Ramona Quimby, Age 8
1. Do you like the first day of school? How do you prepare? Have you ever ridden a school bus? What other ways can children get to school? Do you have a favorite teacher?
2. Mr. Quimby decides to go back to school to become a teacher. Have you and your parents ever been in school at the same time? If not, how would you feel about that? How can children help their parents if they are in school?
3. Ramona uses some very descriptive names to describe some of her pesky schoolmates. What are some of them?
4. “Yard Ape” gives Ramona a hard time since the first day they meet. How does their relationship change? Have you ever met someone and formed a negative opinion of them, only to realize you were wrong?
5. DEAR is one of Ramona’s favorite school subjects. Why is reading so important to her? What is your favorite school subject? Why?
6. Ramona spends a few hours each day after school at the Kemp house. Why is it so hard for Ramona to get along with Willa Jean? What sort of activities do you like to do after school?
7. The Quimby family goes through quite a few emotional ups and downs throughout the book; did you find any of them funny? Sad? Does your family go through similar changes?
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
1. Why does the professor's house seem like a place where one could slip into a magical world?
2. Why do you think Lucy cries when the other children doubt her story about Narnia?
3. In Narnia the children aren't sure at first whom to trust. Edmund introduces this idea because the White Witch had been so “nice” to him. Why can it be difficult to know whom to trust?
4. Why doesn't Edmund notice that the White Witch's smile “isn't so nice?” Why doesn't he notice what's happening to him?
5. When the children learn of Aslan, they are filled with wonder and excitement, but Edmund “felt a sensation of mysterious horror.” Why?
6. When the children see Aslan they understand that something can be “good and terrible at the same time.” How could this be?
7. In the story, Sons of Adam go before animals. Do you think human beings are more important than animals? Why or why not?
8. Why does Aslan allow himself to be killed? How did you feel when Aslan died? Were you surprised that he lived again?
9. Do you think the children were “fated” to become Kings and Queens? Do you believe in fate? Why do you think the author has the characters return to the real world at the end of the book?
Bud, Not Buddy
1. What makes Bud so self-conscious and protective of his name? What is special about his name?
2. Describe the relationship between Bugs and Bud. Why do you think Bugs was so important to Bud? What made the two alike, and why?
3. Talk about the significance of Bud's experiences at Hooverville. What did Bud remember most about that stop, and why? What do you think the Hooverville community resembled to Bud? How do you think Bud felt when he missed the train?
4. What were his feelings toward the situation regarding Bugs?
5. Describe Bud and Deza Malone's relationship, and its significance. What did he remember most about her and their romantic night?
6. How does Bud feel towards "Herman E. Calloway" in his first encounter with him? How does he feel towards him after the alarming news? Do his feelings change?
7. Bud seems to really like Miss Thomas, as he refers to her as "the most beautiful woman in the world." Who do you think Miss Thomas resembles?
1. How does Fern convince her father not to kill the smallest pig -- the "runt" -- of the litter? What does she do to help raise the little pig?
2. When Wilbur moves to the Zuckerman farm, he meets many animals, but is still lonely until he meets Charlotte. What is different about Charlotte that makes her become Wilbur's friend?
3. When Wilbur first meets Charlotte, he wonders if he will ever learn to like someone who is so "brutal" and "bloodthirsty," yet Charlotte soon becomes his best friend. Have you ever changed your opinion about someone after you got to know them better? Are first impressions always reliable?
4. In the book, we see both Charlotte and Templeton the Rat do things for Wilbur which help to save his life. Do they both help him for the same reasons? How is Templeton convinced to help? Why does Charlotte make sacrifices for Wilbur? What does Wilbur do to return the favors?
5. Can you remember which words Charlotte wove into her web? (SOME PIG, TERRIFIC, RADIANT, and HUMBLE) How did the appearance of these words save Wilbur's life? What other words can you think of that Charlotte might have used?
6. The humans in this book are very easily influenced by the messages in Charlotte’s web. Would they impress you?
1. When she started writing this novel, Gail Carson Levine wanted to base her story on Cinderella but didn’t want Ella to be a “goody two-shoes.” So Levine created the obedience “gift,” which forces Ella to be good. Identify additional differences and similarities between Ella Enchanted and the classic fairytale Cinderella.
