Skipping Christmas (November/December 2014 discussion)

Courtesy of jgrisham.com

Courtesy of jgrisham.com

 

John Grisham

Summary:

Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty, they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash, they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences—and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.

A classic tale for modern times from a beloved storyteller, John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas offers a hilarious look at the chaos and frenzy that have become part of our holiday tradition. (courtesy of Random House)

Biography:

John Grisham (Author’s Website)

John Grisham (LitLovers)

John Grisham (Academy of Achievement)

John Grisham (Wikipedia)

Interviews:

John Grisham Interview, 1995 (Academy of Achievement) 

John Grisham Interview, 1997 (Book Reporter)

Meet the Writers: John Grisham, 2004 (Barnes and Noble)

John Grisham: By the Book, 2012 (New York Times) 

John Grisham at the Houston Celebration of Reading 2014 (Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation via YouTube) video

Reviews:

Review at Book Page (Book Page)

Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal Reviews (Barnes and Noble)

Amazon Reviews (Amazon)

Goodreads Reviews (Goodreads)

Entertainment Weekly Review (Entertainment Weekly)

Social Media:

Author’s Website   

Author’s Facebook

Author’s Twitter

Author’s GoodReads Page

Christmas With the Kranks (Movie):

@Internet Movie Database

@RogerEbert.com

@Wikipedia

@Rotten Tomatoes

Review at Variety

Christmas With the Kranks Tropes  (TV Tropes and Idioms)

Creating the Kranks’ Neighborhood (How Stuff Works) 

Skipping Christmas:

Simplifying Christmas…Complicating Matters (Circle of Moms)

Saying No, No, No to the Ho-Ho-Ho (NY Times) 

Skipping Christmas This Year?! (Saint Anthony Messenger)

Giving Up Christmas (The New Humanism)

Just Say No to Christmas? (USA Today)

Simplifying — Not Skipping — Christmas (Insight for Living)

Ho, Ho, Ho? Oh, No, No, No!: Some People Celebrate Christmas by Dodging It (New York Times)

I’m Not Skipping Christmas, But I am Simplifying It (Dallas News)

When Christmas Isn’t So Merry (Choosing Voluntary Simplicity)

Changing Traditions:

Christmas Traditions, Past and Present (History.com)

She vs. Her: Can We Change Our Holiday Traditions (BlogHer)

Celebrating Christmas and the Holidays, Then and Now (Pew Research)

Having an Intentional Christmas (The Intentional Family / William J. Doherty) pdf

Some Christmas Traditions Just Need to Die (The Street)

How to Let Go of Old Traditions During the Holidays (Huffington Post)

Traditions: When is it Time to Change? (Reluctant Entertainer)

How Technology is Changing Christmas (Business Technology)

How Christmas Changes for Americans As They Grow Up (The Wire)

Most Americans Celebrate Christmas, But Not All as Religious Holiday (Deseret News)

6 Holiday Traditions Fading Into Obscurity (The Street)

Christmas Traditions Shift (Seattle Times)

Commercialization of Christmas:

Hundred Dollar Holiday: The Case for a More Joyful Christmas (Center for a New American Dream)

Buy Nothing Christmas 

A Traditional, Commercialized Christmas (Christian Century)

Stop That Christmas Griping (Los Angeles Times)

Holiday Traditions Based on the Religion of Consumerism (Postconsumers.com)

The True Meaning of Christmas is Consumerism (VU Trailblazer) 

In Defense of Christmas Consumerism (Relevant Magazine)

Christmas Ads Already?! Actually, Most People Don’t Seem to Mind (The Atlantic)

Advertising and Christmas (Advertising and Society Review)

Christmas and Mental Health:

Holiday Stress: A Resourceful Survivor’s Guide (PsychCentral)

Nine Ways to Beat the Bah Humbugs (PsychCentral)

It’s All in How You Look at It: Transforming Holiday Angst into Gratitude (Psych Central)

12 Tips to Keep Joy in the Holidays (Psych Central)

Christmas Depression and Stress: Tips for Coping (WebMD)

How to Survive the Holidays (Mental Health Today)

For Women, It’s the Most Stressful Time of the Year (Washington Post)

Stress, Depression and the Holidays: Tips for Coping (Mayo Clinic)

Christmas Classics:

What Makes a Book a Classic? (Scholastic)

What Makes a Book a Classic? (Go Teen Writers)

What Makes a Book a Classic? (Salon)

What Makes a Book a Classic? (History Press)

What Makes a Modern Classic? (Publisher’s Weekly)

What Makes a Classic? (The Guardian)

Canon Fodder: Denouncing the Classics (New Yorker)

Top 100 (Modern Library / Random House) 

The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time: The List (The Guardian)

Top 100 Children’s Books of All Time (Children’s Book Guide)

100 Best Children’s Chapter Books of All Time (Children’s Book Guide)

50 Best Christmas Books (Stylist)

 30 Best Christmas Children’s Books (Children’s Books Guide)

Ten Christmas Classics to Read Again this Holiday Season (Examiner)

Christmas Books: 20 Classic Tales for You and the Kids (Huffington Post)

Christmas Lights:

Outrageously Over the Top Christmas Light Displays (iVillage)

World’s Craziest Christmas Lights Display (Time)

5 Best U. S. Neighborhoods for Holiday Lights (CBS)

Top Ten Destinations for Holiday Lights (Yahoo Travel) 

50 Best Places to See Christmas Lights in America (TLC Parentables)

20 Secrets Behind Unbelievable Christmas Lights Displays (ABC News)

Recent Controversy:

John Grisham Interview with The Telegraph (The Telegraph / UK) video

John Grisham Apologizes for Pedophile Comments (The Telegraph / UK)

A Statement from John Grisham (Author’s Website)

When Should We Separate the Art from the Artist? (USA Today)

Culture Creep: How and Why We Separate the Artist from the Art (Pacific Standard)

Can We Really Separate Art from Artist? (Chicago Tribune)

Loving the Art But Not the Artist (NPR)

Discussion Questions:

1. This book has been called a “modern day Christmas classic.” What does the term mean—what makes the book a “Christmas classic”? Do you agree that it is?

2. As you were reading the book, did you find yourself siding with the Kranks’ decision to skip Christmas…or disgreeing with them?

3. When friends and neighbors learn that the Kranks plan to skip Christmas, they try to convince them to change their minds. Why do the neighbors find the Kranks’ plans so disturbing? Do you find the neighbors’ interference appropriate … or inappropriate?

4. When the Kranks learn Blair is returning from Peru for the holidays, they decide to cancel their cruise and celebrate the holidays as they had in the past. Yet they decided not to tell Blair what they had been planning. Why? Does it seem strange that parents would behave this way toward an adult child?

5. Once the Kranks change their plans with Blair’s arrival, the neighbors pull together to help them pull off their traditional holiday celebration. Did your opinion of the neighbors change?

6. Do you think that Christmas requires that we put our own needs aside and just try to please other people?

7. Talk about the commercialization of the Christmas season. Do you agree with the Kranks that it’s excessive and detracts from the true meaning of Christmas? Or do you feel that the holiday with all its commercial trappings is festive and exciting…that the Kranks are Scrooges…and that you need to take the good with the bad? (There’s no “right” answer here….) Is it possible to avoid or escape the commercialism and still celebrate Christmas?

8. Do you feel pressured to buy gifts for family and friends? Do you feel guilty if you don’t buy gifts or do you feel guilty for spending too much money?

9. What do you consider to be the best Christmas gifts? What was the best Christmas gift that you have received?

10. By the end of the Christmas season, do you feel happy or sad?

11. Do cards have any meaning in this age of Facebook and Instant Messaging? Do people still look forward to them?

12. Do you think it is possible to skip Christmas entirely?

13. If you skipped Christmas, what would you miss the most or have the hardest time giving up? Alternatively…what would you enjoy the most or not miss giving up?

14. Where would be the ideal place to go if you decided to skip Christmas? Why did you pick this particular place?

15. What are your feelings toward the Christmas holidays? Has this book affected how you will view the season?

16. Have you seen Christmas with the Kranks, the 2004 film based on the book and starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis? If so, how does it compare to the book? If not, do you want to see it after having read the book?

17. Did you find this story enjoyable, even endearing? Or do you think John Grisham should stick to writing legal thrillers?

(Questions courtesy of Random House & SAS Book Club, Trinidad and Tobago Guardian)

Other books by Grisham: A Time to Kill The Firm — The Pelican Brief The Client — The Chamber The Rainmaker The Runaway Jury  The Partner — The Street Lawyer — The Testament — The Brethren A Painted House — The Summons The King of Torts Bleachers  The Last Juror — The Broker The Innocent Man — Playing for Pizza The Appeal — The Associate Ford County: Stories Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer The Confession Theodore Boone: The Abduction  The Litigators — Calico Joe Theodore Boone: The Accused The Racketeer –Theodore Boone: The Activist Sycamore Row  Gray Mountain.

Recommendations (NoveList & other sources): The Worst Noel: Hellish Holiday Tales by Collected Authors — The Dreaded Feast: Writers on Enduring the Holidays by Taylor Plimpton, ed. — Holidays on Ice by David Sederis– You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas  by Augusten Burroughs– An Idiot Girl’s Christmas: True Tales from the Top of the Naughty List  by Laurie Notaro —  Christmas Sucks: What to do When Fruitcake, Family, and Finding the Perfect Gift Makes You Miserable by Joanne Kimes — Upside-Down Christmas Tree: And Other Bizarre Yuletide Tales by Susan Reynolds — The Book of (Holiday) Awesome by Neil Pasricha — How to Survive Christmas by Jilly Cooper —  The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore — The Great Christmas Bowl by Susan May Warren — On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts — A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd– The Best Christmas Pageant Ever  by Barbara Robinson — Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand — Comfort and Joy by India Knight — Blue Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews —  The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry — This Year it Will be Different by Maeve Binchy — Star Bright: A Christmas Story by Andrew Greeley — Giovanni’s Light: the Story of a Town Where Time Stopped for Christmas by Phyllis Theroux — An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor — The Christmas Train by David Baldacci — A Christmas Blizzard by Garrison Keillor — Wishin’ and Hopin’ by Wally Lamb — The Christmas Pearl by Dorothea Benton Frank — Christmas in Carol by Sheila Robins — A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

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The Hunger Games (October 2013 discussion)

Courtesy of The Hunger Games Wikia

Courtesy of The Hunger Games Wikia

Suzanne Collins

Summary:

In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capital surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capital is harsh and cruel and keeps the other districts in line by forcing them to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight-to-the death on live TV. One boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and sixteen are selected by lottery to play. The winner brings riches and favor to his or her district. But that is nothing compared to what the Capital wins: one more year of fearful compliance with its rules.

