2013-2014 Discussion Questions

The Read On Wisconsin Advisory Committee and CCBC librarians have 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.

In developing questions, we kept the Common Core State Standards broadly in mind, trying to make sure every book (especially for kindergarten and older) had at least one or two questions that required a response based on information/evidence that can be found in the text itself, rather than merely asking readers to provide an opinion or to use the book as a launching point for personal reflection (although we included questions like those as well).  We emphasized open-ended questions, although we occasionally deviated from these, especially when asking younger students to find facts in a work of non-fiction.

We bet readers and listeners will have plenty of insights and observations of their own to share as well!

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.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.

Dog in Boots by Greg Gormley. Illustrated by Roberta Angaramo. Holiday House, 2011

  1. Why do you think all the different kinds of boots and shoes and other things Dog tries aren’t right for him?
  2. Do you think you can do everything with your bare feet that Dog can do with his paws? Why or why not?
  3. Which of the footwear Dog tries do you like the best? Why?

I’m the Best by Lucy Cousins. U.S. edition: Candlewick Press, 2010

  1. Why do you think Dog shows off and brags?
  2. In what ways do you think that Dog is a good friend?
  3. In what ways do you think Ladybug, Mole, Goose, and Donkey are good friends?

Spike, the Mixed-Up Monster by Susan Hood. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. A Paula Wiseman Book / Simon & Schuster, 2012

  1. Do you think Spike is a monster? Why/why not?
  2. What are ways Spike tries to act like a monster? (Let’s be monsters ourselves–swoosh, bare teeth, etc)
  3. Let’s look again at the photographs of animals at the end of the story. What are some ways they are different than the animals in the illustrations? What are some ways they are the same?

Oh, No! by Candace Fleming. Illustrated by Eric Rohmann. Schwartz & Wade, 2012

  1. Name some of the animals that fall into the hole in the story. Why do you think Tiger wants to get the animals out of the hole?
  2. Would you help tiger out of the hole? Why or why not?
  3. How do you think it would feel to be stuck in a hole?

Alfie Is Not Afraid by Patricia Carlin. Disney / Hyperion, 2012

  1. Do YOU think Alfie is afraid? Why or why not ?(Ask them to point out evidence in book)
  2. How can you tell the difference between what the boy is saying and what Alfie is really feeling?
  3. What kinds of things are you afraid of?

I Love Saturdays y domingos by Alma Flor Ada. Ill by Elivia Salvadier. Atheneum, 2002

  1. What are some of the things that are the same at each of the two houses the little girl visits?
  2. What are some of the things that are different?
  3. What do you like to do with a grown-up you love?

Baby’s Day by Michael Blake. Candlewick Press, 2007

  1. What color is __________? (name the highlighted object(s) on every page)
  2. When would a baby wear a bib and have a bowl? What do you think the baby is about to do?
  3. Baby is sleeping with a toy bunny. Is there something you like to sleep with?

Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham. Illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky. Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2012

  1. How does Moose feel when he finds out he isn’t going to be the letter “M”? How can you tell what he’s feeling?
  2. Can you figure out what letters were supposed to be on the pages after “M Is for Mouse” and “N Is for Needle?.” What clues can/did you use?
  3. What makes you impatient? What do you do when do you have to wait?

Animal 1 2 3 by Britta Teckentrup. Handprint Books, 2012

  1. Let’s count ___________s (creatures from each/any page in book).
  2. What comes after _____ (number)? How much is it if we add one more?
  3. Let’s move like ______ (creature from each/any page in book).

I’ll Save You, Bobo! by Eileen Rosenthal. Illustrated by Marc Rosenthal. Atheneum, 2012

  1. Who is your favorite character in this story? Why?
  2. Do you think Earl the cat likes Bobo? Why or why not?
  3. What do you like about the stories the little boy tells? Do you ever make up stories? (What are they about?)

Baby, Where Are You? by Mack. U.S. edition: Clavis, 2012

  1. Let’s find an animal in the book that lives in or near the water. What is it?
  2. Let’s find an animal in the book walking in the sand. What is it?
  3. Which animals in the book have long necks?

Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff. Beach Lane / Simon & Schuster, 2012

  1. What are some things Baby Bear sees throughout the day? What are some things you see when you wake up in the morning?
  2. What colors can we find outside (go on a color walk/draw pictures of all the colors you see)
  3. What are some colors you can eat?

Small Bunny’s Blue Blanket by Tayana Feeney. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012

  1. How does Small Bunny feel about his blue blanket? How can you tell? What do you love?
  2. What is something Small Bunny likes to do in the story? Do you like to ____________? (fill in based on child’s response to first question)
  3. What do you find it hard to wait for?

Green by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press, 2012

  1. What kind of green would you call a blade of grass? How about a shirt that you love?
  2. What are other green things you can think of?
  3. What do you think is meant by “forever green” on the book’s final pages?

Animal Spots and Stripes by Britta Teckentrup. Handprint Books, 2012

  1. Let’s find all the animals with spots in the book. Now let’s find all the animals with stripes.
  2. If you could choose between having spots or stripes, which would you want to have? Why?
  3. Let’s count the _________! (name the specific creatures on each page)

Who Likes Rain? By Wong Herbert Yee. Henry Holt, 2007

  1. What are some of the animals/things in the story that like the rain.
  2. What do you like about rain? What are things you don’t like about rain?
  3. What does the rain sound/feel like? (Imitate the rain/a storm)

underGROUND by Denise Fleming. Beach Lane Books / Simon & Schuster, 2012

  1. What are some of the things found underground in this story?
  2. Let’s go dig. What can we find underground?
  3. Would you want to live underground? Why or why not?

Mommy, Where Are You? by Mack. U.S. edition: Clavis, 2012

  1. Let’s find an animal that lives in a cold place. How can you tell it’s a cold place?
  2. Let’s find an animal that lives in a hot place. How can you tell it’s a hot place?
  3. What animals have long necks/tails/legs/nose?

What’s Special about Me, Mama? by Kristina Evans. Illustrated by Javaka Steptoe. Jump at the Sun Books / Disney, 2011

  1. The mama in this book thinks her child is special for many reasons. What are some of the ones you remember?
  2. The child in this book has hair that “springs right back into place” after a bath. What does your hair do when its wet?
  3. The child in this book helps in the kitchen by mixing things. What are some ways that you help out at home?

Primary (Grades K-2)[top]

Rain School by James Rumford. Houghton Mifflin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010

  1. Why is Thomas so excited to be starting school? What are you looking forward to this year at school?
  2. What are three things about Thomas’s school in the story that are similar to our/your school?
  3. What are three things about Thomas’s school in the story that are different from our/your school?

Our Seasons by Ranida T. McKneally. Ill by Grace Lin. Charlesbridge, 2006

  1. What is your favorite season? What is something you learned about your favorite season from this book?
  2. Which did you like reading/listening to more? The facts about each season or the poems Why?
  3. The illustrations in the book show what is happening in each of the poems. How do the poems and illustrations connect to the information/facts on each page?

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. Illustrated by E.B. Lewis. Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin, 2012

  1. Why do you think Chloe ignores Maya?
  2. What do you think Chloe’s teacher is trying to show them about kindness?
  3. How does the ending of the story make you feel?Why?
  4. What do you think Chloe will do if another new student joins their class? What in the story makes you think this?

Me and Momma and Big John by Mara Rockliff. Illustrated by William Low. Candlewick Press, 2012

  1. Why is the boy so disappointed when he finally sees the stone his mother has been working on?
  2. How is the boy feeling about his mother’s work by the story’s end? Why?
  3. Do you think the boy’s momma is an artist? Why or why not?

Castle: How It Works by David Macaulay, with Sheila Keenan. Square Fish / David Macaulay Studio / Macmillan, 2012

  1. If you were a visiting the castle in this book, what are some of the things you might see once you cross the drawbridge?
  2. If you were an enemy, how might you try to get inside the castle in this book? What are some of the ways you learned those in the castle might try to stop you?
  3. Why don’t you think people live in castles anymore?

Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart. Illustrated by Constance R. Bergum. Peachtree, 2009

  1. What are some of the ways we see the animals in the book survive in winter ? Can you think of any other things animals might do to survive in the cold?
  2. Animals do different things in winter than in summer. What are some things do people do in the winter that’s different from what they do in summer?
  3. What animals have you seen in the winter?

Lemonade in Winter: A Book About Two Kids Counting Money by Emily Jenkins. Illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Schwartz & Wade, 2012

  1. What are some of the things Pauline and John-John do to get ready to have a lemonade stand?
  2. How do Pauline and John-John try to get customers? Is there anything else you would have also done if you were in their place?
  3. If you were going to sell something in winter, what would it be? Why? What would you need to get ready to have your sale?

Once I Ate a Pie by Patricia Maclachlan and Emily Maclachlan. Illustrated by Katy Schneider. HarperCollins, 2006

  1. If you could have one of the dogs in this book as a pet, which one would you pick and why?
  2. Why do you think some of the words in the poems look different—bigger or bolder or with letters that aren’t in a straight line?
  3. We learn something about each of the dogs in the poems. For example, Gus likes his people in a group. Mr. Beefy likes to eat. Darla likes people but not other dogs. If you were going to write a poem about you, what is something you would want us to know about yourself? Do you think it would be a funny poem? A serious or sad poem? Why?

Wolf Pie by Brenda Seabrooke. Illustrated by Liz Callen. Clarion, 2010

  1. Were you surprised by how the wolf in the story behaved? Why or why not?
  2. What are ways Wilfong proves he is a true friend?
  3. What part of this book was funniest to you? Why?

Penny and Her Song by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2012

  1. How do you think singing her song makes Penny feel? How can you tell?
  2. How does Penny’s family respond when they finally hear her song? What things happen?
  3. What can you tell about Penny’s parents from the story and the illustrations? If you could be Penny’s friend, do you think you’d enjoy spending time with her family? Why?

Step Gently Out by Helen Frost. Photographs by Rick Lieder. Candlewick Press, 2012

  1. Do the photographs in this book make you think more about the words? Why or why not?
  2. What do you think it means to “step gently out”?
  3. How does reading this poem and looking at these photographs make you think differently about insects?

Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems / jitomates risueños y otros poemas de primvera by Francisco X. Alarcón. Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez. Children’s Book Press, 1997

  1. What makes these “spring” poems? Pick one or two of them—how do you think they connect to spring?
  2. What are some ways poems are different than a story? Are there ways the two are similar?
  3. Do any of the poems in this book feel like they are telling a story? Which one(s) and why?

Happy Like Soccer by Maribeth Boelts. Illustrated by Lauren Castillo. Candlewick Press, 2012

  1. Soccer makes Sierra both happy and sad. Why? Is there anything that makes you feel that way?
  2. Why do you think it’s so hard for Sierra to call her coach and ask him to change the game? Why can asking for something we want or need sometimes be so hard?
  3. What are some of the kind things people do to try to make Sierra’s experience playing soccer a good one? Are there other things you think people could have done?

Icon for the Intermediate (Grades 3-5) readers

Intermediate (Grades 3-5)[top]

Malcolm at Midnight by W. H. Beck. Illustrated by Brian Lies. Houghton Mifflin, 2012

  1. Malcolm gets involved in several different mysteries over the course of the story—Aggy’s disappearance, the missing ring, the cat on the fourth floor. How are these all connected?
  2. How would you describe Honey Bunny (HB)? Why is he so distrustful of Malcolm? How does his opinion of Malcolm change by story’s end? How does your opinion of Honey Bunny change by story’s end?
  3. What changes between Amelia and Jovahn by story’s end? Why does it change? Are there specific things that happen that make a difference in their relationship?

Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre. Illustrated by Rafael Rosado. First Second, 2012

  1. Claudette has little patience with the grown-ups in her town who are afraid to go after the giant. Why do you think the adults are so afraid? Why do they go after Claudette and her friends?
  2. Everyone thinks the giant threatening the town is a “baby-feet-eating giant.” In the end, they discover it’s just a baby giant that loves tickling feet. How / why do you think the story about the giant got so turned around?
  3. Gaston and Marie aren’t as brave as Claudette but they set off with her anyway. How does each of the three play a role in their success? Has there ever been a time in your life when you and friends or family members have all contributed in different ways to a project or journey’s success?

