations when she is left alone, do you think the older Penderwicks should keep a better eye on her? Why do you suppose they don't?
  9. Why do you think Batty wore wings in the first place? And why do you think she gave them to Jeffrey?
  10. Why do you suppose that the mothers in stories are often gone? Does it make you sad? How would the book have been different if their mother had been alive?
  11. Yaz and Carla, the rabbits, are a part of the subtitle on the cover, but how important are they in the story? Did you at first think, like the Penderwicks did, that Hound the dog had killed Yaz the rabbit?
  12. When Jane, the imaginative writer, shows her book to Dexter Dupree, he is extremely rude to her. Even though he said terrible things, should she have begun ripping up her hard work because of what one person said?
  13. It's pretty obvious how Rosalind feels about Cagney. How do you suppose Cagney feels about Rosalind?
  14. With all the adventures the Penderwicks have that end in disasters, do you think Mrs. Tifton is ever right for being so upset? Does Mrs. Tifton have any redeeming qualities?
  15. Do you think Mrs. Tifton will marry Dexter Dupree?
  16. Jeffrey is an only child. Do you suppose Mrs. Tifton would act differently if there were usually more children around?
  17. Jane has a great imagination. Do you think she thinks her sisters are unimaginative? Why or why not?
  18. Do you think Rosalind likes being the oldest and most responsible Penderwick? Why or why not?
  19. Would you like a formal birthday party like Jeffrey's, where everyone had to dress up? What do you suppose life is like for Jeffrey inside such a fancy house? Do you think he gets to play much? Or make messes? Or ever have fun?

A Year Down Yonder

   A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck

Mary Alice's childhood summers in Grandma Dowdel's sleepy Illinois town were packed with enough drama to fill the double bill of any picture show. But now she is fifteen, and faces a whole long year with Grandma, a woman well known for shaking up her neighbors-and everyone else! All Mary Alice can know for certain is this: when trying to predict how life with Grandma might turn out . . . better not. This wry, delightful sequel to the Newbery Honor Book A Long Way from Chicago has already taken its place among the classics of children's literature.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why does Mary Alice have to move to Grandma Dowdel's?
  2. When Mary Alice first arrives by train and describes Grandma Dowdel she says, "She drew nearer till she blotted out the day." In what ways is Grandma Dowdel larger than life?
  3. How is Mary Alice's life in the country different from what you think her life in the city was like?
  4. Grandma Dowdel is often gruff. Find some of the scenes in the book where she shows her love through actions instead of words.
  5. Why do you think Grandma takes Mary Alice to meet the Abernathy's?
  6. How does Mary Alice change over the course of the year?
  7. Is Mrs. Wilcox Grandma's best friend? Why or why not?
  8. How does Grandma feel about Bootsie when the cat and Mary Alice first arrives? How do her feelings change?
  9. Why won't Grandma let Mary Alice stay at the end of the year?
  10. Were you surprised to see that Mary Alice married Royce at the end of the book?
  11. What are some of the things about Grandma that Mary Alice says she'll carry with her through life?
  12. As Grandma shakes the pecans from Old Man Nyquist's tree and plucks the Pensingers' pumpkins for the Halloween pies, Mary Alice asks, "Grandma, that wasn't stealing, was it?" Evaluate Grandma's actions. Do you think she was stealing? Why or why not?
  13. At the DAR "cherry tart" gathering for George Washington's birthday, Mrs. Weidenbach discovers (thanks to Grandma) that she is a Burdick, and Effie Wilcox's sister. In your opinion is Grandma seeking vengeance or justice here? Are her actions justifiable? Why or why not?
  14. Assess what you would do if you were Mary Alice. Would you go back to Chicago?
  15. Throughout the novel Grandma and Mary Alice never state that they love each other. Cite examples from the book that show their feelings.
  16. Describe Mary Alice's Valentine's Day scheme and its effect on Carleen Lovejoy.

Beezus and Ramona

   Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

Nine-year-old Beezus Quimby has her hands full with her little sister, Ramona. Sure, other people have little sisters that bother them sometimes, but is there anyone in the world like Ramona? Whether she's taking one bite out of every apple in a box or secretly inviting 15 other 4-year-olds to the house for a party, Ramona is always making trouble--and getting all the attention. Every big sister can relate to the trials and tribulations Beezus must endure. Old enough to be expected to take responsibility for her little sister, yet young enough to be mortified by every embarrassing plight the precocious preschooler gets them into, Beezus is constantly struggling with her mixed-up feelings about the exasperating Ramona.


Cryptid Hunters

   Cryptid Hunters by Roland Smith

In this thrilling new adventure from the author of "Zach's Lie," 13-year-old twins Grace and Marty are sent to live with their anthropologist uncle and discover that he's obsessed with finding cryptids, mysterious creatures believed to be long extinct.