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her impoverished district in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before, and survival is second nature for her. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. (courtesy of Scholastic)

Biography:

Suzanne Collins (Scholastic)

Suzanne Collins (Author webpage)

Suzanne Collins (Biography.com)

Suzanne Collins (Wikipedia)

Interviews:

Interview at Scholastic (Scholastic) video, 5 interviews in all

A Killer Story: An Interview with Suzanne Collins (School Library Journal) 

A Conversation with Suzanne Collins (B-Metro)

Interview with Kate Egan, Editor of The Hunger Games Trilogy (Sarah Laurence blog)

Reviews:

Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, VOYA, KLIATT, and Kirkus Reviews (Barnes & Noble) click on Editorial Reviews

Review at Dear Author (Dear Author) 

New York Times Review (New York Times)

Amazon Reviews (Amazon) 

Goodreads Reviews (Goodreads) 

Social Media:

Author’s Website

Hunger Games Official Facebook page (maintained by Scholastic)

General Sites:

The Hunger Games Website ( Scholastic)

Glossary for the Hunger Games series (Scholastic)

The Hunger Games (Wikipedia)

Hunger Games Wiki (Wikia)

Hunger Games Fandom (Hungergamesfandom.net)

Mockingjay.net : Your Source for The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins’s War Stories for Kids (NY Times)

Suzanne Collins: Hunger Games Author who Found Rich Pickings in Dystopia (Guardian/UK)

The Hunger Games Research Guide (Tulsa Community College Library)

The Kids’ Books Are All Right (New York Times)

A New and Popular Conversation: What Critics are Saying about The Hunger Games (University of Texas at Austin)

The Hunger Games Ranked 3rd on the ALA’s List of “Most Challenged Books” 2012 (DWTC Fansite)

Could The Hunger Games Really Happen (Tor)

The Hunger Games on Tor (Tor)

Themes, Analysis, Symbolism:

The Hunger Games Analysis (Schmoop)

The Hunger Games: Summary and Analysis (Grade Saver)

Summary and Analysis (Cliffs Notes)

The Hunger Games Themes (Schmoop)

Symbols in The Hunger Games: Katniss, The Mockingjay, and Humanity at Its Best (Tor)

Themes, Motifs and Symbols (SparkNotes)

A Literary Criticism of the Classical Themes and Allusions Found in The Hunger Games (University of Rhode Island) pdf

Unlocking The Hunger Games: The Surface, Moral, Allegorical, and Sublime Meanings (Hogwarts Professor)

What’s in a Name in The Hunger Games (Britannica Blog)

The Labyrinth of Crete: The Myth of the Minotaur (Explore Crete)

The Hunger Games Trilogy: Discussion Guide (Scholastic) pdf

The Odds Ever In Your Favor: Ideas and Resources for Teaching The Hunger Games (New York Times)

War, Violence, Power:

What Can We Learn About Violence and Culpability from The Hunger Games? (MovieFone)

The Hunger Games vs The Reality of War (Nuclear Age Peace Foundation)

Counterinsurgency and The Hunger Games (The New Yorker)

Hunger Games: Confronting Violence in Tween Books (Discover.com)

Power and Wealth in The Hunger Games (Feminism and Religion)

Stoicism:

Stoicism  (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Stoicism (Wikipedia)

Morality, Ethics, Empathy:

WWKD: The Moral and Ethical Issues of The Hunger Games (Tor)

Hunger Games: How Controversial Books Build ‘Empathy Muscles’ (Live Science)

Seeing Ourselves in The Hunger Games (Unitarian Universalists World)

Positive Lessons for Kids from The Hunger Games (Your Mind, Your Body)

Staging the Self: The Hunger Games (New York Times)

Talking to Your Kids about The Hunger Games (Psychology Today)

Five Lessons in Human Goodness from The Hunger Games (Greater Good Science Center)

Totalitarianism, Dystopias, Politics:

Totalitarianism (Wake Forest University)

Totalitarianism (Wikipedia)

Dystopias Can Be Beaten: The Hunger Games As a Dystopia in the Age of New Media (Tor)

Politics, Entertainment, and Deeper Meanings of The Hunger Games (University of Texas at Austin)

Political Themes Abound in The Hunger Games (NewsMax.com)

The Politics of The Hunger Games (Patheos)

Five Economic Lessons of The Hunger Games (Forbes)

Ancient Rome, Gladiators, Games:

Gladiators (PBS)

The Roman Gladiators (Able Media)

The Roman Gladiator (University of Chicago)

Gladiator (Wikipedia)

The Games (Roman Empire)

Roman Games (Grossmont College)

The Spectacle of Bloodshed in Roman Society (Illinois Wesleyan University) pdf

Bread and Circuses (Wikipedia)

Bread and Circuses (TV Tropes)

Bread and Circuses: The Hunger Games and Ancient Rome (Britannica Blog)

Reality TV & Celebrity Culture:

From Roman Games to Reality TV: Daniel Mendelsohn on Mass Entertainment and Imperial Politics (New York Public Library) audio

Panem et Circenses: The Myth of the Real in Reality TV (DWTC: A Hunger Games Fansite)

The Hunger Games and the Disruption of Reality TV (In Media Res)

Spectators at Gladiator Games: Are We Really So Different? (Daily Kos)

The Reality TV Obsession: A Psychological Investigation (Hired Power)

How a Kid-Lit Favorite is Really About Trash Television (Jezebel)

Is Celebrity Obsession Destroying Our Society? (Celebrity Cafe)

Social Class:

Social Class (Wikipedia)

People Like Us: Social Class in America (PBS)

Class Decides Everything (Salon)

Class Matters (New York Times)

Social Stratification in the United States (Connexions)

Class Conflict (Wikipedia)

Marx’s Revenge: How Class Struggle is Shaping the World (Time)

Hunger Games Movie:

The Hunger Games (Movie) (Internet Movie Database)

The Hunger Games Movie Explorer 

Casting The Hunger Games: In Praise of Katniss Everdeen (The Atlantic)

Heroes and Heroines:

Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, Part 1: The Hero’s Journey (The Hog’s Head)

The Heroes Journey Defined (University of Kentucky) pdf

A Radical Female Hero from Dystopia (New York Times)

Journey of a Strong Female Heroine: Katniss Everdeen (Fan Girl Blog)

What Makes a Hero (TED Ed) video

Further Readings:

15 Book Series to Read if you enjoyed The Hunger Games (BuzzFeed)

If You Liked The Hunger Games Flowchart (Lawrence Public Library, KS) pdf

Hunger No More: YA Fiction to Fill The Hunger Games Void (Tor) 

New Bad Future: Hunger Games Read-A- Likes (West Des Moines Public Library, IA) pdf

Five Books You’ll Love if You Liked The Hunger Games (Values and Capitalism)

If You Liked The Hunger Games…. (Marshall District Library, MI) pdf

Like The Hunger Games? Try These (Denver Public Library)

25 Series to Read if You Love The Hunger Games (2 Busy Brunettes)

The Hero’s Journey Booklist (Guilderland Central School District / NY) pdf

 Discussion Questions:

  1. The Hunger Games is told in the 1st person. How is this narrative style effective? Ineffective? What information do we lose by only seeing the story through Katniss’ eyes?
  2. Is Katniss a strong main character? Do you like her? Why, or why not?
  3. The characters of Katniss and Peeta are so different? Which did you like more? Which surprised you more? Why do you think Collins made Katniss the main character rather than Peeta? Do you think the characters’ backgrounds explain the differences between them?
  4. How has Katniss’ poverty shaped her?
  5. How does Katniss feel about the country of Panem? Why does she need to make her face “an indifferent mask” and be careful what she says in public?
  6. Is the reaping fair? Does the practice of tesserae have a significant effect on the outcome of the reaping? Would you accept tesserae so that your family could have more food?
  7. Were you surprised when Prim’s name was the one drawn during the reaping? Why did Katniss volunteer to take Prim’s place? Would you voluntarily enter the Games to save a family member?
  8. The day of the reaping, Katniss tells Gale that she never wants to have children. Is it just the Games that make her feel this way? Why do you think the citizens of Panem continue to have children knowing that those kids will one day face the reaping?
  9. Why are the “tributes” given stylists and dressed so elaborately for the opening ceremony? Does this remind you of ceremonies in our world, either past or present? 
  10. Why does the image of Katniss and Peeta on fire work so well? What message are Cinna and Portia trying to send the viewers of the Hunger Games?
  11. If Cinna weren’t such an awesome stylist, would that have hurt Katniss’ chance of winning the Games? Why or why not? How much of a tribute’s success is based on appearance versus skills?
  12. After the Games, how does Cinna’s strategy for Katniss’ style change? Does his clever work on her appearance help her survive outside of the arena?
  13. What is the significance of Katniss’ braided hair?
  14. What do the appearances, fashions, and personalities of the people of the Capitol say about what it means to be human and beautiful? What about the fashions and appearances of Katniss, Peeta, and others from District 12?
  15. When Peeta declares his love for Katniss, does he really mean it, or did Haymitch create the “star-crossed lovers” for the show?
  16. What does Haymitch mean when he says, “It’s all a big show. It’s all how you’re perceived”? Why do they need to impress sponsors and what are those sponsors looking for when they are watching the Games?
  17. Katniss feels ashamed when Peeta tells her, “…I want to die as myself…I don’t want then to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I’m not.” She had been worrying about survival not principles. Do Katniss and Peeta become monstrous during the Games? What does this comment tell you about Peeta? What does he fear more than death? Is he able to stay true to himself during the Games? How do Katniss and Peeta reach the point of making their stand at the end of the games, when they stake their survival on a principle?
  18. Why does Katniss ignore Haymitch’s advice to head directly away from the Cornucopia? Did she do the right thing to fight for equipment? What skills help Katniss stay alive? Her knowledge of nature? Her skill with the bow and arrow? Her trapping ability? What personality traits keep her going? Her intelligence? Her self-control? Her capacity for love?
  19. Why do Katniss and Rue become partners? What does Katniss gain from this friendship besides companionship? How does this partnership differ from the other groups?
  20. In what ways do the Gamemakers control the “entertainment” value of the Games? How does it affect the tributes to know they are being manipulated to make the Games more exciting for sponsors and viewers? 
  21. What did you think of the fact that they changed the rules partway through the Games to allow 2 winners from the same district?
  22. When does Katniss first realize that Peeta really does care for her and is trying to keep her alive? When does she realize her own feelings for him? Did Haymitch plan all along to keep them alive by stressing the love story? Are they actually in love?
  23. What is Peeta’s special skill? If Katniss weren’t in the Games, what kind of a chance would Peeta have of coming out alive?
  24. Discuss other cultures in history that have staged fights-to-the-death as entertainment. How are they similar to aspects of our popular culture today that are reflected in the story?
  25. Describe Katniss’s relationships with Gale, with Prim, and with her mother. How do those relationships define her personality? Why does she say about Peeta, “I feel like I owe him something, and I hate owing people.”? How does her early encounter with Peeta affect their relationship after they are chosen as tributes? 
  26. How does the fact that the tributes are always on camera affect their behavior from the time they are chosen? Does it make it easier or harder for them to accept their fate? How are the “career tributes” different from the others? How do you think your behavior would change if you knew that you were always being watched?
  27. Which character puts on the biggest show for the camera? Can you always tell when characters are being themselves versus trying to get sponsors?
  28. Why does Peeta join with the Career Tributes in the beginning of the Games? What does he hope to gain? Why do they accept him when they start hunting as a group? Why do groups form in the beginning when they know only one of them will be able to survive?
  29. What do you thing is the cruelest part of the Hunger Games? What kind of people would devise this spectacle for the entertainment of their populace? Can you see parallels between these Games and the society that condones them, and other related events and cultures in the history of the world?
  30. In 1848, Karl Marx wrote in The Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” Discuss this statement as it applies to the society and government of Panem. Do you believe there is any chance to eradicate class struggles in the future? 
  31. Reality TV has been a part of the entertainment world since the early days of television (with shows such as Candid Camera and the Miss America Pageant), but in the 21st century there has been a tremendous growth of competitive shows and survival shows. Discuss this phenomenon with respect to The Hunger Games. What other aspects of our popular culture do you see reflected in this story?
  32. Given the growing popularity of reality TV, do you think we can still tell what’s real and what’s been staged? What effect does this preference for spectacle have on our culture, communities, and homes?
  33. What is your favorite reality TV show (if you have one)? Why? How much of the show do you think actually is “reality”? How much of it is Katniss-style acting for the audience?
  34. Did The Hunger Games change the way you view American reality TV? Why or why not?’
  35. Why are all citizens of Panem required to watch the Hunger Games on television? How does this affect the people? Why haven’t they rebelled against the brutality of the Games?
  36. The name of Panem comes from the Roman quote, “Panem et circenses” — bread and games/bread and circuses. At the end of the Roman Empire, politicians were providing cheap food and entertainment to the populace in order to gain votes and rise in power. Juvenal lamented that “”in return for full bellies and entertainment, his people had given up their political responsibilities and therefore their power.” What is the effect of easy food and entertainment on the citizens of the Capitol? How does this society compare to that of the Roman Empire? Why do the districts in Panem have no concept of history before “The Dark Days”?
  37. What is the importance of the mockingjay pin that Madge gives Katniss?
  38. What is the significance of the bird motif throughout the novel? Which characters are most associated with birds, and what do these associations mean?
  39. What role do the Capitol’s muttations play in the novel?
  40. Why does Katniss mask her true emotions concerning Peeta and Gale throughout the Games compared to Peeta’s being so honest and natural about how he feels?
  41. How would you characterize the relationship between Haymitch and Katniss throughout the novel, especially after the Games?
  42. When Katniss and Peeta are named the District 12 tributes, she says she can’t think about killing him because he gave her burnt bread years ago and saved her life. What does this reveal about Katniss, her values, and the type of person she is?
  43. In Chapter 8, Katniss notes similarities and differences between Peeta and Gale. What could her comparison possibly foreshadow? How does this help further our understanding of her friendship with Gale?
  44. In Chapter 12, Katniss continues to distrust Peeta and Haymitch. Does this book relate in any way to the current state of the world and the United States? Does it give you any new ideas concerning war, revolution, patriotism, democracy, and “good wars” vs “bad wars”?
  45. Katniss uses the tracker jacker nest, another Capitol muttation, as a weapon against the Careers in Chapter 14. What is the significance of her actions, especially taking into consideration who showed her the nest and whom she uses the insects against?
  46. How would you characterize the way in which Katniss respects Rue during and after Rue’s death in Chapters 17 & 18? How do you think the Capitol views Katniss’ actions? What do you think her behavior means to Rue’s district?
  47. Why is it significant that Rue’s district sends Katniss a gift? How is this action special? Is it an act of rebellion?
  48. How does Rue’s death in Chapter 18 mark an important shift in attitude and strategy for Katniss?
  49. What role does being indebted to someone play in the novel?
  50. In Chapter 25, Katniss suggests to Peeta that they eat the poisonous berries to commit suicide to ensure the Capitol has no victor in the Games. What are some other instances of the Capitol’s creations being used against them throughout the novel?
  51. At the end of the book, Katniss is faced with a choice — to explain her true motivations for the berries or explain it away in a way that would be viewed more favorably by the audience. What did she choose? Do you agree with her choice?
  52. How was Katniss’ trick with the berries the greatest example of subverting the empire? What are other acts of civil disobedience that you can think of in our world?
  53. Why does Katniss feel like the true Hunger Games are just beginning in Chapter 26 & 27?
  54. Why does Katniss say that the post-games interview is the most dangerous part of the Games?
  55. Is Katniss consciously trying to be a rebel? Would she make a good rebel leader?
  56. Aside from Katniss, do we see any other characters rebelling or displaying hints of rebellion?
  57. On the train ride home, Peeta asks, “What do we do now?” Katniss responds, “We try to forget.” Do you think people who have killed and been targeted by other people can ever forget?
  58. Do you think Katniss and Peeta are the same people at the end of the Games as they were when they stepped into the arena? How have they changed? Why did they survive?
  59. By the end of the book, Katniss has grown from a determined stoic to a fuller human being — what brought about this change?
  60. What did you feel was the most emotional moment in the book? Which part was the hardest to read?
  61. Collins has said that The Hunger Games was inspired by the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, the Roman gladiators, reality TV games, and actual TV footage of young people at war? What is the strongest parallel you see between the events of The Hunger Games and our society or history?
  62. Violence as entertainment plays a large part in The Hunger Games, and the novel itself is both violent and entertaining. What shocked you the most about the book? What important points do you think the author makes about violence and its effects on society? violence in the media? violence and children?
  63. The adults in this book seem to be very flawed. Why do you think Collins portrays them this way? Katniss’ mother is one of the most important — do you think Katniss is too hard on her? What about other adults Katniss encounters?
  64. Nature is a large presence in the book. Is it an ally or an enemy? Are there periods of American history when we have regarded nature as one or the other? Have you seen changes in those attitudes in your own lifetime? Is nature or the animal world as much a part of our lives today?
  65. In a book about moral choices, God and religion never appear. Do you think they should have? What do you think are the book’s most religious elements?
  66. How would you compare the class oppression and tension that colors Panem with recent current events like the “Arab Spring” that continues a year after it started and the Occupy Wall Street movement? When is inequality too great to suffer anymore? What can ordinary citizens do in response?
  67. Why is it so wrong to have a room full of men sitting in safety deciding the fate of young people who are killing each other? Is that how our wars are fought?
  68. Is it any different today to watch young people fighting our wars for us than it is for Panem to cheer death in the Games? is it ever ok for teenagers to fight, or kill in real life? Why?
  69. The Hunger Games shows that good people can be especially cruel and violent if the situation allows for it or even demands it. The Games required some incredibly violent actions by people who were not “bad”. Discuss your thoughts on if and when violence and cruelty is deemed acceptable or just.
  70. There are so many issues to discuss in The Hunger Games. Which if any of these was most important to you: totalitarianism; reality TV; celebrity culture; violence in society and media; class and poverty; childhood and the effects of poverty, war, or hunger; competition; heroism and the hero’s quest; moral choice; coming of age; the value of human life.
  71. Science Fiction often gives warnings about dangerous trends in modern society. What warnings does The Hunger Games give about modern society?
  72. Why do you think The Hunger Games series is such a bestseller? What about it appeals to so many people?
  73. Do you think teens and adults respond to this book differently? What do you think your response says about your generation?
  74. Are you a Team Peeta or a Team Gale?
  75. Would you recommend this novel to a friend? Do you want to read the sequels? See the movies?

