2012-2013 Discussion Questions

The Read On Wisconsin Literacy Advisory Committee has developed sample discussion questions for all the Read On Wisconsin titles from September – May of each year. These discussion starters can be used to encourage children and teens to think more deeply about Read On Wisconsin books. We bet readers and listeners will have plenty of insights and observations to share! The books and questions are listed in chronological order (September – May) for each group.

[Preschoolers|Primary|Intermediate|Middle School|High School]

Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers[top]

The Discussion Questions for the Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers books include a mix of questions and suggestions for other ways to interact with young children while sharing the books. Activities that are directed toward the adult are prefaced by the word “Adult” in parentheses (Adult). Not every question or suggestion will be suitable for all children—use what makes sense based on the age(s) of the child or children you are with.

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka. Schwartz & Wade, 2011

  1. How can you tell when Daisy is happy? Sad? Curious?
  2. What do you think is happening here? (Ask this as you go from page to page to encourage children to use their own words to tell the story as they understand it. You can also have a discussion together, sharing ideas about what is happening on each page.)
  3. Daisy feels happy when she has her ball. What is something that makes you feel happy?

Back to School Tortoise by Lucy M. George. Illustrated by Merel Eyckerman. U.S. edition: Albert Whitman, 2011

  1. What would you do to get ready for the first day of school?
  2. What do you think school will be like?
  3. (Adult) Share a memory of a first day of school.

Job Site by Nathan Clement. Boyds Mills Press, 2011

  1. What color is each machine?
  2. What other colors can you find?
  3. What sound do you think this machine might make? (Ask for each one)

Monday is One Day by Arthur A. Levine. Illustrated by Julian Hector. Scholastic Press, 2011

  1. Let’s recite (and/or count) the days of the week in the book. (Adult: You can also use a calendar after reading the book and find each day of the week on it with children.)
  2. Is there a special thing you/your family do on the same day every week?
  3. Who are the people in your family? (or, Draw a picture of your family)

Loon Baby by Molly Beth Griffin. Illustrated by Anne Hunter. Houghton Mifflin, 2010

  1. How does Loon Baby feel when he thinks his mother isn’t coming back?
  2. What does Loon Baby learn how to do?
  3. Loon Baby and his mother have a “soft, warm nest.” What is soft and comfortable for you? What do you snuggle with?

Gracias / Thanks by Pat Mora. Illustrated by John Parra. Translated by Adriana Dominguez. Lee & Low, 2009

  1. Who are some people who make you happy?
  2. What are some things that you are thankful for?
  3. Draw a picture of something that makes you happy or thankful.

Cradle Me by Debby Slier. Star Bright Books, 2012

  1. What are some of the places you go to sleep? (e.g., crib, bed, couch, floor, car seat, etc.)
  2. Let’s do all the things that babies in the pictures are doing (yawn, peek, etc.).
  3. (Adult) Invite child to turn the pages as you read. Point to each of the words as you read it.

While You Are Sleeping: A Lift-the-Flap Book of Time Around the World by Durga Bernhard. Charlesbridge, 2011

  1. Lift the flap (gently!) What is the person under the flap doing? (Ask on each page)
  2. What are some things that might be happening while you are sleeping?
  3. (Adult) Show where you live on the map on the book’s endpapers.

The Twins’ Blanket by Hyewon Yum. Frances Foster Books / Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011

  1. What do you notice about the paper inside the front and back covers? (Ask after reading the book)
  2. What is different about each girl? What is the same?
  3. What does your blanket look and feel like? (Adult: Encourage discussion of color, pattern, texture, etc.)

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman. Illustrated by Beth Krommes. Houghton Mifflin, 2011

  1. Let’s trace some of these spirals in the book with our fingers (a pre-writing skill).
  2. Let’s look for a spiral somewhere in this room/house/outside. Can we find other shapes?
  3. (Adult) Have a group of children hold hands and create a spiral.