Discussion Questions

  1. What does Marty make for breakfast in the Skyhouse? Who once lived in the Skyhouse?
  2. What happened to Rose?
  3. What does Butch McCall steal from Marty’s pack?
  4. What two precious objects do the twins discover near the lake?
  5. Who is Masalito?
  6. Who is PD?
  7. What is a Mokélé-mbembé?
  8. What does the Bo cam do?
  9. How did Grace disrupt Butch McCall’s camp?
  10. Why don’t the bugs bite Grace like they do Marty?
  11. How did Marty and Masalito communicate?
  12. How is the grey parrot important to Grace?
  13. Why does no one question Noah Blackwood about his “conservation adventures”?
  14. What does the GIZMO do?
  15. Why did Wolfe pay for the twin’s education at the boarding school?
  16. What’s the most important piece of information Grace overhears and finds out when she is hidden amongst the books, in Wolfe’s library?
  17. What happened to Marty when he was exploring Cryptos Island?
  18. What do Grace and Mr. O’Hara use the Moleskines for?
  19. What six character traits does Marty have that makes the story work?
  20. How is Laurel important to the story?
  21. Who is more clever Grace or Marty?
  22. Are the O’Haras dead?
  23. Would you like to travel through the Congo?
  24. What will happen to the twins now?
  25. Do you believe in the existence of animals described in the Cryptid Hunters? Why or why not?
  26. If you could go on an expedition to find a “cryptid,” which one would you like to prove actually exists?
  27. How can the use of technology help in discovering endangered species? Is there a way it can hurt?
  28. Why do you think Grace felt so different once she reached the Congo?
  29. When did you begin to realize that there might be a “secret” about their relationship that the twins never knew about?
  30. Why do you think siblings within a family take on certain roles, such as Marty being the protector for Grace? Can you recognize roles within your family?


   Holes by Louis Sachar

And so, Stanley Yelnats seems set to serve an easy sentence, which is only fair because he is as innocent as you or me. But Stanley is not going where he thinks he is. Camp Green Lake is like no other camp anywhere. It is a bizarre, almost otherworldly place that has no lake and nothing that is green. Nor is it a camp, at least not the kind of camp kids look forward to in the summertime. It is a place that once held "the largest lake in Texas," but today it is only a scorching desert wasteland, dotted with countless holes dug by the boys who live at the camp.

The trouble started when Stanley was accused of stealing a pair of shoes donated by basketball great Clyde "Sweetfeet" Livingston to a celebrity auction. In court, the judge doesn't believe Stanley's claim that the shoes fell from the sky onto his head. And yet, that's exactly what happened. Oddly, though, Stanley doesn't blame the judge for falsely convicting him. Instead, he blames the whole misadventure on his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather." Thanks to this benighted distant relative, the Yelnats family had been cursed for generations. For Stanley, his current troubles are just a natural part of being a Yelnats.

At Camp Green Lake, the warden makes the boys "build character" by spending all day, every day, digging holes: five feet wide and five feet deep. It doesn't take long for Stanley to realize there's more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the treacherous warden is searching for something, and before long Stanley begins his own search—for the truth.

Fate conspires to resolve it all—the family curse, the mystery of the holes, the drought that destroyed Green Lake, and also, the legend of Kissing Kate Barlow, an infamous outlaw of the Wild West. The great wheel of justice has ground slowly for generations, but now it is about to reveal its verdict.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is the book called Holes?
  2. Besides the boys, who else dug holes at Green Lake?
  3. How does digging holes help Zero and Stanley survive?
  4. Was there a hole in Stanley's life when he went to Camp Green Lake? Was it still there when he left? Why or why not?
  5. What "holes" are there in the story for the reader? How are they "filled in"?
  6. Stanley is overweight and considered a misfit by the boys in his school and neighborhood. Why Stanley is an easy target for bullies. At what point in the novel does Stanley begin feeling that he is a part of the group? Who is the leader? How do the guys view Stanley at the end of the novel? How might Stanley be considered a hero? How Stanley's heroic status might change the way his classmates view him when he returns to school in the fall.
  7. Besides the title, the characters' names are also symbolic. Discuss the importance of names in the book. What is the significance of Stanley's name being a palindrome? Talk about the names in the book, particularly the nicknames given to the boys at Camp Green Lake. Discuss the significance of each boy's nickname. Why is Stanley called "Caveman"? How can nicknames "label" people and affect the way they feel about themselves? How does Stanley's self-concept change as the story progresses? Why does Stanley call Zero by his real name when they are in the desert together? Engage the class in a discussion about how Stanley and Zero help one another gain a more positive sense of self.
  8. Ask the class to define courage. When does Stanley begin to show courage? Have students chart Stanley's courageous acts (e.g., stealing the truck). Which other campers might be considered courageous? What gives Stanley the courage to search for Zero? Discuss which characters in the parallel story demonstrate courage. Ask students to prepare questions they would most like to ask Stanley about his newly developed courage. How might Stanley answer their questions?
  9. Stanley never had a friend before arriving at Camp Green Lake. Ask students to trace the development of Stanley's friendship with Zero. What are each boy's contributions to the friendship? When Stanley finds out that Zero is the person who stole the Clyde Livingston sneakers, he feels glad that Zero put the sneakers on the parked car. Explore why.
  10. There are many parallels between the different stories told in Holes. Explain the importance of these recurring themes: peaches, onions, lizards, Mary Lou.
  11. Compare the song that appears throughout the book with the version that ends the book. How does the tone and meaning change? How does that reflect the changes that occurred in the book?