(Questions courtesy of the ScholasticCliffs Notes, the Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County, Alamance County Public LibrariesDavid Lose at In the MeantimeThe Peace Pastor at The Houston Chronicle , Schmoop)

Other books by Collins: Fire Proof (Mystery Files of Shelby Woo) —  Gregor the Overlander — Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods  — When Charlie McButton Lost Power — Gregor and the Marks of Secret Gregor and the Code of Claw Catching Fire (Hunger Games 2) —  Mockingjay (Hunger Games 3) — Year of the Jungle .

Recommendations (NoveList & other sources): Graceling by Kristin Cashore — Divergent by Veronica Roth — Enclave by Anne Aguirre– Uglies by Scott Westerfeld — Ender’s Game — by Orson Scott Card —  Eve by Anna Carey —  Maze Runner by James Dashner — Ready Player One by Ernest Cline — Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix — The Giver by Lois Lowry — Feed by Mira Grant– 1984 by George Orwell — Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury — Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood — Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick — Battle Royale by Koushun Takami — The Long Walk by Richard Bachman (Stephen King) —The Running Man by Richard Bachman (Stephen King) — The Girl Who Was on Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy by Leah Wilson, ed. —The Hunger Games Companion: The Unauthorized Guide to the Series by Lois Gresh — The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook by Emily Baines — The Hunger Games and Philosophy: A Critique of Pure Treason by George A. Dunn, ed. — Of Bread, Blood, and The Hunger Games: Critical Essays on the Suzanne Collins Trilogy by Mary F. Pharr, ed. — Approaching the Hunger Games Trilogy: A Literary and Cultural Analysis by Tom Henthorne.

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102 Minutes: The Unforgettable Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers (September 2013 discussion)

Courtesy of Times Books

Courtesy of Times Books

Jim Dwyer & Kevin Flynn

Summary:

The dramatic and moving account of the struggle for life inside the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, when every minute counted At 8:46 am on September 11, 2001, 14,000 people were inside the twin towers-reading e-mails, making trades, eating croissants at Windows on the World. Over the next 102 minutes, each would become part of a drama for the ages, one witnessed only by the people who lived it-until now. Of the millions of words written about this wrenching day, most were told from the outside looking in. New York Times reporters Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn have taken the opposite-and far more revealing-approach. Reported from the perspectives of those inside the towers, 102 Minutes captures the little-known stories of ordinary people who took extraordinary steps to save themselves and others. Beyond this stirring panorama stands investigative reporting of the first rank. An astounding number of people actually survived the plane impacts but were unable to escape, and the authors raise hard questions about building safety and tragic flaws in New York’s emergency preparedness. Dwyer and Flynn rely on hundreds of interviews with rescuers, thousands of pages of oral histories, and countless phone, e-mail, and emergency radio transcripts. They cross a bridge of voices to go inside the infernos, seeing cataclysm and heroism, one person at a time, to tell the affecting, authoritative saga of the men and women-the nearly 12,000 who escaped and the 2,749 who perished-as they made 102 minutes count as never before. (courtesy of Times Books)

Biography:

Jim Dwyer (Wikipedia)

Jim Dwyer (New York Times)

Kevin Flynn (Macmillan Publishers)

Interviews:

Dwyer & Flynn Interview (Barnes & Noble) 

Jim Dwyer: The Roots of 102 Minutes (YouTube) video

Jim Dwyer: The Stories of 102 Minutes (YouTube) video

An Interview with Kevin Flynn (Experience Talks Radio Show) audio 2/3 of way down the page under September 3rd

Reviews:

Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal & Booklist Reviews (Amazon)

Kirkus Review (Kirkus)

New York Times Review (New York Times)

Bloomsbury Review (The Bloomsbury Review) pdf

Review at Columbia Magazine (Columbia Magazine)

Review from the Baltimore Sun (The Baltimore Sun)

Amazon Reviews (Amazon)

Goodreads Reviews (Goodreads)

Social Media:

Jim Dwyer’s Twitter

General Sites:

Book Discussion on 102 Minutes (C-Span) video 

September 11 Attacks (Wikipedia)

9/11 Interactive Timeline (9/11 Memorial)

Inside the Towers (New York Times) some audio, click under MORE INTERACTIVES for a chronology

How the Towers Stood and Fell (New York Times) some audio

Report on the Collapse of the Twin Towers (New York Times)

The Emergency Response (New York Times)

September 11 Digital Archive (Center for History and New Media/American Social History Project)

September 11 News Archive (September11News.com)

Understanding 9/11: A Television News Archive (Internet Archive Moving Images Collection) video & audio

America Responds (PBS)

Articles about September 11, 2001 (New York Times) limited to 10 free articles per month

9/11 in Audio (Sounds, Interviews, Remembrances, etc.) (Sonic Memory Project) audio

Portraits of Grief (New York Times)

September 11: A Memorial (CNN)

Voices of September 11th 

September 11: Tell Your Story  (Smithsonian Institution)

Where We Were: Stories and Testimonials about September 11, 2001

Object List, Witness & Response Exhibition (Library of Congress)

September 11: Bearing Witness to History (Smithsonian Institution)

Voices of 9/11 (Here is New York) video

Remember September 11 (Legacy.com)

Remembering 9/11 (National Geographic)

A 9.11 Moment (Independent Television Service)

The Falling Man (Esquire)

The Spiritual Fallout of 9/11 (Minnesota Public Radio) audio

Crisis behavior is a mystery: A new 9/11 study renews focus on why some act and others don’t in an emergency (The Inquirer, Philadelphia)

The Road Through 9/11: A Chronology (Early 20th Century Timelines)

9/11: Reflecting, Teaching, and Learning About (Voices Compassionate Education)

9/11 from The Change Agent  (New England Literacy Resource Center) pdf

Understanding America after 9/11: Specials and Documentaries (Corporation for Public Broadcasting)

The Center of the World: New York  (American Experience/PBS)

Memorials & Organizations:

9/11 Memorial

Pentagon Memorial 

Flight 93 National Memorial (National Park Service)

9/11 Tribute Center 

World Trade Center Survivors’ Network

9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows 

September 11 Organizations (World Trade Center Survivors’ Network)

9/11 Organizations (Voices of September 11th)

Project Rebirth

9/11 Day of Service 

Afterwards:

September 11: A Decade Later (Reuters)

A Decade after 9/11 (Wall Street Journal)

The Reckoning: America and the World a Decade after 9/11 (New York Times)

Beyond 9/11 Portraits of Resilience (Time Magazine)

How 9/11 Changed Us: Person by Person (USA Today)

America Rebuilds: A Year at Ground Zero (PBS)

World Trade Center Reborn (History.com)

A discussion about the redevelopment effort at the World Trade Center site; Michael Arad, 9/11 Memorial Architect (Charlie Rose) video

Further Readings:

The Essential 9-11 Bibliography (PBS)

Books About 9/11 (The Washington Post)

September 11  Bibliography  (Books for Understanding)

Remembering 9/11 (Barnes & Noble) 

Discussion Questions:

No questions available

Other books by Dwyer:  — Subway Lives: 24 Hours in the Life of the New York City Subway — Two Seconds Under the World: Terror Comes to America — The Conspiracy Behind the World Trade Center Bombing (co-author) — Actual Innocence: When Justice Goes Wrong and How to Make it Right  (co-author).