Stars by Mary Lin Ray. Illustrated by Marla Frazee. Beach Lane Books, 2011

  1. Let’s look for stars in the world around us. (e.g., Are there stars on the wall or calendar in your house/classroom? Flowers with starlike shapes outside? Cut an an apple through its equator and look at the star inside.)
  2. The story begins, “A star is how you know it’s almost night.” What are some other ways you can tell when it’s almost night?
  3. (Adult) Make a star for each child (or have each child make a star). Ask child/children: what kinds of things their star can do (e.g., Is it magical? If so, what kind of magic can it do? Does it shine?)

Fiesta Babies by Carmen Tafolla. Illustrated by Amy Córdova. Tricycle Press, 2010

  1. A fiesta is a party. Let’s find at all the party things happening in the book (e.g, dancing, eating, singing)
  2. (Adult) Give shakers and streamers or ribbons to create a (supervised) fiesta.
  3. (Adult) Play upbeat dancing music and ask children to dance after reading the book together (you can read the book while they dance, too!)

Anna Hibiscus’ Song by Atinuke. Illustrated by Lauren Tobias. U.S. edition: Kane Miller, 2011

  1. What are some things you like to do when you are happy?
  2. What are some of the things the people in Anna’s family do when they are happy?
  3. Anna lives with her parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Who do you live with? Who else is in your family?

Ten Little Caterpillars by Bill Martin Jr. Illustrated by Lois Ehlert. Beach Lane, 2011

  1. The first caterpillar in the story “crawled,” the second one “climbed,” and the third one “wriggled.” Pretend to be each one of those caterpillars. Is there a difference between crawling, climbing and wriggling?
  2. Can you think of/show other ways a caterpillar might move?
  3. Let’s count the caterpillars at the book’s end together. What numbers would come next after ten?

And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano. Illustrated by Erin E. Stead. Roaring Brook Press, 2012

  1. Compare the colors at the end of the book to the beginning. Have they changed? If so, how and why?
  2. What do you think you might hear if you put your ear to the ground in the spring? What else might you hear if you listen closely to outdoor sounds in the spring? How about summer, fall and winter?
  3. (Adult) With children, plant seeds indoors in cups. Send home after plants have sprouted.

Insect Detectives by Steve Voake. Illustrated by Charlotte Voake. U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2010

  1. What are some things in nature we can see (any time of year) . . . Let’s choose one to look at more closely . . . Now what do you see?
  2. Let’s go outside and find an insect to watch. (spring/summer). . . What do you notice about it?
  3. If you were an insect detective, is there a bug you would want to look for?

Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Illustrated by Sally Mavor. Houghton Mifflin, 2010

  1. (Adult) Tap out the rhythm of a nursery rhyme on a table or chair while reading it aloud. Encourage children to clap the rhythm of rhymes they know well.
  2. (Adult) Write nursery rhymes on small pieces of paper to hide around the house. Encourage children to find them and then share them together. (Caregivers: send them home with children and ask adults in the home to hide and then share when found.)
  3. (Adult) For ELL families—Through an interpreter (if needed), encourage adult family members to share any rhymes or poems from their own childhoods/native language with their children.

The Rain Train by Elena de Roo. Illustrated by Brian Lovelock. U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2011

  1. What does the rhythm/feel of the words as I read them make you think about? (Does it sound at all like rain? Like a train?)
  2. Pretend you’re the rain: what sounds do you make? How do you move?
  3. Pretend you’re a train. Now what sounds do you make? How do you move?

The Big Baby Book by Guido van Genechten. Translated from the Dutch. Clavis, 2011

  1. What do you think you could do when you were a new baby? Could you stand? Could you run? Could you cry? Do you think you were hungry a lot?
  2. Have you ever seen any animal babies? What were they like?
  3. How many babies can you find on each page?