The Scary Places Map Book: Seven Terrifying Tours by B. G. Hennessy. Illustrated by Erwin Madrid. Candlewick Press, 2012

  1. All of the maps in this books have several features in common. Name at least two things that all of them share.
  2. What are three of the dangers to watch out for in “The Land of the Golden Apples”?
  3. Who is Mabel in the Western Territories? What does she carry in her pack?
  4. If you were designing a scary place, what would it include?

Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic by Ginnie Lo. Illustrated by Beth Lo. Lee & Low, 2012

Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers by Sarah Warren, Sarah. Illustrated by Robert Casilla. Marshall Cavendish, 2012

  1. In what ways were Auntie Yang and Dolores Huerta similar women? How are they different?
  2. What are some things each woman did to bring together people in her community.
  3. In Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic food brings people together. What role does food play in Dolores Huerta?

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Illustrated by Patricia Castelao. Harper / HarperCollins, 2012

  1. If you could pick one character from this book to befriend, whom would it be? Why—what things about this character do you like?
  2. What are some of the ways the author made Ivan’s perspective seem true to how an animal might understand and describe what is happening?
  3. Ivan remembers a time when he was free. Do you think he’d ever be able to live in the wild again? Why or why not? What about Ruby?

The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng. Illustrated by Abigail Halpin. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012

  1. Anna’s mom thinks she is being selfish when she doesn’t want to spend time with other people. Do you think her mom is being fair? What are some of the reasons you do or don’t agree with her based on what you know and learn about Anna in the story?
  2. Anna loves to read. What does she enjoy about reading? What role do books play in her life?
  3. What are some of the reasons Anna is uncertain about spending time with Laura? What do you think she gains by becoming friends with Laura again?

Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole. Scholastic Press, 2012

  1. Who is the person hiding and who or what are they running from? How can you tell?
  2. Do you think this is the first time someone has hidden on this family’s farm and gotten help? What can you point to in the illustrations that make you think yes or no?
  3. Why do you think the illustrator chose to tell this story without any words?
  4. If you were the girl in the story and discovered someone hiding and in need of help, what would you do?

Chickadee by Louise Erdrich. Harper / HarperCollins, 2012

  1. Chickadee is taken hundreds of miles from his home and has to find his own way back when he escapes. What knowledge does he draw on? Who are some of his helpers?
  2. Everyone in Chickadee’s family is worried about him and misses him, especially his twin, Makoons. What are some of the ways Makoons responds to missing his brother? Why do you think Chickadee’s disappearance is so hard for him in particular?
  3. Describe the characters of Babiche and Baptiste. In what ways were they funny? In what ways were they scary?

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead. Wendy Lamb Books / Random House, 2012

  1. Georges is uncomfortable with some of the things Safer asks him to do. Would you do anything differently if you were Georges in terms of how he responded? Would you do anything differently than Georges in terms of handling the bullies he faces at school?
  2. Things are revealed near the end of the story that change our understanding of both Georges and Safer. Looking back, can you find clues early on to what we eventually learn about each of them and their situations?
  3. Why do you think Georges didn’t reveal the truth—to Safer and to us as readers—about his mom? Why do you think Safer wasn’t honest with Georges?

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis. Wendy Lamb Books / Random House, 2012

  1. Deza describes each member of her family early on in the story in an essay for her teacher. What do you learn about Deza from the way she writes? Do you think she’s a girl you’d enjoy knowing? Why or why not?
  2. What are some ways the author shows how Deza’s family is affected by having so little money?
  3. What are some of the differences between Deza’s school experience/teacher at the beginning of the story, when her family is still living in Gary, and later, when she’s going to school in Flint?

The Arrow Finds Its Mark: A Book of Found Poems by George Heard. Illustrated by Antoine Guilloppé. Roaring Brook Press, 2012

  1. What is a “found” poem?
  2. If the text of a “found” poem is taken from something that’s already been written, what role does the poet play? What kinds of things does she or he do to make it into a poem?
  3. Pick a poem from this book that you particularly like. What do you like about it?