Recommendations (NoveList & other sources): Portraits 9-11-01: the Collected “Portraits of Grief” from The New York Times  — 9-11 Commission Report  — The 9-11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation by Sidney Jacobson — Report from Ground Zero: The Story of the Rescue Efforts at the World Trade Center by Dennis Smith– Heart of a Soldier  by James B. Stewart– Last Man Down: A Firefighter’s Story of Survival and Escape from the World Trade Center  by Richard Picciotto —  Book of Mychal: the Surprising Life and Heroic Death of Father Mychal Judge by Michael Daly — Thunder Dog: the True Story of a Blind Man, His Guide Dog, and the Triumph of Trust at Ground Zero by Michael Hingson — Firehouse by David Halberstam — Never Forget: An Oral History of September 11, 2001 by Mitchell Fink — Out of the Blue: the Story of September 11, 2001 from Jihad to Ground Zero by Richard Bernstein — On Top of the World: Cantor Fitzgerald, Howard Lutnick, and 9-11: a Story of Loss and Renewal by Howard Lutnick– Love, Greg and Lauren: A Powerful True Story of Courage, Hope and Survival by Greg Manning — America: Out of the Ashes  — Middletown, America: One Town’s Passage from Trauma to Hope by Gail Sheehy — A Decade of Hope: Stories of Grief and Endurance from 9/11 Families and Friends by Dennis Smith — September 11: An Oral History Love You, Mean It: a True Story of Love, Loss, and Friendship  — Watching the World Change: The Stories Behind the Images of 9/11 by David Friend — A Widow’s Walk by Marian Fontana — Where You Left Me by Jennifer Gardner Trulson — Reluctant Hero: a 9/11 Survivor Speaks Out… by Michael Benfante — Project Rebirth: Survival and the Strength of the Human Spirit from 9/11 Survivors by Robin Stern — The Legacy Letters: Messages of Life and Hope from 9/11 Family Members  — Until the Fires Stopped Burning: 9/11 and New York City in the Words and Experiences of Survivors and Witnesses by Charles B. Strozier — The Tower Stories: an Oral History of 9/11 — Strong of Heart: Life and Death in the Fire Department of New York by Thomas Von Essen — The Alchemy of Loss: a Young Widow’s Transformation by Abigail Carter — American Widow by Alissa Torres — September Morning: Ten years of Poems and Readings from the 9/11 Ceremonies: New York City — 9/11: The World Speaks — The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede — Dead Center: Behind the Scenes at the World’s Largest Medical Examiner’s Office by Shiya Ribowsky — What’s Life Worth: the Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11 by Kenneth R. Feinberg — Closure: The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Recovery Mission by William Keegan, Jr. — American Ground: Unbuilding the World Trade Center by William Langewiesche — Nine Months at Ground Zero: the Story of the Brotherhood of Workers Who Took on a Job Like No Other by Glenn Stout — After: How America Confronted the September 12 Era by Steven Brill — 9-11 by Noam Chomsky — Up From Zero: Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York by Paul Goldberger — Understanding September 11 — Longitudes and Attitudes: Exploring the World after September 11  by Thomas L. Friedman — Perfect Soldiers: The 9-11 Hijackers: Who They Were, Why They Did It by Terry McDermott — After the Fall: New Yorkers Remember September 2001 and the Years that Followed — Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11 by Gerald L. Posner — The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright– City in the Sky: The Rise and Fall of the World Trade Center  by James Glanz– Among the Heroes: United Flight 93 and the Passengers and Crew Who Fought Back by Jere Longman — Let’s Roll: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Courage by Lisa Beamer — Firefight: Inside the Battle to Save the Pentagon on 9/11 by Patrick Creed — 110 Stories: New York Writes after September 11   —  9-11: Artists Respond — 9-11: The World’s Finest Comic Book Writers and Artists Tell Stories to Remember  Falling Man by Don DeLillo — Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Foer — The Submission by Amy Waldman — Windows on the World by Frederic Beigbeder — The Writing on the Wall by Lynne Sharon Schwartz — The Year That Follows by Scott Lasser — Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah — Absent Friends by S. J. Rozen — The Good Life by Jay McInerney — One Tuesday Morning by Karen Kingsbury. 

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Silent in the Grave (August 2013 discussion)

Courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA Books

Courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA Books

Deanna Raybourn

Summary:

“Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave.”  These ominous words are the last threat that Sir Edward Grey receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, he collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests.  Prepared to accept that Edward’s death was due to a long-standing physical infirmity, Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that her husband was murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers damning evidence for herself, and realizes the truth. Determined to bring the murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward’s demise. Dismissing his warnings that the investigation will be difficult, if not impossible, Julia presses forward, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival. (courtesy of Harlequin/Mira Books)

Biography:

Deanna Raybourn (Author’s Website)

Interviews:

Deanna Raybourn on Silent in the Grave (Mira) audio interview starts at time mark 2:44

Deanna Raybourn Interview (BookReporter)

Deanna Raybourn Interview (Barnes & Noble) 

Deanna Raybourn Interview (History Buff)

A Step Back in Time with Deanna Raybourn (Women on Writing) 

Interview with Deanna Raybourn (Me and My Big Mouth Blog)

Deanna Raybourn Interview (The Reading Frenzy Blog) 

Deanna Raybourn Interview (Reading the Past)

20 Questions with Deanna Raybourn (All the World’s Our Page Blog) 

Deanna Raybourn on her Lady Julia Grey Series (BookYurt Blog)

Reviews:

Publisher’s Weekly and Kirkus Reviews (Barnes & Noble)

Review at The Book Smugglers (Book Smugglers Blog)

Review at Historical Novels (Historical Novels)

Amazon Reviews (Amazon)

Goodreads Reviews (Goodreads)

Social Media:

Author’s Website   

Author’s Facebook

Author’s Twitter

Author’s Blog 

Author’s GoodReads Page

General Sites:

Deanna Raybourn Update on the Lady Julia Grey Mysteries (Harlequin Books via YouTube) video SPOILERS

Author Deanna Raybourn Shares Her Summer Reading Program Memories (NorthWest Akron Branch Library)

Victorian Crime & Investigation:

Policing in London (Proceedings of the Old Bailey)

Victorian Crime and Punishment 

Crime Prevention (National Archives, Britain)

Victorian Police and Prisons (LearnHistory via YouTube) video

Crime and the Victorians (BBC)

Gender and Crime (Proceedings of the Old Bailey)

Wayward Women: Victorian England’s Female Offenders

Victorian Poisoners (Historic UK)

Arsenic: The Victorian Viagra that Poisoned Britain (Canadian Content)

Poison in Victorian Britain: Accidental Murder, Death Club, Death in the Pot, Corpse Candles, Death on the Walls (Author Grace Elliot)

Classic Poisons (H2G2)

Victorian Mourning:

Victorian Mourning Etiquette (Author Tracy Chevalier’s Website)

Remembering A Loved One With Mourning Jewelry (Victorian Hairwork Society) 

Victorian Mourning Jewelry and Eye Miniatures (Barbara Warn via Pinterest)

Victorian Etiquette for Funerals (Victoriana Magazine)

Victorian Mourning & Funeral Customs (Victoriana Magazine)

Victorian Mourning Customs from Collier’s Cyclopedia (Quilt History)

The Story of Victorian Funeral Cookies (Historic Camden County)

Victorian Vice:

Sex, Drugs & Music Hall (BBC)

Opium Dens and Opium Usage in Victorian England (Victorian History)

Victorian Obsession: Opium (Author Y. S. Lee)

What Opium Smoking Feels Like (Cat’s Meat Shop)

Victorian London’s Drug Culture (All In London)

Absinthe (Pennington Edition)

Absinthe (Unlacing the Victorians)

Absinthe FAQ (Virtual Absinthe Museum)

The Hellfire Club (Wikipedia)

Secrets of the Hellfire Club

Victorian Prostitution:

Prostitution in Victorian England (Victorian Web)

The Great Social Evil: Victorian Prostitution (University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh)

Prostitution in Victorian England (Revisiting Dickens)

Prostitutes Part 1 & Part 2 (Unlacing the Victorians)

Prostitution: Then and Now (Hepatitis and AIDS Research Trust)

The Madonna and the Whore: The Victorian Wife and the Victorian Prostitute (Lourdes College) pdf

Victorian Politics & Reform:

The Difference Between Tories and Whigs (EHow)

Whigs (Wikipedia)

Tories (Wikipedia)

Radicals (Wikipedia)

Reforming Acts (BBC)

MP [Member of Parliament]The House of Commons  & The House of Lords (Wikipedia)

Annie Besant (Spartacus Educational)

John Stuart Mill (Spartacus Educational)

Mary Wollstonecraft (Spartacus Educational)

Victorian Fashion:

Victorian Fashion (Victoriana Magazine)

Victorian Fashion Links (Costumer’s Manifesto)

19th Century Fashion (Victoria & Albert Museum)

What Victorians Wore (Victorian Web)

Early Victorian Undergarments:Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 (Kate Tattersall)

Men’s Formal Wear: Early/Mid-Victorian, Late Victorian [Part 1 & Part 2(Black Tie Guide)

Victorian Life:

Articles & Illustrations from Victorian Books & Magazines (Mostly Victorian)

The Dictionary of Victorian London (Victorian London)

Learning Victorians (British Library)

The Victorian Age (A Victorian)

Crowns, Pounds, & Guineas: A Quick Guide to British Currency (All About Romance)

Late Victorian Coinage (Stadium Magazine)

Victorian Servants (All Things Bright & Beautiful)

Victorian Domestic Servant Hierarchy & Wages (This and That)

The Servants (All About Romance)

The Victorian Bedroom (Back in My Time)

Gender & Sexuality in the 19th Century (Victoria & Albert Museum)

Coming Out: The London Season (Kate Tattersall)

The London Season (The History Box)

The Victorian House Party (All About Romance)

The Victorian Ball (Victoriana Magazine)

You’re Dead to Me: The Victorian Art of the Cut Direct (Author Juliet Moore)

Calling and Calling Cards (Castle Falkenstein)

Development of Victorian Morality (English Epochs 101)

The Worst Jobs in History, The Victorian Age: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 (Channel 4, BBC via YouTube) video

The Malodorous Metropolis (Victorian History)

Victorian Medicine:

Victorian Medicine: From Fluke to Theory (BBC)

Health & Medicine in the 19th Century (Victoria & Albert Museum)

The Quack Doctor: Historical Remedies for all Your Ills

 19th Century British Medicine and Public Health (Victorian Web)

Doctor Death: Poison in Victorian Britain (Author Grace Elliot)

Victorian Remedies: Of Course It’s Safe! (Pennington Edition)

The Physician in the 19th Century (Jane Austen’s World)

Medical Doctors in the Victorian Era (Steampunk Tribune)

Body Snatching (Jane Austen’s World)

Grave Matters: The Body Snatchers Unearthed (The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice) 

Body Snatching: A Grave Medical Problem (National Center for Biotechnology Information) pdf

Victorian Transportation:

Victorian Transport (The Ocular Helmsman)

Getting Around: Carriages in Regency and Victorian Times (All About Romance)

Transport and Carriages in the Victorian Era (Horse Canada)

The Case of the “Growler” and the Handsome Hansom (Victorian History)

The Railway in Victorian England (Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore)

Tower Ravens:

Ravens of the Tower of London (Wikipedia)

Meet the Ravens (Historic Royal Palaces) video   Scroll halfway down the page and click on “View our ‘Meet the Ravens’ video”

Gypsies (Roma):

Gypsies & Travellers (Proceedings of the Old Bailey)

London’s Romany Gypsies (Culture 24)

Gypsies and Travellers (Travellers Times) pdf

Romany Roots  (BBC)

Romanichal (Wikipedia)

Romani People (Wikipedia)

Reading Tea Leaves:

How to Read Tea Leaves (Tasseomancy) (Tasseography.com)

Reading Tea Leaves (Reading Tea Leaves.info)

Further Readings:

Bibliography (Victorian Studies)

19th Century Mysteries (Stop You’re Killing Me) 

Murder by Gaslight: Mystery Fiction Set in the Victorian Era (Lincoln City Libraries, NB)

19th Century Historical Mysteries  (Crime Thru Time)

Victorian Mysteries (Historical Mystery Fiction)

Popular Victorian Mystery Books (GoodReads) 

 Discussion Questions:

1. Julia Grey was born into a large family of wealth and privilege. How do the Marches resist the confines and expectations of Victorian society? Are they always successful?