Time for a Bath by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Houghton Mifflin, 2011
Time to Eat by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Houghton Mifflin, 2011
Time to Sleep by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Houghton Mifflin, 2011

  1. What do you do when it’s time for a bath? Time to eat? Time to sleep?
  2. (Adult) Find examples from the books to discuss and compare animal habits with human behavior. For example, “Giraffes sleep two hours a day. How long do you think you sleep every day/night? More, or less?”
  3. Is there one of these animals you wish you could be? Which one? Why?

Primary (Grades K-2)[top]

Cork & Fuzz: Short & Tall by Dori Chaconas. Illustrated by Lisa McCue. Viking, 2006

Dog & Bear: Two Friends, Three Stories by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press, 2007

  1. How did the characters in each book show that they were friends?
  2. How are the friends in each book the same and different?
  3. How are you the same as or different from your friends?

Mouse & Lion by Rand Burkert. Illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert. Michael di Capua Books / Scholastic, 2011

  1. What will the Lion always remember about the Mouse? What will the Mouse remember about the Lion?
  2. Have you ever helped someone bigger than you? How?
  3. Which illustration did you like the best and what did you like about it?

Sopa de frijoles / Bean Soup by Jorge Argueta. Illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. Groundwood, 2009

  1. Does your family have any favorite foods that you make?
  2. What did the child need to make soup?
  3. A simile is a comparison using the words “like” or “as”. (For example: an onion yellow as the dawn). Can you find more similes in this story?

Little Dog Lost: A True Story of a Brave Dog Named Baltic by Mônica Carnesi. Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin, 2012

  1. How did people try to save the dog?
  2. What are the ways that Baltic might be feeling along the journey?
  3. The Author’s Note says no one knows where the dog came from. Where do you think Baltic came from and how did he get trapped on the ice?

Crouching Tiger by Ying Chang Compestine. Illustrated by Yan Nascimbene. Candlewick Press, 2011

These Hands by Margaret H. Mason. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Houghton Mifflin, 2011

  1. What do the boys in each book learn from their grandfathers?
  2. What celebrations are important in your family?
  3. How are the grandsons’ lives in each book different from their grandfathers’ lives? How are they the same?

Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems by Kristine O’Connell George. Illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Clarion, 2011

  1. A dilemma is a situation that has good parts and bad parts. What were the good parts about having a little sister? What were the bad parts?
  2. Are you more like Jess or Emma?
  3. Each poem tells about a small moment in Jess and Emma’s lives. Together, the poems tell a story. Share something you remember from this story.

Let’s Go See Papá! by Lawrence Schimel. Translated from the Spanish by Elisa Amado. Illustrated by Alba Marina. Groundwood, 2011

  1. What ways can you keep in touch with people you love when you can’t be near them?
  2. How would you help the girl in this book if she started coming to your school?
  3. Why do you think people choose to move to other countries?

All the Water in the World by George Ella Lyon. Illustrated by Katherine Tillotson. A Richard Jackson Book / Atheneum, 2011

  1. Name some of the places where water is found.
  2. Are there places that don’t have enough water?
  3. How can we be careful not to waste water?

Anna Hibiscus by Atinuke. Illustrated by Lauren Tobia. U.S. edition: Kane/Miller, 2010

  1. Anna is about your age. How is she the same as kids you know? How is she different?
  2. What did you know about Africa before you read this book?
  3. What do you know about Africa now?

Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readers

Intermediate (Grades 3-5)[top]

What Really Happened to Humpty? (from the Files of a Hard-Boiled Detective) by Jeanie Franz Ransom. Illustrated by Stephen Axelsen. Charlesbridge, 2009

  1. What stories do these characters come from?
  2. How would the story change if it was told from Muffy’s perspective?
  3. If you wrote this story, who would you make the hero and who would be the villain?

Eyes on the Goal by John Coy. Feiwel and Friends, 2010

  1. When was a time when you felt bad? How did you deal with it?
  2. Which character did you relate to most? Why?
  3. Has a friend ever been on an opposing team? How did you handle that?