The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins. Houghton Mifflin, 2012

  1. Name at least three things that all beetles have in common based on what you learned from this book.
  2. What are three ways that various types of beetles can defend themselves from predators?
  3. What beetle in this book was most interesting to you? Why?

Books for Middle School Age

Middle School[top]

Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012

  1. The kids on Auggie’s welcoming committee have been hand-picked by the principal. Why do you think the kids the principal picked aren’t all as welcoming as the principal might have wished? How do you think you would respond if you were a member of Auggie’s welcoming committee?
  2. Jack and Summer both want to be good friends to Auggie but each one struggles in different ways. What do you think is Jack’s biggest challenge? What about Summer’s? How does Auggie respond to each of them?
  3. What do you think is gained by telling Auggie’s story from so many different points of view? Which character’s perspective did you appreciate the most, and why?

Dark Lord: The Early Years by Jamie Thomson. Walker, 2012

  1. If your arch enemy banished you to an alternate universe, what would it be like?
  2. Why do you think the author decided to include a ghost story?
  3. Which supporting character(s) in these books would you like to have you welcoming you to a new situation? What appealed to you about this character?

Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks . First Second, 2012

  1. What are some of the ways Maggie changes in terms of how she sees herself and members of her family over the course of the story?
  2. Maggie is not used to the social dynamics of high school. What does she learn from her friendship with Lucy and Alistair?
  3. Why do you think it’s so important to Maggie to help the ghost? Why do you think the author chose to leave the ghost’s story unsolved?

The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity by Elizabeth Rusch. Houghton Mifflin, 2012

Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012

  1. What are some of the ways birdwatchers have helped scientists understand the rufa red knot?
  2. How does Moonbird’s story show the interconnectedness of ecosystems?
  3. How does the Mars Rover story show the interconnectedness of scientific disciplines?
  4. Scientists working with the Mars Rovers seemed to develop emotional attachments to Spirit and Opportunity. Did you feel concern for these pieces of equipment when they encountered problems on Mars or lost communication with Earth? How does that make you feel about research in space?
  5. How are these two extraordinarily long journeys similar and different?

After Eli by Rebecca Rupp . Candlewick Press, 2012

  1. Why do you think Danny keeps his Book of the Dead?
  2. Danny’s memories give readers a strong sense of Eli. What do you learn about Eli as a brother and a friend through specific incidences in the book? How do you think he influenced Danny?
  3. What are some things Danny figure outs about friendship through his relationships with Isabelle and Walter?

Marching to the Mountaintop: How Poverty, Labor Fights, and Civil Rights Set the Stage for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Final Hours by Ann Bausum. National Geographic, 2012

  1. What are some of the factors that led to the garbage workers deciding to strike in Memphis?
  2. Why was Martin Luther King, Jr., initially reluctant to come to Memphis? What made him change his mind?
  3. There are several major stories in this book: the Memphis garbage workers’ strike; the shifting focus of Martin Luther King’s activism from racism to poverty; and King’s assassination.  What did you learn about the connection among these three things?

Fire in the Streets by Kekla Magoon . Aladdin / Simon & Schuster, 2012

  1. What does Maxie find so appealing about being part of the Black Panthers?
  2. Based on what you know about Maxie in the story, why do you think she decides to turn in her brother? If you were in Maxie’s position, what do you think you would do?
  3. This story is set in 1968, a time of great political and racial turmoil. What details did you find especially interesting about that time? Were there things that struck you as being very different from—or similar to—today?

The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano by Sonia Manzano. Scholastic Press, 2012

  1. How and why do the relationships between Evelyn, her mother, and her abuela change over time?
  2. Do you think the occupation of the church by the Young Lords was justified? Why or why not?
  3. Manzano uses powerful descriptive language to set the scene. What sights, smells, sounds stood out to you and what words would you use to describe your neighborhood?