2. Families such as the Marches relied heavily upon numerous servants to handle the day to day operation of their homes. Discreet and diplomatic servants were invaluable. How do you think Aquinas, Morag and Monk acquitted themselves? Would you hire them?

3. As an arrangement between friends rather than a love match, Edward and Julia’s marriage was typical of the time. Do you suppose Edward was happy with the arrangement? Can you think of modern examples of , or reasons for, such a match?

4. How is Julia’s role within her marriage reflected in the setting of Grey House? Contrast the setting of Grey House with that of Nicholas Brisbane’s rooms in Chapel Street.

5. The book covers a murder investigation but also a woman’s journey as she discovers her authentic self. Describe the most important ways Julia begins to know herself. Could she have known any of these things while married to Edward?

6. At the heart of the book is Julia’s relationship with two archetypal men: Edward and Nicholas. Compare and contrast these relationships. Is there one important thing that each man may have given Julia?

7. The happiest relationships in this book are not conventional ones. Discuss characters who seem to have found personal happiness, and why this is so. 

8. Nicholas struggles with flashes of precognition. Is this ability a gift or a curse? How could he have made better use of it? 

9. What drives Nicholas? What sort of man is he? How does he differ from the other men in Julia’s life? 

10. Given their characters, histories, and status, is a romantic relationship between Julia and Nicholas sustainable? 

11. The motive behind Edward’s murder is jealousy. Would you consider this a crime of passion? Is it possible to kill someone you truly love??

12. There are numerous and engaging secondary characters in this novel — including a bird! Which of these characters did you most enjoy, and why?

13. Death had its own culture in Victorian England. How does this culture differ from modern times? Discuss a few of the customs referred to in the book. Who or what do you think was the genesis of these conventions?

14. Despite the serious nature of the subject, this story is written with a great deal of humor and wit. Describe one scene that you found particularly amusing.

15. Given the drawbacks of living in Victorian England, and the privileges of wealth and good birth, would you trade places with Julia?

(Questions courtesy of the author and publisher)

Other books by Raybourn: Silent in the Sanctuary — Silent on the Moor — The Dead Travel Fast Dark Road to Darjeeling — The Dark Enquiry Silent Night (Novella, E-book only) Far in the Wilds (Novella, E-book only)  A Spear of Summer Grass.

Recommendations (NoveList & other sources): And Only to Decieve by Tasha Alexander — Cater Street Hangman by Anne Perry — The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry– A Beautiful Blue Death  by Charles Finch– Murder on Astor Place  by Victoria Thompson —  Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear — Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross — The Hanover Square Affair by Ashley Gardner — A Flaw in the Blood by Stephanie Barron — Blind Justice by Bruce Alexander — A Foreign Affair by Caro Peacock– Daughter of the Game by Tracy Grant — Death at Bishop’s Keep by Robin Paige — What Angels Fear by C. S. Harris — Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters — Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood — Murphy’s Law by Rhys Bowen — The Strange Files of Freemont Jones by Dianne Day — The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King — A Wicked Way to Burn by Margaret Miles — Murder on the Lusitania by Conrad Allen — The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas — Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas — A Conspiracy of Violence by Susanna Gregory — Hawkwood by James McGee — The Crimson Cavalier by Mary Andrea Clarke — Gallow’s Thief by Bernard Cornwell — The Tomb of Zeus by Barbara Cleverly — Deadly Love by Brenda Joyce — Duke’s Agent by Rebecca Jenkins — The Mermaid in the Basement by Gilbert Morris — Mr. Timothy by Louis Bayard — The Conjurer by Cordelia Frances Biddle — The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig — Wobble to Death by Peter Lovesey — The Three-Body Problem by Catherine Shaw — The Yard by Alex Grecian — Sister Beneath the Sheet by Gillian Linscott — Room With a Clue by Kate Kingsbury — Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin The Rose in the Wheel  by S. K. Rizzolo — Lord John and the Private Matter by Diana Gabaldon — The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.

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The Help (July 2013 discussion)

Courtesy of Penguin Group USA

Courtesy of Penguin Group USA

Kathryn Stockett

Summary:

Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi, who’s always taken orders quietly, but lately she’s unable to hold her bitterness back. Her friend Minny has never held her tongue but now must somehow keep secrets about her employer that leave her speechless. White socialite Skeeter just graduated college. She’s full of ambition, but without a husband, she’s considered a failure. Together, these seemingly different women join together to write a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South, that could forever alter their destinies and the life of a small town… (courtesy of Penguin Group USA)

Biography:

Kathryn Stockett (Wikipedia)

Interviews:

Kathryn Stockett in Her Own Words (Penguin Group)

Q & A with Kathryn Stockett (Time Magazine) 

The Maid’s Tale: Kathryn Stockett Examines Slavery and Racism in America’s Deep South (The Telegraph)

Kathryn Stockett Interview (The Guardian)

Sissy Spacek Interview with Kathryn Stockett Part 1 & Part 2(Barnes & Noble via YouTube) video

Katie Couric Interviews Kathryn Stockett (CBS News) video

Kathryn Stockett: Life in the Belle Jar (Creative Loafing Atlanta) 

Reviews:

Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews (Falvey Memorial Library, Villanova University)

Review at Christian Science Monitor ( Christian Science Monitor)

Racial Insults and Quiet Bravery in 1960s Mississippi (New York Times)

Amazon Reviews (Amazon)

Goodreads Reviews (Goodreads)

Social Media:

Author’s Website   

Author’s Facebook (updates made by Octavia Spencer, not the author) updated infrequently

Author’s Twitter (updated very infrequently)

General Sites:

Kathryn Stockett’s The Help Turned Down 60 Times Before Becoming a Best Seller (More magazine)

Jackson, Mississippi Residents Feel the Weight of a Legacy of Racial Struggles in “The Help (Times-Picayune, New Orleans)

Jackson Residents Reflect on Relations Beyond The Help Lens (Los Angeles Times)

Katie Couric Interviews Jackson, Mississippi Book Club about The Help (CBS News) video

Times Haven’t Changed for “The Help” of Today (We News)

Controversy:

A Maid Sees Herself in a Novel, and Objects (New York Times)

The Help Lawsuit Decision is Sought (Times Union, NY)

Her Family Hired Me as a Maid for 12 Years but Then She Stole my Life and Made it a Disney Movie (Daily Mail / UK)

The Help Spawns A Lawsuit And A Question: How Much Borrowing Is Fair? (NPR)

The Real Housewives of Jackson, Mississippi circa 1960 (A Critical Review of The Help Blog)

Letters to the Editor, 1963 and 1964 (A Critical Review of The Help Blog)

Kathryn Stockett is Not My Sister and I am Not Her Help (The Feminist Wire)

The Dirty Secrets of The Help (Salon)

An Open Statement to the Fans of The Help (Association of Black Women Historians)

We Just Can’t Avoid The Help (Racialicious Blog)

2 Historians on The Help (University of North Carolina Press)

Civil Rights:

Civil Rights Digital Library (University System of Georgia)

Timeline of the African-American Civil Rights Movement (Wikipedia)

Civil Rights Movement (Wikipedia)

Civil Rights Movement Veterans

Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Movement 1954-1985 (PBS)

The Civil Rights Movement (Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History)

James Meredith (Spartacus Educational)

Ole Miss: 40 Years Later (NPR) audio

State of Siege: Mississippi Whites and the Civil Rights Movement(American Radioworks)

The Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi (Mississippi Truth Project)

Freedom Summer Murders (Wikipedia)

Freedom Summer’s Agony Revisited (NBC)

Freedom Summer (Ohio History Central)

Medgar Evers:

Medgar Evers (NAACP)

A Tribute to Medgar Evers (Mississippi Public Broadcasting)

Medgar Evers: How His Legacy Shaped the Civil Rights Movement (CBS) video

Medgar Evers and the Origin of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi (Mississippi Historical Society)

Exposing the Secrets of Mississippi Racism (American Journalism Review)

For Medgar Evers’ Widow, Husband’s Legacy Trumps Personal Bitterness (CBS)

Medgar Evers 50 Years Later (On Point with Tom Ashbrook) audio

Jim Crow Laws:

Jim Crow Laws (Wikipedia)

What Was Jim Crow? (Ferris State University)

List of Jim Crow Laws — Examples by State (Wikipedia)

Jim Crow Laws (National Park Service) 

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow (PBS) 

Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South (Duke University)

Remembering Jim Crow (American Radioworks) 

People/Places/Things Mentioned in The Help:

Tougaloo College (Wikipedia)

Tougaloo College and the State of Mississippi (Brown University)

Emmett Till (Wikipedia)

The Murder of Emmett Till (PBS)

The Emmett Till Murder

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Wikipedia)

Birmingham Church Bombing (Wikipedia)

Ku Klux Klan (Wikipedia)

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (Wikipedia)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Wikipedia)

Bob Dylan (Rolling Stone)

The Times, They Are A-Changin’ (Bob Dylan Official Website)

Daughters of the American Revolution (Wikipedia)

Little Known Black History Fact: Daughters of the American Revolution (Black America Web)

Association of Junior Leagues, International (How Stuff Works)

1960s Consumers Wanted to be Cool (ACHR News)

My Favorite Martian (Wikipedia)

Memphis Minnie (Wikipedia)

Patsy Cline (Wikipedia)

L’il Rascals [also known as Our Gang] (Wikipedia)

Our Gang (the L’il Rascals) Episodes (Heustess Family Website)

“It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (Wikipedia)

Life Magazine Issues from 1936-1972 [full content] (Google Books)

Film:

“The Help” Official Site (DreamWorks Studio)

“The Help” (Internet Movie Database)

“The Help” (Wikipedia)

“The Help” Chronicles: Tate Taylor Recalls His Mississippi Past in Film of 60s Race-Themed Bestseller (Film Journal International)

How We Made “The Help” (The Daily Beast)

“The Help” Draws Audiences, and Ire (NPR) 

The Solace of Preparing Fried Foods and Other Quaint Remembrances From 1960s Mississippi: Thoughts on “The Help” (The Rumpus)

Is “The Help” the Most Loathsome Movie in America? (Time)

For Colored Only? Understanding “The Help” Through the Lens of White Womanhood (Chronicle of Higher Education)

How the Movie “The Help” Inspires All Women to Do Better (News One for Black America)

Is “The Help” Heroic or Stereotyping? (CNN)

In Perspective: Confronting our Racial History with “The Help” (PBS) video

Mississippi: The Filming Locations of “the Help” (LocationsHub)

“The Help” : Southern Foods (Food & Wine)

Further Readings:

Civil Rights Movement Bibliography (Winter Institute) pdf

Civil Rights Movement Veterans — Bibliography (Civil Rights Movement Veterans)