Diego Rivera: His World and Ours by Duncan Tonatiuh. Abrams, 2011

My Papa Diego and Me: Memories of My Father and His Art by Guadalupe Rivera Marín. Children’s Book Press, 2009

  1. What was important to Mexican artist Diego Rivera and how did it appear in his art?
  2. How has your childhood been similar to Guadalupe’s? What picture would your Mom and Dad draw about you?
  3. If you could paint a mural, what everyday activity would you recreate?

Rich: A Dyamonde Daniel Book by Nikki Grimes. Putnam, 2010

  1. Have you been to a thrift shop or rummage sale? What treasure(s) have you found?
  2. What is the difference between “wants” and “needs”? What characters have needs and what characters have wants?
  3. If you had to write a personal experience poem, what would you write about?

Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg. Houghton Mifflin, 2011

  1. Which of your teachers or older relatives do you think would be willing to travel over the falls in a barrel? Would you?
  2. How would this story be different if it happened today?
  3. Have you heard or seen anyone performing an unbelievable feat? Why do you think people take those risks?

Soldier Bear by Bibi Dumon Tak. Translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson. Illustrated by Philip Hopman. U.S. edition: Eerdman’s, 2011

  1. What did you learn about World War II that you didn’t know before?
  2. How did Voytek win over people’s hearts and minds? Why do you think so many people find animals so appealing?
  3. What animal would you train to help you? Why?

The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Candlewick Press, 2011

  1. Have you ever left something behind? How would you get it back?
  2. Who do you think was the demon and were you surprised at the end?
  3. How do the photographs help tell the story? Have you told a story with photographs?

Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word by Bob Raczka. Illustrated by Nancy Doniger. Roaring Brook Press, 2011

Tap Dancing on the Roof: Sijo (Poems) by Linda Sue Park. Illustrated by Istvan Banyai. Clarion, 2007

  1. How did these poems surprise you?
  2. Which type of poem would you prefer to write? Why?
  3. What word would you use to create your own poem squeezed from a single word?

Seaglass Summer by Anjali Bannerjee. Wendy Lamb Books, 2010

  1. What do you want to be when you grow up? Why?
  2. What does Poppy learn about her uncle?
  3. What do you think would be the hardest part about spending time away from home?

Books for Middle School Age

Middle School[top]

Hidden by Helen Frost. Frances Foster Books / Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011

  1. The title of the book is “Hidden.” What kinds of things are hidden in this story?
  2. How does the weight of their shared secret affect Wren’s and Darra’s relationship?
  3. How are Wren and Darra able to understand each other’s point of view?

Bluefish by Pat Schmatz. Candlewick Press, 2011

  1. How do Travis (“Bluefish”) and Velveeta feel about the nicknames they’ve been given?
  2. Travis is unable to read at the beginning of this story. Why do you think he keeps this a secret instead of asking for help?
  3. Why do you think Travis, Velveeta, and Bradley get along so well?

Warp Speed by Lisa Yee. Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic Inc., 2011

  1. What does this book say about the power of bystanders to make a difference?
  2. In which situations would you want to be invisible and when is it better to be invincible?
  3. Star Trek, Star Wars, or Batman? Discuss.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. Viking, 2011

  1. If you were a Leopard Person, what would your juju be?
  2. How does Sunny’s sense of identity change throughout the book?
  3. Which do you think is more important to the story — the power of friendship or the power of magic? Why?

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say. Scholastic Press, 2011

  1. How did the format of the book help you understand Allen Say’s story?
  2. Allen Say gave up everything to pursue his passion for drawing. What is your passion?
  3. What teacher has been most influential in your life and why?

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone. Candlewick Press, 2009

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming. Schwartz & Wade, 2011

  1. Why do you think we know so much about Amelia Earhart, but so little about the Mercury 13?
  2. Was Amelia Earhart a good role model? Why or why not?
  3. How might history be different if the women had been first in space?