Charlotte's Web

   Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Some Pig

These are the words in Charlotte's web, high in the barn. Her spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, as well as the feelings of a little girl named Fern ... who loves Wilbur, too.

Discussion Questions

  1. If you were Charlotte, what would you have written in your web about Wilbur?
  2. Why did Charlotte like Wilbur so much?
  3. Why does Charlotte's plan succeed?
  4. Why does everyone except Edith (and Dr. Dorian) dismiss the spider's contribution to the "miracle?"
  5. What is significant about the order of the "messages" in the web?
  6. Do you believe there is any good in Templeton? Support both a "yes" and a "no" answer.
  7. Is Templeton the rat a hero or a villain in the story? Why?
  8. Is it true that there are no villains in Charlotte's Web?
  9. Do you think Charlotte's three daughters will write words in their webs too, like their mother did? What will they write?
  10. Have you ever had a really close friendship with an animal?
  11. What makes someone a good friend?
  12. Do you eat meat? If so, do you ever think about the animals it came from? What do you think about vegetarianism? Do you think Fern is a vegetarian?
  13. In the beginning of Charlotte's Web, Fern saves Wilbur from death. Would you have saved Wilbur too? Tell about a time when you stood up for someone smaller or weaker than yourself.
  14. When everybody is at the county fair, Fern leaves Wilbur alone in his pen while she explores the sights (and food and rides). Why did she do this?
  15. How is Wilbur's friendship with Fern similar to his friendship with Charlotte? How is it different?
  16. Why is Mrs. Arable so opposed to Fern spending time at the Zuckerman farm?
  17. In what way does White adapt the animals' fictional personalities to the way those animals act in real life?
  18. The threat of death is a very serious part of everyone's life. Is it surprising to find that threat central to such a charming story as this?

Stolen Children

   Stolen Children by Peg Kehret

Amy learned a lot in her babysitting course, but not what to do if two thugs show up, intent on kidnapping. Armed with misinformation and a weapon, the men take Amy and little Kendra to a remote cabin in the woods. There they make videos of the girls and mail them to Kendra?s wealthy parents in an effort to get ransom money. After several of her escape attempts fail, Amy is forced to make one last, desperate move. Award winner Peg Kehret crafts a suspenseful thriller with a spunky heroine who uses her wits to save herself and the toddler.

Discussion Questions

  1. Mrs. Nordlund hires Amy without having met her first. Would you babysit for someone you didn’t know?
  2. Why do you think the author had Amy’s father die?
  3. When Amy woke up and realized Kendra was gone, she went looking for her and tried to stop the men from taking her. Do you think she should have hidden instead?
  4. What would you have done if you were Amy when they stopped at the Saddle Stop Country Store?
  5. Should Amy have tried to escape without Kendra?
  6. Do you think the nanny is partly responsible and should be charged with a crime?
  7. There were several people who could have helped Amy and Kendra but never reported what they saw or knew? Why? Do you think they could have made a difference?
  8. Why did Hugh go along with Smokey’s plans?
  9. How many days are Amy and Kendra held captive?
  10. When Amy and Kendra return home, Mrs. Nordlund offers the nanny job to Amy. Would you take it?

Elijah of Buxton

   Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Eleven-year-old Elijah is the first child born into freedom in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves just over the border from Detroit. He's best known for having made a memorable impression on Frederick Douglass, but that changes when a former slave steals money from Elijah’s friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Elijah embarks on a dangerous journey to America in pursuit of the thief and discovers firsthand the unimaginable horrors of the life his parents fled--a life from which he’ll always be free, if he can find the courage to get back home.