2. What kind of relationship does Ella have with her father? How is Ella’s relationship with her father different from the relationship she had with her mother? Do you think Ella takes more after her mother or her father? Explain why.
3. What is the difference between small and big magic? Give some examples of both. Why is Mandy so reluctant to cast big magic? Why does she rarely tell people that she is a fairy?
4. What does it mean that Ella is in a line of women who are “Friends of Fairies” (page 25)? Are there instances in the story when Ella demonstrates her “fairy blood” and performs some magic of her own?
5. Why do you think Ella is finally able to break her curse of obedience when she initially refuses to marry Char?
6. Do you think Lucinda finally learns the damaging effects of big magic by the end of the novel? Why or why not?
7. How does Ella’s knack for learning languages help her in social situations? What effect does she have when she speaks or attempts to speak to others in their native tongue?
Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret
1. Do you think Margaret is happy about moving? Do you think she is right that her parents are moving to get away from Grandma Simon?
2. Margaret, trying to figure out what is going on in the churches and the synagogue she visits, is reduced to counting different colored hats the women are wearing. She does not understand the sermons, and she emotionally responds to only the music. What is her difficulty? Is the fault with Margaret or the experience she has?
3. What is the role of religion in the novel? Do you think Margaret will ever decide which religion she wants to be?
4. Nancy Wheeler lies about menstruating, about Laura Danker's reputation, and about Moose Freed's reputation. Why does she do this?
5. Laura Danker, beautiful and physically mature beyond her years, is the target of much envy; why do you think the girls envy her? Is their envy justified?
6. Do you think Mr. Benedict is a good teacher? Do you think he was a better teacher at the end of the year, than at the beginning?
7. What do you think about Margaret’s relationship with her Grandma Simon? Why do you think she refers to Margaret as “her Margaret?” How do you think this makes Margaret’s mother feel? What about Margaret’s relationship with Mr. and Mrs. Hutchins (her mother’s parents)? Are they very different from Grandma Simon? Will Margaret ever be close to them?
8. Which of the characters do you like the best? Which of her friends do you think Margaret is closest to? Why?
9. Why do you think the girls are obsessed with maturing, and getting their periods? Do you think this is normal behavior?
Because of Winn-Dixie
1. What brings India Opal and her father to Naomi?
2. Describe Winn-Dixie. What is it about him that makes him appealing to India Opal?
3. How does India Opal's father react to Winn-Dixie? How does she convince him to let the dog stay?
4. What are the ten things that India Opal's father tells her about her mother? Connect these ten things to the rest of the story. (For example, number three is "She liked to plant things." India Opal later plants a tree with Gloria Dump.)
5. Gloria Dump says that the most important thing in life is: "different for everyone. . . . You find out on your own. But in the meantime, you got to remember, you can't always judge people by the things they done. You got to judge them by what they are doing now." What do you think this means? What does this mean to you? Why is Gloria Dump so important to India Opal?
6. Who were some of your favorite characters in town? Describe them.
7. How does a Litmus Lozenge work? Would you want to try one? Why or why not?
8. What happens at the party to bring India Opal and her father together? What do you predict for their relationship in the future?
9. What does the title mean to you?
1. In The Giver, each family has two parents, a son, and a daughter. The relationships are not biological but are developed through observation and a careful handling of personality. How are families defined in our society? Are families the foundations of a society, or are they continually open for new definitions?
2. In Jonas' community, every person and his or her experience are precisely the same. The climate is controlled, and competition has been eliminated in favor of a community in which everyone works only for the common good. What advantages might "Sameness" yield for contemporary communities? Is the loss of diversity worthwhile?
3. Underneath the placid calm of Jonas' society lies a very orderly and inexorable system of euthanasia, practiced on the very young who do not conform, the elderly, and those whose errors threaten the stability of the community. What are the disadvantages and benefits of a community that accepts such a vision of euthanasia?
4. Why is the relationship between Jonas and The Giver dangerous, and what does this danger suggest about the nature of love?