Unwind by Neal Shusterman . Simon and Schuster, 2007

  1. Connor, Risa and Lev have followed three different paths to the same fate and are all destined for “unwinding.” How do their individual experiences draw similarities between the future in which this story is set and our society today?
  2. What are some of the ways the three main characters influence one another’s understanding of and attitudes toward “unwinding”? How do Connor, Risa and Lev change in other ways from knowing one another?
  3. This book takes a highly controversial issue in our society today and offers up a fictional future where the solution is a compromise that seems unimaginable. What do you think the author wants readers to think about or take away from this?

Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town by Warren St. John. Delacorte Press, 2012

  1. The kids in Outcasts United come from various countries, but all have experienced difficult things both before and after coming to the United States. Why do you think being on The Fugees means so much to them?
  2. Luma had no background in teaching or social work but seemed to instinctively understand what her players needed. What are some of the things that she does that goes above and beyond what a typical sports coach might do?
  3. Why is Luma so strict with her players?

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery. Houghton Mifflin, 2012

  1. What were some of the challenges Temple faced growing up? What were some of the ways she overcame them?
  2. Temple notes that the unique way her brain works is the reason she has succeeded. What are some of the specific skills and gifts she credits to her autism that have helped her in her work?
  3. Did this book make you think about the food you eat, especially meat, in a different way? Did it make you uncomfortable, and if so, why do you think it had that impact?

See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles. Candlewick Press, 2012

  1. Each member of Fern’s family responds differently to the tragedy they face. Pick any two of the family members and talk about what changes from before to after in terms of how they behave.
  2. Guilt and grief are two powerful forces in this book. How does guilt affect various characters’ grieving?
  3. Why do you think Holden doesn’t want Fern to know about the bullying he faces?

High School [top]

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. Amulet / Abrams, 2012

  1. Greg tries to tell the reader he is not upset over Rachel’s death when he clearly is. What are ways the author makes clear through Greg’s actions that he finds what is happening to Rachel upsetting? What other things in his life does Greg try to deceive the reader about?
  2. How did the use of humor affect you as you read a book about a dying girl? Can you point to one or two specific scenes where you thought the humor was surprising or especially effective?
  3. If you had the chance to make a movie about one of your friends, whom would you choose and why? What are some scenes you would want to film, or information you would want to include, and what would these reveal about your subject?

The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez with Jenna Glatzer. Simon & Schuster, 2012

  1. What were some of the events in her family that made Gaby so adamant about not becoming a teen mom?
  2. How would you have felt if you were one of Gaby’s friends or family when she announced her pregnancy was a hoax?
  3. Gaby says: “Could it be that people don’t want others to beat stereotypes? Could it be that people who don’t fit the mold make it uncomfortable for others to hold on to their prejudices?” What do you think?

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick. Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, 2012

  1. Author Patricia McCormick explains in her author’s note why she chose to write in Arn’s own “distinct and beautiful voice,” which doesn’t follow the rules of English grammar and syntax. What impact did this decision have on you as a reader? In what ways do you think your understanding of Arn and his experience would be different if the book had been written in grammatically correct English?
  2. Why do you think the transition from the life as a boy soldier to life in the United States was difficult for Arn?
  3. The Holocaust during World War II is something with which most of us are familiar. Why do you think so little is known about other genocides, like the one Arn survived in Cambodia?

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. Scholastic Press, 2012

  1. Every character in this novel is on a quest. Pick two characters and describe their quests. In what ways are their quests mutually supportive, or in conflict with each other early on. Does this change over time?
  2. How do you interpret the quotes in the prologue from Edgar Allen Poe and Oscar Wilde in light of the novel? What character or characters does each quote remind you of? Why?
  3. What is your theory on what happened to Blue’s father? What evidence in the narrative do you base this on?

No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Carolrhoda LAB, 2012

  1. Lewis Michaux believed that books change lives. What are ways you can see this exemplified in the narrative?
  2. This is a work of documentary fiction—much of it is based on fact, but the author had to take artistic license as well. How does it differ from a straightforward work of non-fiction? What are some of the ways the book as a whole succeeds in giving you both facts about Lewis Michaux and a deeper understanding of who he was and what he believed?
  3. A number of factors led to the closing of Michaux’s bookstore in the 1970s, from racism to economics to politics. What do you think was the biggest reason the store had to close? What did the community lose as a result?

Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White by Lila Quintero Weaver. The University of Alabama Press, 2012

  1. What were some of the pivotal events throughout her childhood that gave the author deeper insight into the struggle for civil rights?
  2. The author talks about knowing from the time she was young that she did not fit on either side of the racial divide, but as she gets older she finds that she connects more with Black kids than white kids. Why do you think this was the case?
  3. In what ways does the title connect to the story the author tells?

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin. Flash Point / Roaring Brook Press, 2012

  1. The author has described this book as a “non-fiction thriller,” which suggests it reads like fiction even though it is factual. What are some of the things he does in the writing to make the book read like fiction? What are some of the things he does to make clear this is a work of non-fiction?
  2. Individuals involved with the Manhattan Project were motivated by a variety of things—from the challenge of the work itself to patriotism to politics. What are examples of ways the perspectives of some of the individuals in the book changed regarding how they felt about the bomb after the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
  3. In what ways has this book changed your thinking about atomic weapons and who should have them?

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. Hyperion, 2012

  1. What are some of the ways both Maddie and Julia exemplify courage and friendship across the narrative?
  2. What are some of the things you learned in Part II about Julia’s situation as a hostage of the Gestapo that she didn’t reveal in Part I? Would you define her as a reliable or unreliable narrator in Part I? Why?
  3. In your opinion, was the choice Maddie makes when she sees Julia get off the bus in Part II the right thing to do? Why or why not?

The Final Four by Paul Volponi. Viking, 2012

  1. This book raises a lot of questions about whether college athletes should receive compensation from the NCAA for their talent. What do you believe and why? In what ways, if any, has your opinion been informed by or changed by this novel?
  2. Malcolm McBride, Roko Basic and Michael Jordan are each facing challenges—some off the court, some on. What are their similarities and what are their differences. How do they work individually and together as characters to illuminate realities for college athletes?
  3. In what ways do you think the secondary female characters were stereotyped? How could they have changed those roles to make them less stereotypical?

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman. Candlewick Press, 2012

  1. In her introduction to October Mourning, Newman notes that she began writing this book to gain better understanding of how Matthew Shepard’s murder impacted her and the larger world. How did the different viewpoints presented in Newman’s poems meet this objective? Were there specific poems/perspectives you found particularly surprising or unexpected? How did they change or deepen your understanding of these events?
  2. The attack on and death of Matthew Shepard was a tragic yet pivotal event in recent history, opening people’s eyes and to hate and injustice, and opening their minds to the need for change. There are several examples of this within the narrative. Why do you think this event has had such a profound impact on attitudes toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people?
  3. Which poem affected you most deeply? Why?

My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012

  1. Do you think the verse style made it easier or harder to navigate the painful experiences in My Book of Life by Angel? Why?
  2. Why do you think Angel is able to fight to save Melli when she hasn’t been able to fight to save herself? What do you think she learns in trying to save Melli?
  3. Even if you haven’t read Paradise Lost, what do the conversations between Angel and the professor about this book reveal about Angel? What connections can you make between what you learn about that work and Angel’s story?

Ask the Passengers by A. S. King. Little, Brown, 2012

  1. Would you encourage Astrid to label herself and come out, or support her desire to resist labeling? Why?
  2. Astrid resists the conformity and small-mindedness of her town. In what ways does she defy it? In what ways does she unintentionally participate in the culture she despises?
  3. What do Astrid’s conversations with “Frank” (Socrates) do for her?
  4. What purpose do you think the chapters in which Astrid sends out her love to the passengers of airplanes serves? What do they reveal about Astrid? What do they reveal about life beyond the confines of her small town

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamine Alire Sáenz. Simon & Schuster, 2012

  1. Ari considers himself a loner and is surprised by how much he enjoys spending time with Dante. Why do you think the two boys get along so well? In what ways do their characters differ? How are they similar? How do they complement one another?
  2. How does the secret about Ari’s brother affect Ari and his family?
  3. This book is set in the late 1980s. Are there things you can point to that make it feel different from today in terms of attitudes toward being gay? Are there things that seem the same?


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