Discussion Questions

  1. Discuss the settlement of Buxton, both as a real place and how it’s portrayed in the book. Who lives there and how do they get there? How does the settlement work? What prejudices and challenges to the residents still face?
  2. What do you think of the Preacher? Is he trustworthy? How would he justify his actions?
  3. Elijah’s mom says he’s “fra-gile.” What does she mean by that? How does he get this reputation? By the end of the story, is he still “fra-gile?”
  4. What is Elijah’s talent? How does it help him out in the book?
  5. Mr. Travis teaches the children in Buxton. What does he want his students to learn from the phrase -"Familiarity Breeds Contempt"? How does Cooter have a difficult time understanding this phrase? Explain how "respect" for his elders keeps Elijah from showing contempt for the Preacher.
  6. Mr. Leroy is offended when Elijah uses a racial slur. Elijah explains, "Sir, I only said it ‘cause I hear lots of the children say it." (p. 66) Why would Elijah think that hearing the word makes it okay to say it? How does Mr. Leroy help Elijah understand the "hatred" wrapped around the word? Discuss whether you feel that the word shows a lack of respect, both for those being spoken to, and for the speaker.
  7. Slavery has left its mark both physically and emotionally on many of the residents of Buxton. In what scenes does this come through? How do the characters show these scars from slavery?
  8. On page 158 it says “the second hardest step in making yourself free is the first one you take . . . . [and] that the most hardest step is the very last one.” What do you think that means? Why is the last step the hardest?
  9. Why is it so important to ring the Liberty Bell when new people come to town? Why is it such an honor?
  10. At the end of the book, Mr. Alston refuses to help Elijah rescue the slaves in the barn, saying “they got laws here” (p. 324). Do you think that was the right decision? Could the men or Elijah have done anything differently? What would have happened?
  11. Why did Chloe give up her baby to Elijah? How will the baby’s life be different in Buxton?
  12. How does Elijah grow and change between the first page and the last?

No Talking

   No Talking by Andrew Clements

"You have the right to remain silent." However...

The fifth-grade girls and the fifth-grade boys at Laketon Elementary don't get along very well. But the real problem is that these kids are loud and disorderly. That's why the principal uses her red plastic bullhorn. A lot.

Then one day Dave Packer, a certified loudmouth, bumps into an idea -- a big one that makes him try to keep quiet for a whole day. But what does Dave hear during lunch? A girl, Lynsey Burgess, jabbering away. So Dave breaks his silence and lobs an insult. And those words spark a contest: Which team can say the fewest words during two whole days? And it's the boys against the girls.

How do the teachers react to the silence? What happens when the principal feels she's losing control? And will Dave and Lynsey plunge the whole school into chaos?

This funny and surprising book is about language and thought, about words unspoken, words spoken in anger, and especially about the power of words spoken in kindness...with or without a bullhorn. It's Andrew Clements at his best -- thought-provoking, true-to-life, and very entertaining.

Discussion Questions

  1. Who are the "Unshushables"? How do the teachers at Laketon Elementary feel about the "Unshushables"? Have you ever been part of a noisy group? Why do you think this was the case?
  2. Who is Gandhi and how does he get Dave Packer into trouble? Who helps turn Dave's experiment into a grade-wide contest? What are the terms of the contest?
  3. Who is Mrs. Hiatt? List some of the unusual steps she has taken to try to handle the fifth-grade class. Have her efforts worked? Has she given up?
  4. What surprises Mrs. Hiatt at the fifth-grade lunch on the second Tuesday of November? How do Mrs. Marlow, Mrs. Akers, and Mr. Burton each react to the surprise?
  5. What challenges do the fifth graders encounter as they get through the first hours of the contest? What loopholes do they find that allow them to make noise? What are the differences between talking and noise? What are some ways people communicate without talking?
  6. What does Dave decide is the right word for the contest? Why do you think he chooses this word? Would you choose this same word to describe the contest?
  7. Why does the author title Chapter 13 "Language Lab"? What experiment does Mr. Burton perform? What is the result of his experiment?
  8. What do the kids discover as they try to keep quiet at home? How do their parents react to the silence?
  9. How do the kids handle Mrs. Hiatt's "Pledge of Allegiance" trick? Why do they do this? What happens when Mrs. Hiatt demands an end to their contest? What change is happening in the relationships between the fifth graders?
  10. Why doesn't Mrs. Escobar mind that the kids have disobeyed Mrs. Hiatt? What happens in her math class? What happens in Science, Social Studies, and Language Arts? How do the kids handle their music class on the second day?
  11. How does Mr. Burton feel about Mrs. Hiatt's efforts to stop the fifth-grade contest? What does Mrs. Hiatt do when she finds out that the contest is still going on at lunchtime? How does she confront Dave? How does Dave respond?
  12. How does Mrs. Hiatt feel about her actions? Can you understand why she acted the way she did? What happens when she asks Dave to her office?
  13. Why is the final chapter entitled "Winners"? Who are the winners in this story? Explain your answer.
  14. How do the relationships between the kids at Laketon Elementary change during the contest?
  15. Do you think the kids in your school talk the way the “Unshushables” do? Would your class be able to spend two days speaking no more than three words at a time? What do you think would be the hardest part of doing that?
  16. Have you ever thought about how we speak to each other? If you were forced to consider your words more carefully like Dave was, how do you think your conversation would change?