5. The ending of The Giver may be interpreted in two very different ways. Perhaps Jonas is remembering his Christmas memory–one of the most beautiful that The Giver transmitted to him–as he and Gabriel are freezing to death, falling into a dreamlike coma in the snow. Or perhaps Jonas does hear music and, with his special vision, is able to perceive the warm house where people are waiting to greet him. In her acceptance speech for the Newbery Medal, Lois Lowry mentioned both possibilities but would not choose one as correct. What evidence supports each interpretation?
6. There are groups in the United States today that actively seek to maintain an identity outside the mainstream culture: the Amish, the Mennonites, Native American tribes, and the Hasidic Jewish community. What benefits do these groups expect from defining themselves as "other?" What are the disadvantages? How does the mainstream culture put pressure on such groups?
7. Lois Lowry helps create an alternate world by having the community use words in a special way. Though that world stresses what it calls "precision of language," in fact it is built upon language that is not precise but deliberately clouds meaning. What is the danger of such misleading language?
8. Examine the ways in which Jonas' community uses euphemism to distance itself from the reality of "Release." How does our own society use euphemism to distance us from such realities as aging and death, bodily functions, and political activities? What are the benefits and disadvantages of such uses of language?
1. This book is really made up of two stories: Stanley's summer and the story of his great-great-grandfather in the Wild West. How does the author relate the stories and switch between them? What other stories do you know that can be broken up into several smaller tales?
2. Stanley begins the story overweight and unpopular at school. How does he change during the course of the book in order to fit in with a group? When he goes back to school in the fall, how do you think his classmates will view him?
3. Is Stanley a hero? How about his great-great-grandfather? What's the difference between a hero and just a good person? About the nature of love?
4. Each camper at Camp Green Lake has a nickname. Discuss how the nicknames reflect on the boys' personalities; for example, why is Stanley called "Caveman?" How can a person's name change the way others see him and the way he sees himself?
5. When does Stanley begin to show courage? What brave things does he do? Discuss how courage can be very personal. An action that is courageous for one person might not be for another. What brave risks have you taken in your life that remind you of Stanley's adventure?
6. Zero is Stanley's first true friend; discuss how their friendship develops. When Stanley finds out that Zero actually stole the sneakers, he isn't mad; actually, he's glad. Do you think this is an appropriate response? How would you respond if you and a friend were in a similar situation?
7. The Warden is a really nasty lady. What other evil women can you think of in books, movies, or fairytales? How does the Warden compare to some of these witches and evil queens? How does the author create such a vile villain?
1. Matilda’s parents treat her very badly, and they don’t seem to realize how special and talented she really is. How would you react if you were treated this way by your parents?
2. Visiting the library becomes a very important part of Matilda’s daily routine. Why? Who teaches Matilda how to read? Why do her parents feel that watching TV is more important than reading? Which do you prefer?
3. What does Matilda's father do for a living? Matilda feels her father’s business dealings are dishonest; do you agree? Is Mr. Wormwood really as smart as he thinks he is? What does Mrs. Wormwood do all day?
4. Why does Matilda play pranks on her father? Does he deserve it? Do you find the pranks funny?
5. Matilda is very pleased to be allowed to go to school. What is her first day like? Miss Honey instantly recognizes that Matilda is a special student. What does she do about it? Why won’t The Thrunchbull or the Wormwoods listen?
6. Have you ever had a teacher like The Thrunchbull? What terrible things does she do to the students at Crunchem Hall? Why do some of the children stand up to her? How do they do it?
7. What is Matilda’s special gift? How does she use this gift to help Miss Honey?
1. What do you think the title means? What kinds of things are “everlasting”?
2. How long has the Tuck family stayed the same? How has this affected their lives? What would you do if you could live forever? What would you miss if you stayed at one age forever?
3. What is Winnie afraid of when she is planning on running away? What does she do with her fears?
4. How does Winnie feel when she is kidnapped? In what way is this kidnapping unusual? Why is it so important to the Tucks that Winnie keeps their secret?
5. Who is the stranger, and what does he want? Is he an honest person? Would you trust him? Do you think what he plans to do with the spring water is fair?
6. What does Jesse ask Winnie to do when she turns seventeen? What would you do if you were in her shoes?
7. Winnie risks everything to help the Tuck family, why? How does she do this? Are her actions right or wrong? How does her family react?