Oral History Interviews on the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi — A Bibliography (University of Southern Mississippi)

Fiction and Non-Fiction Bibliography if You Like The Help (St. Charles Public Library, IL)

 Discussion Questions:

  1. Who was your favorite character? Why? Were there any characters that you absolutely could not stand? Why?
  2. Who did you relate to most in the book? Why?
  3. Do you recognize any of the characters in yourself or in people you know?
  4. Which character’s narration did you prefer? Why?
  5. Which character – aside from Skeeter, Aibileen, or Minny – would you most like to narrate a chapter?
  6. Between Aibileen and Minny, who did you like more and why?
  7. What was your favorite scene in the novel?
  8. Why do you think that Skeeter wants to write The Help?
  9. Elaine Stein, the New York literary agent, tells Skeeter, “Don’t waste your time on obvious things. Write about what disturbs you; particularly if it seems to bother no one else”  — Do you think that was good advice?  If you were going to follow Stein’s advice, what would you write about?
  10. How does Yule May’s imprisonment affect the black community? Why is it the catalyst that drives the maids to agree to talk to Skeeter?
  11. What do you think motivated Hilly? On the one hand she is terribly cruel to Aibileen and her own help, as well as to Skeeter once she realizes that she can’t control her. Yet she’s a wonderful mother. Do you think that one can be a good mother but, at the same time, a deeply flawed person?
  12. Hilly is only in her early twenties. Is it possible that she’ll change her mind about black people? What could make her change?
  13. Like Hilly, Skeeter’s mother is prime example of someone deeply flawed yet somewhat sympathetic. She seems to care for Skeeter — and she also seems to have very real feelings for Constantine. Yet the ultimatum she gives to Constantine is untenable; and most of her interaction with Skeeter is critical. Do you think Skeeter’s mother is a sympathetic or unsympathetic character? Why?
  14. Did you anticipate the respect that some women expressed about their help? i.e. Louvinia and Lou Anne.
  15. Did it bother you that Skeeter is willing to overlook so many of Stuart’s faults so that she can get married, and that it is not until he literally gets up and walks away that the engagement falls apart?
  16. Did you hope that they would eventually be together or were you glad to see him go? Did you agree with the explanation of her feelings about the relationship?
  17. The author manages to paint Aibileen with a quiet grace and an aura of wisdom about her. How do you think she does this?
  18. In Chapter 1, Aibileen reveals that after Treelore’s death, she became bitter about the work she does for white families. Why?
  19. How does Aibileen see the children that she raises?
  20. Do you believe that Minny was justified in her distrust of white people?
  21. How did working for Celia and Johnny change Minny?
  22. What was your reaction when Minny revealed the “Terrible Awful” to Celia?  Would you consider it to be an act of violence? Why or why not? Did Hilly deserve it? Do you think it provides some sense of justice for Minny and the other maids in town? Would you have gone as far as Minny did for revenge?
  23. Did you think Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny were going to get caught? Would you have taken this risk to stand up for what you believe in or just left it alone?
  24. Skeeter seems naive about the danger she places herself and the maids into while writing the book. Do you think she is blinded by her ambitions or genuinely unaware of the risks she is taking?
  25. In Chapter 6, Skeeter tries to find out what happened to her maid, Constantine, and she is told that she went to live with her people back in Chicago. She then learns that Constantine was fired. Later on in the book, Skeeter finally learns what happened to Constantine. Had you already figured out what happened or were you surprised?
  26. All the white women seem to be reading The Help, but everything is not going according to how Minny and Skeeter thought it would go. Instead, everyone is saying that the book is about Jackson and maids are getting fired left and right. Do you think Skeeter, Aibileen, and Minny made a mistake by writing the book? Why or why not?
  27. What do you think happened to Aibileen, Minny and Skeeter after the story ended?
  28. What were your thought on the ending? Did feel satisfied or did you want an epilogue to know what happened in the end to each of the characters?
  29. What role does class play in The Help? What does the treatment of Celia (the “white trash” woman) who wants to be accepted tell us about social class in the society of that time and place? Is class still a factor in how people are portrayed and treated in current American society, in the news, in films, and in television?
  30. Hilly and the other women in the Junior League are all fairly wealthy and college-educated women. Celia Rae Foote is from Sugar Ditch, a very poor area of Mississippi, and is not received well by the other women. Kathryn Stockett said “I wanted to create a character who is so poor that they’re beyond prejudice.” What do you believe Stockett means by this statement? Do you believe that this statement is accurate?
  31. How does Celia’s past poverty influence her views on social class? Does she get over wanting to join Hilly and the gang by the end of the novel?
  32. What does Celia reveal about Jackson society?
  33. Why did Skeeter essentially turn her back on her upbringing?  In what ways did Skeeter still embrace certain social expectations?
  34. What does the friendship between Hilly and Skeeter reveal about Jackson society?
  35. How much of a person’s character would you say is shaped by the times in which they live? What other factors shape people? Can people’s ideas evolve? How?
  36. Should a person’s flaws (such as racist attitudes and actions) be excused because of community norms or the times in which they lived? Do you think the characters of Miss Hilly, Miss Elizabeth and Skeeter’s mother (Charlotte Phelan) were consciously aware of their racism? Does our society, the community or church support a corresponding conscious or unconscious bigotry or intolerances today?
  37. What role does gender have in the story line of The Help? What are the strengths and limitations of female roles in 1961 Mississippi? Do the female characters challenge and/or reinforce stereotypes? What role do men play in the story?
  38. Who has power among these women, what kind of power, and how do they use it?
  39. Aibileen tells Skeeter that if the truth about the book comes out there will be terrible consequences. She says, “A white lady do things different than a white man.” How does a white woman exert her power over people in this book? Do you think it is just as vicious as a man?
  40. One historian said The Help doesn’t represent the relentless sexual harrassment that African-American female domestics faced regularly from many white male employers. Should this have been an element in The Help? What would it have added, or detracted, from this story?
  41. How do you feel about the portrayal of domestic violence in the novel?  Does it appear to be presented in a manner consistent with the ‘good vs. bad’ feel of the rest of the novel?
  42. Why does Minny stay with Leroy for so long, even though he makes their home a place of violence and tension? What gives her the strength to finally change her mind?
  43. Why does Minny love Leroy, even after he’s beaten her for so many years? Does she still love him when she leaves him?
  44. What kind of options did a black woman have if she wanted to escape her abusive husband in 1964? Has much changed since this time – for either white or African American women?
  45. Did you expect the friend relationships (i.e., Celia and Minny, Aibileen and Skeeter) to develop that did?
  46. Were the friendships that formed in the book realistic? In particular, consider the friendship between Skeeter and Aibileen and between Celia and Minny. In light of the culture in Mississippi at the time, do you think that these were “equal” relationships?
  47. What was the role of motherhood in The Help? How do you think that each of the maternal relationships added to the plot? How did the interactions between mothers and daughters (i.e., Elizabeth and her mother, Elizabeth and Mae Mobley, Skeeter and her mother, Hilly and her children) contribute to (or detract from) the social climate depicted in the book? Who were the real mothers in the book?
  48. Aibileen reflects on how the outside appearance of Miss Leefolt as a loving mother does not parallel her actions toward Mae Mobley in the privacy of the Leefolt home. According to Aibileen, family secrets like this are known only by the help. Do you think that knowing these secrets makes the help vulnerable or powerful? Why?
  49. Miss Hilly is quoted by Pascagoula as saying “That a true Christian don’t give charity to those who is well and able. Say it’s kinder to let them learn to work things out theyselves.” Do you agree? Does your belief apply to those who are on welfare, food stamps, extended unemployment benefits or Medicaid?
  50. Were you embarrassed by the way people behaved in Mississippi in the 1960s? In particular, the white women?
  51. Do you think the book was true to what life was like in Mississippi in the early 1960’s?
  52. Does the novel reinforce stereotypes about the civil rights movement, the South and racism?
  53. Do you think that Skeeter understands racism differently than the other white characters? Do you think she was influenced by her mother’s and father’s attitudes towards blacks?
  54. The Help makes reference to The Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison.  In what ways were the African American characters in the book “invisible?”
  55. Most of the white people in Jackson, Mississippi seem blind to the injustice of racism and to the daily assaults on the human dignity of the African-Americans in their community, a situation that was historically true. Why do members of a society often have blinders on when it comes to injustice in their midst? Is that kind of blindness a reality that exists in any parts of our society today? What does it take to help people discern injustice “where they live,” as the saying goes?
  56. Celia doesn’t even seem aware of false stereotypes about black people. Why?
  57. Why is Lulabelle, who looks white, but comes from a black family, ostracized by both the black and white communities? What impact does Lulabelle’s appearance have on her identity? Why is Charlotte so offended that Lulabelle pretends to be white by going to a DAR meeting?
  58. Explore the hypocrisy in working to help starving children in Africa, while not helping blacks across town. Why did people do this in our history? Does it still happen today?
  59. It has been posited that one or more of the women portrayed in the novel meet the definition of a stereotypical, “Mammy” character.  Do you feel this is fair or unfair/ accurate or inaccurate?
  60. In the twenty years that Aibileen has been rearing children, she believes she has made her impact with Mae Mobely.  When the question of race finally came up, Aibileen asks what Mae Mobely thought of her teacher’s comments about colored people, when she tells her “You’re righter than Miss Taylor.”  Aibileen tears up.  How long do you think this lesson will stay with Mae Mobely and possibly her baby brother?
  61. Aibileen prefers to work for families with young children before they “start to think that colored folks ain’t as good as whites.”  Skeeter finds “nigger book” scrawled in purple crayon on the library’s copy of “Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.” Discuss the impact that adults have on their children to develop intolerance toward others. What kinds of bigotry are still being taught to children today?
  62. Do you think that had Aibileen stayed working for Miss Elizabeth, that Mae Mobley would have grown up to be racist like her mother? Do you think racism is inherent, or taught?
  63. Why do white children raised and loved by black maids grow up to become like Miss Hilly? Will Mae Mobley follow the same pattern when she reaches adulthood?
  64. Is it appropriate, or more importantly, right for Aibileen to tell Mae Mobley civil rights stories, even though this is the last thing her parents want?
  65. In the book, how is Hilly’s Home Help Sanitation Initiative influenced by the Jim Crow laws?
  66. What stands out to you the most about the Jim Crow laws? How do you believe laws like this could have been enforced for nearly 100 years?
  67. Social sin involves structures and systems, not just the acts of individuals. In The Help, both unjust formal legal systems and unjust informal social systems and structures are presented. Why is it necessary to change both informal and formal structures to achieve justice? Do such systems reinforce each other? Is it harder to bring about change in legal systems or in social systems? Do we still have informal systems that support racism even though laws have changed?
  68. What price do the people in The Help pay when they confront the injustice of racism? What price would they have paid if they did not confront it? What price must we pay if we confront injustice today? What price do we pay, individually, and as a community, if we do not face current injustices?
  69. Are the relationships between people of color and white Americans significantly different today in your community compared to the historical time period of The Help (1960s)?
  70. Are the racial stereotypes shown in the novel dead and gone, or do they live on? Can you give any present-day examples of such stereotypes?
  71. In the section at the end of the book called “Too Little, Too Late,” the issue of different perspectives between white employers and black help is addressed. It’s common that white employers say “we were all family,” but whether that view would be fully shared by the help is questioned. In general, how wide is the gap between these perspectives?
  72. Do you think there are still vestiges of racism in relationships where people of color work for people who are white?
  73. Today, many domestic workers are from Hispanic groups and from other recent immigrant communities. Do they face some of the same problems and issues that the African-American women faced fifty years ago? What has changed, and what has not, for domestic workers who clean American homes and businesses and help bring up our children?
  74. How does The Help reflect on the burgeoning Civil Rights movement of the 1960s?
  75. Skeeter has attended Ole Miss — in 1962, the year the novel was set, Ole Miss was the scene for riots, federal marshals, and protests as James Meredeth fought segregation there and was allowed to attend in September of that same year. Why do you believe the author (Stockett) only briefly included the information about this, since Skeeter surely would have some involvement with some element of the events surrounding integration of the College?
  76. At the dinner table at Minny’s house, their family is discussing the Greenwood protesters. After Minny’s youngest daughter, Kindra, has an outburst, Leroy responds by saying “Nobody’s getting in that mess!”  Minny quickly turns to the stove and things about her meeting and fears Leroy would find out. Do you think Skeeter’s meeting with the maids could be defined as part of the Civil Rights Movement?
  77. Do you feel as though the actions of Skeeter are less than enough?  Could she have done more?
  78. When Aibileen gets the Miss Myrna job at the end of the novel, do you think that this signifies that society is changing?
  79. By the end of the novel, has any progress been made in Jackson toward dissolving racial stereotypes? Do you think that Jackson will become a more just society as a result of Skeeter’s book?
  80. What did you think about Stockett’s writing style, and in particular her use of an African American vernacular in the chapters narrated by black characters?  Was this necessary to the book?
  81. Kathryn Stockett has been criticized for the voices of Aibileen and Minny – because they were written by a white woman who has given voice to African-American characters. What do you think of their voices? Are they authentic and believable, or does Stockett fall short in her attempt? Why do you think this is a concern of some members of marginalized communities?
  82. Do you think it is appropriate for an author to write from a point of view that he/she will not ever actually experience?
  83. From the perspective of a 21st century reader, the hair shellac system that Skeeter undergoes seems ludicrous. Yet women still alter their looks in rather peculiar ways as the definition of “beauty” changes with the times. Looking back on your past, what’s the most ridiculous beauty regimen you ever underwent?
  84. Did the scene with the naked guy in the yard seem out of place in the book?
  85. Do you think The Help can help minimize violence/racism in the world? Why or why not? If you argue that it can’t, are there other books that might be more effective? Which ones and why?
  86. The Help has been a very successful bestselling book. If the author had been black, how would the book have been received? Would it still have been a best seller?
  87. Will The Help move from bestsellerdom to classic lit? Do you think it will eventually be as famous as To Kill a Mockingbird, to which it’s often compared?