The Seer of Shadows

   The Seer of Shadows by Avi

Newbery Medalist Avi weaves one of his most suspenseful and scary tales--about a ghost who has to be seen to be believed and must be kept from carrying out a horrifying revenge.

The time is 1872. The place is New York City. Horace Carpetine has been raised to believe in science and rationality. So as apprentice to Enoch Middleditch, a society photographer, he thinks of his trade as a scientific art. But when wealthy society matron Mrs. Frederick Von Macht orders a photographic portrait, strange things begin to happen.

Horace's first real photographs reveal a frightful likeness: it's the image of the Von Machts' dead daughter, Eleanora.

Pegg, the Von Machts' black servant girl, then leads him to the truth about who Eleanora "really" was and how she actually died. Joined in friendship, Pegg and Horace soon realize that his photographs are evoking both Eleanora's image and her ghost. Eleanora returns, a vengeful wraith intent on punishing those who abused her.

Rich in detail, full of the magic of early photography, here is a story about the shadows, visible and invisible, that are always lurking near.


The Lightning Thief

  The Lightning Thief by The Lightning Thief

Percy Jackson is about to be kicked out of boarding school... again. And that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the gods of Mount Olympus seem to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightning bolt has been stolen, and Percy is the prime suspect.

Now Percy and his friends have just ten days to find and return Zeus' stolen property and bring peace to a warring Mount Olympus. But to succeed on his quest, Percy will have to do more than catch the true thief: he must come to terms with the father who abandoned him; solve the riddle of the Oracle, which warns him of betrayal by a friend; and unravel a treachery more powerful than the gods themselves.

Discussion Questions

  1. Describe what kind of student Percy Jackson is. What troubles does he have in school?
  2. When describing his mother, Percy says, “She’s the best person in the world, which just proves my theory that the best people get the rottenest luck.” How does this apply to Percy’s mom?
  3. What does Percy discover about the Greek gods at Camp Half Blood? What do they have to do with the camp?
  4. After Percy learns he is a half-blood, he wonders who his own father is. He also learns that some half-bloods never find out. He says, “I thought about some of the kids I’d seen in the Hermes cabin—teenagers who looked sullen and depressed, like they were waiting for a call that would never come. I’d known kids like that at Yancy Academy, shuffled off to boarding school by rich parents who didn’t have the time to deal with them. But gods should behave better.” How would you feel if you were in Percy’s place? Would it be easier to believe your father was dead, or to know that he was alive but not communicating with you?
  5. When Percy finally learns the truth that he is the son of Poseidon, are you surprised? What hints are dropped before the revelation? How does Percy’s personality fit/not fit the god Poseidon?
  6. Why is Percy more excited about his upcoming quest to the Underworld than scared? What other feelings does he have about his assignment?
  7. What clues do Percy and his friends have that all is not right with "Auntie Em?" Why do you think they overlook them?
  8. At the Lotus Casino, Percy realizes that unless he gets out quickly, he will "...stay here, happy forever, playing games forever, and soon I'd forget my mom, and my quest, and maybe my own name. I'd be playing virtual rifleman with groovy Disco Darrin forever." What critique is the author offering of modern life? Do you agree with it?
  9. When Percy finally meets his father, Poseidon seems distant and hard to read. Percy says that he is actually glad about this. "If he'd tried to apologize, or told me he loved me, or even smiled-that would have felt fake. Like a human dad, making some lame excuse for not being around." Do you agree with Percy?
  10. Percy's trip to the Underworld does not turn out as he suspected. What do you think of Percy's decision to leave his mother behind? What does the scene in the throne room tell you about the three friends – Annabeth, Grover and Percy?
  11. How does the last line of the prophecy-you shall fail to save what matters most in the end-come true? What do you think of this ending? Did Percy make the right choice?
  12. After her return from the quest, Annabeth resolves to try again to live with her father and her stepfamily. Do you think they will all get along better now? Why? Why not? What do you predict will happen?
  13. In the end of the book, do you sympathize at all with Luke's feelings of betrayal? Is there anything you can relate to about his point of view?

If you liked The Lightning Thief, you might also like:

Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

The Akhenaten Adventure by Philip Kerr

Magyk by Angie Sage

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Stewart

Odysseus in the Serpent Maze by Jane Yolen

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Pandora Gets Jealous by Carolyn Hennessy