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Illustrated by Jim Kay. Candlewick Press, 2011

  1. Why is it so hard for Connor to sort out what is real and what isn’t real?
  2. How do the illustrations affect your understanding of the story?
  3. Why is telling the truth so difficult for Connor? How or when is it difficult for you?

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011

  1. What are ways you tell this book is set in the 1960s rather than today?
  2. Jack reads history to escape his boredom. What do you do?
  3. Why do Jack and Miss Volker make a good team?

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanha Lai. HarperCollins, 2011

  1. What makes newcomers an easy target for bullies?
  2. What did Ha miss most about Vietnam? What do you think you would you miss if you moved to another country?
  3. In what ways is Ha’s sense of herself different from how others view her?

Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. Little, Brown, 2011

  1. Why was Joe Louis such a powerful figure for the African American community?
  2. The radio was an important way to build community in this story. How do today’s technologies both build community and isolate us from one another?
  3. What do you think happened to the characters after the story ended?

High School [top]

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Dutton, 2012

  1. Is this a good title for the novel? Why or why not?
  2. If your life was limited, what would you do over the next year to avoid having regrets?
  3. How did being in a cancer support group affect the dynamics of the characters’ relationships?

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol. First Second, 2011

  1. Anya’s family routine is shown several times (e.g. kitchen meals). Show your routine in words and pictures.
  2. If you had Anya’s ghost, what would you have it do at home and at school? What harm or good would that cause?
  3. The ghost isn’t the only manipulator in the story. Describe instances of manipulation and what motivated it.

Up Close: Harper Lee by Kerry Madden. Viking, 2009

  1. Whether or not you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, what did you learn about the impact of that novel reading this biography of its author?
  2. Harper Lee does not want to be defined by a single book. What do you want to be defined by (e.g. behaviors, values, activities, etc.)
  3. This book explores Harper Lee’s private and public lives. How do you describe your public and private lives?

Now Is the Time for Running by Michael Williams. U.S. edition: Little, Brown, 2011

  1. Throughout history, people have sought refuge in other countries. For what reasons might people leave their homeland?
  2. This book provides a window into current events in Zimbabwe. What struck you about life in this country?
  3. The cover shows a soccer ball and barbed wire. How do these images reflect the boys’ journey?

Blink & Caution by Tim Wynne-Jones. U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2011

  1. How do the names “Blink” and “Caution” reflect the identities of the two main characters? Do you have a nickname that authentically describes you?
  2. How does the relationship between Blink and Caution change over the course of the book? Why does it change?
  3. Blink, Caution, and Jack Niven are all trying to keep a secret. What are those secrets and how are they resolved?

Want to Go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman. Scholastic Press, 2011

  1. As a reader, how many red flags can you identify as Abby is “groomed” by Luke?
  2. What is the effect of having different perspectives in Parts 1, 2, and 3? How did this work for you as a reader?
  3. The characters in the book reference guidelines they were given about online safety. How would you teach online safety to younger kids?

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. Scholastic Press, 2011

  1. What is this book making fun of?
  2. What stereotypes are broken down or reinforced in this novel (e.g. stereotypes of the states)?
  3. Who would you cast as the characters if this were a movie and why?

The Watch that Ends the Night by Allan Wolf. Candlewick Press, 2011

  1. Which character were you the most drawn to and why?
  2. How does knowing the ending of this story affect you as you read?
  3. What did you learn about the Titanic that you didn’t know before?

Pick-Up Game: A Full Day of Full Court edited by Marc Aronson and Charles R. Smith Jr. Candlewick Press, 2011

  1. This book was written with each author adding to the sequence of stories. In what way(s) were you surprised by something revealed in a later story about a character or characters introduced in a previous story?
  2. Do you know much about basketball? How do you think your knowledge/lack of knowledge about basketball affected your response to the stories?
  3. Choose a character you would like to be friends with. Why?


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