(Questions courtesy of  Author’s website, Shmoop, Tosa Book Club (WI), Examiner.com, Book Club Guru, The Book-Ers (NY), Education for Justice, All Good Books, Athens Technical College Library (GA), Shawna @ Meetup Book Club, Simply Stacie, Truly Moving Pictures, and Coeur d’Alene Library (ID).)

Other books by Stockett: No other titles at this time.

Recommendations (NoveList & other sources): The House Girl by Tara Conklin — Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford — Clover by Dori Sanders– Freshwater Road  by Denise Nicholas– The Friday Night Knitting Club  by Kate Jacobs —  The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd —  The Summer We Got Saved by Pat Cunningham Devoto — We Are All Welcome Here  by Elizabeth Berg — To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee —  Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn– Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg — Sullivan’s Island by Dorothea Benton Frank — The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom — Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman — Mudbound by Hillary Jordan — In the Fall by Jeffrey Lent — The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers — Sula by Toni Morrison — The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines — Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund — Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez — The Color Purple by Alice Walker — The Street by Ann Petry — A Million Nightingales by Susan Straight —  The Queen of Palmyra by Minrose Gwin — The Persia Cafe by Melany Neilson — The Space Between Us by Thrity N. Umrigar — Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini — Right as Rain by Bev Marshall — The Dry Grass of August by Anna Jean Mayhew — Night Talk by Elizabeth Cox — Family by J. California Cooper — Sweet Jiminy by Kristin Gore — The Air Between Us by Deborah Johnson — The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor — A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg — River, Cross My Heart by Breena Clarke — The King of Colored Town by Darryl Wimberley — Catfish Alley by Lynne Bryant — Great Neck by Jay Cantor — The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson — The Angels of Morgan Hill by Donna VanLiere — Like One of the Family: Conversations From a Domestic’s Life  by Alice Childress — Telling Memories Among Southern Women: Domestic Workers and Their Employers in the Segregated South by Susan Tucker — Coming of Age in Mississippi by Anne Moody —  Cooking in Other Women’s Kitchens: Domestic Workers in the South, 1865-1960 by Rebecca Sharpless — The Maid Narratives: Black Domestics and White Families in the Jim Crow South by Katherine Van Wormer & David W. Jackson, III — Killers of the Dream by Lillian Smith.

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1776 (June 2013 discussion)

Courtesy of Simon and Schuster

Courtesy of Simon and Schuster

 David McCullough

Summary:

In this masterful book, David McCullough tells the intensely human story of those who marched with General George Washington in the year of the Declaration of Independence—when the whole American cause was riding on their success, without which all hope for independence would have been dashed and the noble ideals of the Declaration would have amounted to little more than words on paper.
Based on extensive research in both American and British archives, 1776 is a powerful drama written with extraordinary narrative vitality. It is the story of Americans in the ranks, men of every shape, size, and color, farmers, schoolteachers, shoemakers, no-accounts, and mere boys turned soldiers. And it is the story of the King’s men, the British commander, William Howe, and his highly disciplined redcoats who looked on their rebel foes with contempt and fought with a valor too little known.
At the center of the drama, with Washington, are two young American patriots, who, at first, knew no more of war than what they had read in books—Nathanael Greene, a Quaker who was made a general at thirty-three, and Henry Knox, a twenty-five-year-old bookseller who had the preposterous idea of hauling the guns of Fort Ticonderoga overland to Boston in the dead of winter.
But it is the American commander-in-chief who stands foremost—Washington, who had never before led an army in battle. Written as a companion work to his celebrated biography of John Adams, David McCullough’s 1776 is another landmark in the literature of American history. (courtesy of 
Simon & Schuster)

Biography:

David McCullough (Wikipedia)

Interviews:

Interview for Academy of Achievement (Academy of Achievement)

David McCullough Interview (National Endowment for the Humanities) 

Connecting with David McCullough (Powell’s Books) 

David McCullough Interviewed by Jon Stewart [2 parts] (The Daily Show) video

David McCullough Author Talk (Book Reporter)

Questions for David McCullough (New York Times) 

Journey Through History with David McCullough (60 Minutes on CBS)

Q & A with David McCullough (C-Span) video

Reviews:

Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews (Barnes & Noble)

Review at The Guardian (The Guardian) 

New York Times Review (New York Times)

Amazon Reviews (Amazon) 

Goodreads Reviews (Goodreads) 

Social Media:

Author’s Website   (Maintained by Simon & Schuster) 

Author’s Facebook (Maintained by Simon & Schuster)

General Sites:

Book Discussion on 1776 @ National Book Festival ( C-Span) video

Book Discussion on 1776 @ Texas Book Festival (C-Span) video

David McCullough Lecture (National Endowment for the Humanities)

Slate’s History Book Blitz: “1776” as History and Myth (National Public Radio)

A Revolutionary Idea (BookPage)

The Glorious Cause of America (Brigham Young University Magazine)

A Discussion on 1776 with David McCullough (Revolutionary War Archives) audio

History and Knowing Who We Are (American Heritage Magazine)

George Washington:

George Washington (Wikipedia)

George Washington: The Commander in Chief (USHistory.org)

“The Miraculous Care of Providence”: George Washington’s Narrow Escapes (American Heritage Magazine)

George Washington, Founding CEO (American Heritage Magazine)

George Washington as Military Leader (PBS)

General George Washington (Museum of the American Revolution)

Meet George Washington (George Washington’s Mount Vernon)

George Washington Wired (George Washington’s Mount Vernon)

Martha Washington and the American Revolution (George Washington’s Mount Vernon)

Martha Washington, a Life (George Washington’s Mount Vernon)

“As if I had Been a Very Great Somebody” Martha Washington in the American Revolution (George Washington’s Mount Vernon) pdf

Nathanael Greene:

Nathanael Greene (Wikipedia)

Men of the Revolution: Nathanael Greene (American Heritage Magazine)

Nathanael Greene (Revolutionary War Archives)

Nathanael Greene (Boston 1775)

General Nathanael Greene(USHistory.org)

Nathanael Greene Letters (Family Tales)

Catherine Greene (History of American Women)

Henry Knox:

Henry Knox (Wikipedia)

General Henry Knox (Jacobus Vanderveer House and Museum)

General Henry Knox (Daughters of the American Revolution)

Big Guns for Washington (American Heritage Magazine)

“Lady” Knox (American Heritage Magazine)

Henry Knox (Boston 1775)

Thomas Paine:

Thomas Paine (Wikipedia)

Men of the Revolution: Thomas Paine (American Heritage Magazine)

Have You Seen This Founding Father? (American Heritage Magazine)

Israel Putnam:

Israel Putnam, General (Wikipedia)

Men of the Revolution: Israel Putnam (American Heritage Magazine)

Israel Putnam (Connecticut Society, Sons of the American Revolution)

General Putnam (Boston 1775)

Joseph Reed & John Sullivan:

Joseph Reed, Adjutant-General (Wikipedia)

Men of the Revolution: Joseph Reed (American Heritage Magazine)

John Sullivan, General (Wikipedia)

Men of the Revolution: John Sullivan (American Heritage Magazine)

Charles Lee & William Alexander:

Charles Lee, General (Wikipedia)

Men of the Revolution: Charles Lee (American Heritage Magazine)

The “Military Crimes” of Charles Lee (American Heritage Magazine)

General Lee (Boston 1775)

William Alexander, Lord Stirling (Wikipedia)

Soldiers of the Army:

Private Yankee Doodle (American Heritage Magazine)

A Common American Soldier (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

Just the Essentials: Clothing and Equipment of Revolutionary War Soldiers (National Park Service) pdf

Revolutionary War Soldiers (History of American Wars.com)

The Private Soldier Under Washington by Charles Knowles Bolton (American Revolution.org)

Continental Soldiers (Boston 1775)

Patriots or Terrorists: The Lost Story of Revolutionary War POWs (American Heritage Magazine)

The Revolution Remembered (American Heritage Magazine)

The Last Men of the Revolution (American Revolution.org)

African-Americans in the War:

African Americans in the Revolutionary Period (National Park Service)

The Revolution’s Black Soldiers (American Revolution.org)

African-Americans During the Revolution (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation) pdf

Black Soldiers and Sailors During the Revolution (Archiving Early America)

Black Loyalists: Our History, Our People (Canada’s Digital Collections)

The Strange Fate of the Black Loyalists (American Heritage Magazine)

Spies & Spying During the War:

Spy Letters of the American Revolution (University of Michigan, Clements Library)

Intelligence in the War of Independence (Central Intelligence Agency)

The Spies Who Went Out in the Cold (American Heritage Magazine)

George Washington, Spymaster (American Heritage Magazine)

King George III:

King George III (Wikipedia)

King George III (Encyclopedia Virginia)

General Howe & General Clinton:

General William Howe (Wikipedia)

General William Howe (Revolutionary War Archives)

The Enigma of General Howe (American Heritage Magazine)

General Henry Clinton (Wikipedia)

General Sir Henry Clinton (Mad Monarchist)

British Soldiers & Hessians:

Men of the Revolution: Frederick Mackenzie (American Heritage Magazine)

British Soldiers, American Revolution (British Soldiers, American Revolution Blog)

Soldier of the King (American Revolution.org)

British Soldiers of the American Revolution (PRI’s The World) audio

The Organization of the British Army in the American Revolution by Edward Curtis (American Revolution.org)

Hessian Soldiers (Wikipedia)

The Hessians by Edward J. Lowell (American Revolution.org)

What Was a ‘Hessian’ (Washington Crossing Historic Park)

British Soldiers (Boston 1775)

Loyalists:

With Little Less Than Savage Fury: America’s First Civil War (American Heritage Magazine)

Loyalists (Wikipedia)

Fighting Loyalists (Wikipedia)

The King’s Men: Loyalist Military Units in the American Revolution (Drums Along the Mohawk)