Savvy by Ingrid Law

Secret of the Sirens by Julia Golding

Medusa Jones by Ross Collins

Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan

Erec Rex by Kaza Kingsley

Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R. L. LaFevers

The One-Eyed Giant by Mary Pope Osborne


Because of Winn-Dixie

   Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

The summer Opal and her father, the preacher, move to Naomi, Florida, Opal goes into the Winn-Dixie supermarket--and comes out with a dog. A big, ugly, suffering dog with a sterling sense of humor. A dog she dubs Winn-Dixie. Because of Winn-Dixie, the preacher tells Opal ten things about her absent mother, one for each year Opal has been alive. Winn-Dixie is better at making friends than anyone Opal has ever known, and together they meet the local librarian, Miss Franny Block, who once fought off a bear with a copy of WAR AND PEACE. They meet Gloria Dump, who is nearly blind but sees with her heart, and Otis, an ex-con who sets the animals in his pet shop loose after hours, then lulls them with his guitar.Opal spends all that sweet summer collecting stories about her new friends and thinking about her mother. But because of Winn-Dixie or perhaps because she has grown, Opal learns to let go, just a little, and that friendship--and forgiveness--can sneak up on you like a sudden summer storm.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think Opal wanted to know ten things about her mother? Can you tell what her mother is like from the ten things her father describes to her? Do you think that ten things can really describe a whole person?
  2. Do you think you'd like to eat a Littmus Lozenge? Why or why not?
  3. What do you think Opal and her dad, the preacher, get from having Winn-Dixie?
  4. Opal believes that life is like a Littmus Lozenge - that it's sweet and sad all mixed up together and hard to separate out. What do you think she means by that?
  5. What does the title Because of Winn-Dixie mean to you?
  6. At the end of the story, Opal seems to accept that her mother is not coming back. Why is this an important part of the story?
  7. When Winn-Dixie is missing after the thunderstorm, Gloria Dump says to Opal, "There ain't no way you can hold on to something that wants to go, you understand? You can only love what you got while you got it." What do you think Gloria means? Do you agree with her thought? Why or why not?
  8. Because her sight is failing, Gloria Dump wants to see Opal with her heart (page 66). What does Gloria mean by this? Does she succeed? Do you think a heart can see more truly than eyes can?
  9. According to Opal’s father, Winn-Dixie has a pathological fear of thunderstorms. Whatis a pathological fear? Do any other characters in the novel suffer from fears? Whatfrightens them?
  10. Otis was in prison as a younger man. How has that affected the way he treats the animalsin the pet shop? Have any other characters in the novel been confined, not behind bars but in other ways?
  11. Why do the Dewberry boys infuriate Opal? What does Gloria Dump mean when she tells Opal that the boys want to make friends with her “in a roundabout way” (page 91)? How is Gloria proved right?
  12. “Sometimes, it seemed like everybody in the world was lonely,” Opal observes (page 132). What do you think? Are most of the characters in Because of Winn-Dixie lonely? Or is it Opal who suffers most from loneliness?
  13. Discuss the tree in Gloria Dump’s backyard. What hangs from its branches? What are the ghosts from Gloria’s past? How does the tree keep them away? Why does the tree make Opal wonder about her mother, and about herself?
  14. “Just about everything that happened to me that summer happened because of Winn-Dixie,” Opal says (page 60). Do you agree with her?

Double Identity

   Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix

So my only protection is a kindergarten teacher and a ninety-eight-pound female minister....And they don't even believe I'm in danger. As Bethany approaches her thirteenth birthday, her parents act more oddly than usual. Her mother cries constantly, and her father barely lets Bethany out of his sight. Then one morning he hustles the entire family into the car, drives across several state lines -- and leaves Bethany with an aunt she never knew existed. Bethany has no idea what's going on. She's worried her mom and dad are running from some kind of trouble, but she can't find out because they won't tell her where they are going. Bethany's only clue is a few words she overheard her father tell her aunt: "She doesn't know anything about Elizabeth." But Aunt Myrlie won't tell Bethany who Elizabeth is, and she won't explain why people in her small town react to Bethany as if they've seen a ghost. The mystery intensifies when Bethany gets a package from her father containing four different birth certificates from four different states, with four different last names -- and thousands of dollars in cash. And when a strange man shows up asking questions, Bethany realizes the's not the only one who's desperate to unravel the secrets of her past.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the similarities between Bethany and Elizabeth? What are the differences?
  2. What are the ethics of cloning? What is your opinion?
  3. Do you think cloning should be outlawed? Why or why not?
  4. How would you think Bethany’s life will be like as a teenager? An adult?
  5. Do you think a story like this could really happen? Why or why not?
  6. How would you react if you learned you had a clone?
  7. Compare the relationship that Bethany has with her aunt and her mother.
  8. How has the different deaths in their families changed their lives differently?
  9. Explain how Joss’s losses have changed her life choices?
  10. Who are you more like, Joss (at 13), Elizabeth, or Bethany? Explain your choice.
  11. Do you think cloning is wrong? Are there any circumstances where you think it should be permitted?
  12. Bethany spends the entire book searching for her identity. At the end she concludes, “My identity doesn’t depend on names or genes. It depends on what I do.” What does that mean?

Al Capone Does My Shirts

   Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Today I moved to a twelve-acre rock covered with cement, topped with bird turd and surrounded by water. I'm not the only kid who lives here. There's my sister, Natalie, except she doesn't count. And there are twenty-three other kids who live on the island because their dads work as guards or cook's or doctors or electricians for the prison, like my dad does. Plus, there are a ton of murderers, rapists, hit men, con men, stickup men, embezzlers, connivers, burglars, kidnappers and maybe even an innocent man or two, though I doubt it. The convicts we have are the kind other prisons don't want. I never knew prisons could be picky, but I guess they can. You get to Alcatraz by being the worst of the worst. Unless you're me. I came here because my mother said I had to.

Discussion Questions

  1. During his first night on Alcatraz Island, how does Moose Flanagan sleep?
  2. Who is “105,” and why does this person cause Moose so much anxiety?
  3. What is Piper like? Moose finds himself both attracted to Piper and very suspicious of her. If you could, give Moose some advice about how to handle Piper, what would you say? How do you think Moose ought to respond to her?
  4. What is it about Natalie’s behavior that makes it difficult for her family to live with her?
  5. Why do you think it is so important to Mrs. Flanagan to keep celebrating Natalie’s tenth birthday? And how does Moose get her to change her mind about this?
  6. Imagine that like Moose you had a sibling who lived with a significant disability or condition like autism. How would your life be different? Do you think you would relate to your sibling like Moose relates to Natalie?
  7. As Moose obediently helps his sister off the boat as they head to school, he thinks to himself, “Good Moose, obedient Moose. I always do what I’m supposed to do” (p. 28). Is this true?
  8. Mrs. Flanagan tells Moose: “You’re better with Natalie than I am.” (p. 180) What does Moose do for Natalie that their mother does not? How does Moose treat Natalie? And how do Moose’s friends on Alcatraz play a role in helping Natalie?
  9. From the beginning to the end of the novel, which characters seem to show signs of changing? How do they change? Do you think these changes will last?
  10. How did Natalie really get accepted to school? What made Mr. Purdy suddenly decide to open another school? Did Moose’s letter to Al Capone make a difference?
  11. Imagine the Flanagan family after Natalie has left to attend Mr. Purdy’s new school. How will Moose’s life change when Natalie is away at school? Will his relationship with his parents be different with Natalie out of the house?
  12. Is Mrs. Flanagan a good mother to Moose? Is she a good mother to Natalie? Why does she treat her children so differently? Is she right in being this way?
  13. Based on the title of the book, what did you think this book would be about before you read it? How was the story different from what you originally expected?

A Wrinkle in Time

   A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.

"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract".

A tesseract (in case the reader doesn't know) is a wrinkle in time. To tell more would rob the reader of the enjoyment of Miss L'Engle's unusual book.

Discussion Questions

  1. Imagine living in a community that mistrusts and resents you. What is it like for the Murrys to live in a community that doesn't understand them?
  2. In your opinion, why do the three children accept the three Mrs. Ws rather than fear them?
  3. Does the story seem believable or possible to you? In your group, discuss which elements from the story seem real, which seem possible, and which seem impossible.
  4. The people on the planet Camazotz have no crime, no responsibility, and no decisions to make. What is so wrong with their society?
  5. What are Meg's faults? How do they help her in the end?
  6. After Meg releases her father, why is she so disappointed in him?
  7. Why must Meg go alone to Camazotz? How is her relationship with Charles
  8. Wallace important to her ability to free him?
  9. Do you believe IT is finally defeated at the end of the book? Why or why not?
  10. If you had the opportunity to time travel, would you? If you could chose the time, what time period would you travel to? The past? The future?

If you liked A Wrinkle in Time, you might also like:

A Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Stuart Little by E.B. White

The Grey King by Susan Cooper

The High King by Lloyd Alexander

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Where the Red Fern Grows: The Story of Two Dogs and a Boy by Wilson Rawls



   Rules by Cynthia Lord

A heartfelt and witty debut about feeling different and finding acceptance--beyond the rules.

Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She's spent years trying to teach David the rules-from "a peach is not a funny-looking apple" to "keep your pants on in public"-in order to stop his embarrassing behaviors. But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a paraplegic boy, and Kristi, the next-door friend she's always wished for, it's her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?

Discussion Questions

  1. How are Catherine’s rules good for David? How do her rules hold him back?
  2. How do Catherine’s rules hold her back?
  3. Jason’s vocabulary is limited to words his mother gives him out of a speech book. What words might be missing? How would your day be different if you were lacking those words?
  4. When Catherine tries to communicate using only word cards, she finds it very difficult. Why?
  5. We have seen characters with varied languages. David expresses emotions by quoting the book, Frog and Toad are Friends. Jason is limited by the words given to him on cards. Catherine has the entire English vocabulary at her disposal, but still cannot seem to express her feelings to others. Catherine says, “But I’m not fooling myself. I know the power these words hold.” What is the power of words? How does it affect each of these three characters (Catherine, David, and Jason)? Imagine how Jason feels having to depend on someone else's words to express his feelings.
  6. What do you think would’ve happened if Catherine had been honest right away with Kristi and told her about Jason? Why wasn’t Catherine honest? What do you think she was afraid of?
  7. Catherine is not the only character in the story who is not always honest. How do the other characters avoid dealing with problems or act in ways that are not completely truthful?
  8. When Kristi has David dance in Catherine’s room, is she being mean? Since he wasn’t upset by it, should Catherine have stopped the music?
  9. Why is Jason upset by the together card?
  10. What does Catherine risk in inviting Jason to the dance? Do you think that risk was worth it? Why or why not?
  11. What do you think might happen next for Catherine with Kristi? What choices does Catherine have?
  12. How has Catherine’s wish changed from the beginning of the book?

If you liked Rules, you might also like:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

The Very Ordered Existence of Merilee Marvelous by Suzanne Crowley

Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Al Capone Does my Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Small Steps by Louis Sachar

The Truth about Sparrows by Marian Hale

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick


Night of the Howling Dogs

   Night of the Howling Dogs by Graham Salisbury

Dylan's scout troop goes camping in Halape, a remote spot below the volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. The only thing wrong with the weekend on a beautiful, peaceful beach is Louie, a tough older boy. Louie and Dylan just can't get along.

That night an earthquake rocks the camp, and then a wave rushes in, sweeping everyone and everything before it. Dylan and Louie must team up on a dangerous rescue mission. The next hours are an amazing story of survival and the true meaning of leadership.

Discussion Questions

  1. When you first started reading the book, why did you think Dylan was so interested in Louie? Were you right or wrong in your assumption?
  2. What reason did Louie Domingo have to dislike Dylan?
  3. What are some of the reasons Dylan is afraid of Louie?
  4. Why do you think Louie tormented Dylan and Casey and not the younger boys?
  5. Do you believe that seeing the white dog was an omen for what happened and that Pele really caused the earthquake?
  6. What was it about Louie and his life experiences that made him a good leader during the crisis?
  7. Who do you think was the most heroic character in the book?
  8. Do you think Louie and Dylan will be able to be friends after what happened?
  9. If you were one of the book's characters, would you ever want to go on a camping trip again?
  10. How does the title of the book fit the story?

Deep and Dark and Dangerous

   Deep and Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn

Just before summer begins, 13-year-old Ali finds an odd photograph in the attic. She knows the two children in it are her mother, Claire, and her aunt Dulcie. But who’s the third person, the one who’s been torn out of the picture?

Ali figures she’ll find out while she’s vacationing in Maine with Dulcie and her four-year-old daughter, Emma, in the house where Ali’s mother’s family used to spend summers. All hopes for relaxation are quashed shortly after their arrival, though, when the girls meet Sissy, a kid who’s mean and spiteful and a bad influence on Emma.

Strangest of all, Sissy keeps talking about a girl named Teresa who drowned under mysterious circumstances back when Claire and Dulcie were kids, and whose body was never found. At first Ali thinks Sissy’s just trying to scare her with a ghost story, but soon she discovers the real reason why Sissy is so angry. . . . Mary Downing Hahn is at her chilling best in this new supernatural tale that’s certain to send shivers down her readers’ spines.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why does Ali feel that her mother is so protective? Are Claire’s attitude toward Ali and her nervous health issues a foreshadowing?
  2. Why is Emma so lonely and worried about being alone? Compare her concerns with Ali’s.
  3. Why is it so hard for Ali to like Sissy? What emotions might be involved?
  4. Whom do you think realizes the truth about Sissy first? Why? What issues and attitudes does Ali have to overcome to see Sissy clearly?
  5. Why is Claire so relieved to know that the truth will finally be told? Why is Dulcie?
  6. How did Sissy’s own actions and attitudes contribute to what happened? Does Sissy realize this?
  7. How do you think the following relationships will be after the events of the story: Ali and Claire; Emma and Dulcie; Claire and Dulcie.
  8. This book has many scary moments. Which part of the book did you find most frightening? Why?
  9. Do you believe in ghosts? Why or why not? Did this book affect your thoughts on ghosts in one way or another? Explain.
  10. Were you afraid of ghosts of other scary things when you were younger that you're not afraid of now? What were you afraid of? How did you overcome your fear?
  11. Do you like scary stories, TV shows, and movies? Why or why not? Explain your reasons.

The Naked Mole-Rat Letters

   The Naked Mole-Rat Letters by Mary Amato

When her father begins a long-distance romance with a Washington, D.C. zookeeper, twelve-year-old Frankie sends fabricated email letters to the zookeeper in an attempt to end the relationship, in this story about family, friendship, and growing up.