Loyalists in the Thirteen Colonies (Portland State University) pdf

Loyalists (George Washington’s Mount Vernon)

Loyalists (Boston 1775)

Overview of 1776 Battles:

1776 Battles (History of American Wars.com)

Revolution Day by Day 1776 (National Park Service)

The Spirit of ’76 (American Heritage Magazine)

Revolutionary War, Northern Front 1775-1777 (Library of Congress)

Siege of Boston, Battle of Bunker Hill, Battle of Dorchester Heights:

Siege of Boston & Battle of Bunker Hill (Revolutionary War Animated.com)

Siege of Boston & Battle of Bunker Hill Eyewitness Accounts (Massachusetts Historical Society)

Siege of Boston (Boston 1775)

Siege of Boston (Wikipedia)

Providence Rides a Storm (Boston Campaign) (American Heritage Magazine)

“The Decisive Day is Come” (American Heritage Magazine)

Battle of Bunker Hill (Wikipedia)

Battle of Bunker Hill (British Battles.com)

Bunker Hill (Boston 1775)

Battle of Dorchester Heights (Wikipedia)

Battle of Long Island [Battle of Brooklyn], Battle of Kips Bay, Battle of Harlem Heights, Battle of Fort Washington:

New York Campaign (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

New York and New Jersey Campaign (Wikipedia)

Battle of Long Island [Battle of Brooklyn] (Revolutionary War Animated.com)

Battle of Long Island (Wikipedia)

Battle of Long Island (British Battles.com)

Battle of Brooklyn (Boston 1775)

Battle of Brooklyn: A Walking Guide to Sites and Monuments (The Old Stone House) pdf

Bloodshed in Brooklyn (South Brooklyn Post)

Battle of Kips Bay (Wikipedia)

Battle of Kips Bay (George Washington’s Mount Vernon)

Battle of Harlem Heights (Wikipedia)

Battle of Harlem Heights (British Battles.com)

Harlem Heights (Fraunces Tavern Museum)

Great Fire of New York (Wikipedia)

Battle of Fort Washington (Wikipedia)

Battle of Fort Washington (British Battles.com)

Margaret Corbin (Wikipedia)

Margaret Corbin (National Women’s History Museum)

Soldier in a Longboat (American Heritage Magazine) 

Battle of Trenton, Battle of Princeton, Washington Crossing the Delaware:

Battle of Trenton & Princeton (Revolutionary War Animated.com)

Washington Crossing the Delaware (Wikipedia)

Washington’s Crossing (Washington Crossing Historic Park)

What’s Wrong With this Painting (Washington Crossing Historic Park)

A Spy for Washington (American Heritage Magazine)

Durham Boats (Washington Crossing Historic Park)

Battle of Trenton (Wikipedia)

Battle of Trenton (British Battles.com)

Washington Crosses Again (Washington Crossing Historic Park)

Battle of Princeton (Wikipedia)

Battle of Princeton (British Battles.com)

The Revolutionary War:

Timeline of the Revolutionary War (USHistory.org)

England’s Vietnam: The American Revolution (American Heritage Magazine)

The American Revolution (Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

Myths of the American Revolution (Smithsonian Magazine)

Artillery of the Revolution (American Revolution.org)

Revolutionary War Weapons (History of American Wars.com)

American War of Independence: The Rebels and the Redcoats (BBC)

The Connecticut Water Machine vs The Royal Navy (American Heritage Magazine)

POW’s During the American Revolution (Archiving Early America)

Britain’s Prison Ships (Prison Ship Martyrs Association)

Patriots in Hell (Breed’s Hill Institute)

Revolutionary Martyrs (American Spirit) pdf

Further Readings:

Bibliographies of the War of American Independence (US Army Center of Military History)

Bibliography (Michigan State University) click on Bibliography at the top of the page

The Revolution: 1776-1787 (American Heritage Magazine)

 Discussion Questions:

1. Why do you think that McCullough chooses to begin 1776 with King George III of England? How does this set the tone for the historical events about to unfold?

2. How does McCullough contrast the character of King George III with the popular conception of him today?

3. Why was England so reluctant to let go of the Colonies? What did the British people feel in regards to the rebels? What groups/persons were for or against?

4. What is in the minds of the Americans? Why do they rebel? What do they hope to accomplish? Is there disagreement among them?

5. What is the frame of mind throughout the country? To what extent do you see patriotism? Is the universal feeling patriotic? What contributions are made by ordinary people?

6. Was independence the goal early in the war? When did this change?

7. What qualities made General George Washington a successful leader? Do you think that there was anything in particular about Washington that enabled him to turn a lost cause into a victory?

8. What were some of the difficulties George Washington faced? How did these affect his leadership?

9. Describe the conditions and behaviors in the camps. What was Washington’s view of this? How were officers distinguished from regular troops? Why was this necessary? To what extent was there discipline? Why? What about desertions? Do you agree with Washington’s response to the desertions?

10. Do you think that the war could have been won if George Washington had not led the Colonies?

11. What was unusual about Nathaneal Greene’s background? Did this help him or harm him in his career?

12. Why do you think that Nathaneal Greene’s limp disqualified him from being an officer? Do you think he joined the ranks as a soldier with the intentions of truly staying a soldier or of becoming an officer?

13. What kind of men were Nathaneal Greene and Henry Knox? What was their role in the success of the military? Why do you think Washington depended on these two untrained men above others and despite his distaste for New Englanders?

14. There was a lot of regional prejudice in the Continental Army. Are any of those feelings still with us today?

15. What were the pros and cons of the Continental Army? Can the Continental Army’s diversity be viewed as a strength or as a weakness?

16. Did the untrained, impromptu existence of the Colonial Army give it any advantages over the British? What kind of insight into the military experience do the wealth of letters and other first hand sources cited by McCullough provide?

17. General John Thomas viewed African Americans as equals in the army, and held no racial distinction towards them, something rare in those days. Why do you think people’s opinions of African Americans changed after the war?

18. What was the effect of the Declaration of Independence on the army?

19. Why was the surrender of Fort Washington so devastating?

20. Why did the battles of Trenton and Princeton succeed? Which was more important and why?

21. What do you consider to be the low point in the war? What was the turning point in the war?

22. Based on the battles depicted in the book, do you think that momentum plays a key role in war?

23. Do you think the men and women of our generation could have fought the way the colonists did during the Revolution?

24. What do you think might have happened if England had retained the Colonies?

25. How does this depiction of 1776 differ from the history you have read about or learned as a student? Were you surprised at the conditions? The mistakes? The lack of training of the American leaders? Were you surprised by anything else in the book?

26. Does this book relate in any way to the current state of the world and the United States? Does it give you any new ideas concerning war, revolution, patriotism, democracy, and “good wars” vs “bad wars”?

27. How did you find the pace of the book? Did McCullough’s method of having events unfold make you feel you were living in 1776?

28. By the end of the book, how does McCullough evaluate George Washington? How does he regard the men who fought in the war? Do you feel the same way?

29. Did this book alter your opinion of George Washington? What about King George III? The Continental Army? The British Army? The ordinary men and women of the Colonies?

30. Is learning about history easier? better? harder? when you have primary sources (letters, diaries, documents, etc.) available to peruse? Do you consider that this gives you more immediacy than a section from a textbook or a basic history?

31. Have you read any other books by McCullough? Did you enjoy 1776? Why or why not? After reading this, do you have any desire to read more about the Revolutionary War and those that it affected? Would you recommend this title to others?

(Questions courtesy of the Madison Public Library, WI, the Mary Riley Stiles Public Library, VA, the Oakland School System, MI)

Other books by McCullough: Johnstown Flood —  The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn BridgeThe Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt  — Brave Companions : Portraits in History — Truman — John Adams — In the Dark Streets Shineth: A 1941 Christmas Eve Story —  The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris .

Recommendations (NoveList & other sources): Patriots: The Men Who Started the Revolution by A. J. Langguth — Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer — His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis– Washington’s General: Nathanael Greene and the Triumph of the American Revolution  by Terry Golway– The First American Army: The Untold Story of George Washington and the Men Behind America’s First Fight for Freedom by Bruce Chadwick —  The Battle of Yorktown by Thomas J. Fleming —  Nathanael Greene: A Biography of the American Revolution by Gerald Carbone — Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence  by John Ferling — Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation by Cokie Roberts — The Long Fuse: How England Lost the American Colonies, 1760-1785 by Don Cook — A People’s History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence by Ray Raphael– Redcoats and Rebels: the American Revolution Through British Eyes by Christopher Hibbert — The Battle for New York: the City at the Heart of the American Revolution by Barnet Schecter — Divided Loyalties: How the American Revolution Came to New York by Richard M. Ketchum — Henry Knox: Visionary General of the American Revolution by Mark Puls — Dark Eagle: a Novel of Benedict Arnold and the American Revolution by John Harr — Patriot Hearts: a Novel of the Founding Mothers by Barbara Hambly —Liberty’s Exiles: American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World by Maya Jasanoff — To Try Men’s Souls: a Novel of George Washington and the Fight for American Freedom by Newt Gingrich — 1775: a Good Year For Revolution by Kevin Phillips — Forgotten Patriots: the Untold Story of American Prisoners During the Revolutionary War by Edwin Burrows — Dreams of Glory by Thomas J. Fleming — The Schoolmaster’s Daughter by John Smolens — My American Revolution by Robert Sullivan — America’s Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders Who Shaped a Nation by Kenneth Davis — April Morning by Howard Fast — Rise to Rebellion by Jeff Shaara — The Glorious Cause by Jeff Shaara — Redcoat by Bernard Cornwell.

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Boy In the Striped Pajamas (May 2013 discussion)

Courtesy of Random House

Courtesy of Random House

 John Boyne

Summary:

Berlin 1942
When Bruno returns home from school one day, he discovers that his belongings are being packed in crates. His father has received a promotion and the family must move from their home to a new house far far away, where there is no one to play with and nothing to do. A tall fence running alongside stretches as far as the eye can see and cuts him off from the strange people he can see in the distance.

But Bruno longs to be an explorer and decides that there must be more to this desolate new place than meets the eye. While exploring his new environment, he meets another boy whose life and circumstances are very different to his own, and their meeting results in a friendship that has devastating consequences. (courtesy of Random House)

Biography:

John Boyne (Book Browse)

Interviews:

John Boyne Interview (Dublin City Public Libraries)

John Boyne Interview (Indie London) 

Mark Herman/John Boyne Interview (Gordon and the Whale at YouTube.com) video

Author John Boyne at Perrot Library (Perrot Library) video

Interview with John Boyne (Scoilnet)

John Boyne Talks at Sydney Writers’ Festival (Department of Education & Training, NSW) video  [Text version]

Author Interview (Teen Reads)

World Book Club with John Boyne (BBC) audio

Sarah Webb’s Interview with Children’s Author John Boyne (SarahWebb.info)

John Boyne, Author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Answers Ten Terrifying Questions (Booktopia Blog)

Reviews:

Publisher’s Weekly, KLIATT, Children’s Literature, VOYA, School Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews (Barnes & Noble)

Review at The Guardian ( The Guardian)

Review at AISH (AISH)

Amazon Reviews (Amazon)

Goodreads Reviews (Goodreads)

Social Media:

Author’s Website   

Author’s Facebook

Author’s Twitter

Author’s Blog 

General Sites:

Boyne Free: an Author Runs Away From History … and the Twilight Zone ( The Guardian)

Wild Child of a Different Stripe (Irish Examiner)

Boy in the Striped Pajamas — Film (Wikipedia)

Boy in the Striped Pajamas — Film (Internet Movie Database)

Auschwitz:

Auschwitz (History Channel)

Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp (Jewish Virtual Library)

Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State (PBS)

Interactive Map of Auschwitz (BBC)

The Camps (Florida Center for Instructional Technology)

Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz (Wikipedia)

Testimony of Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz (University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law)

Children of the Holocaust:

Children of the Holocaust (Museum Of Tolerance)

Children of the Holocaust (Florida Center for Instructional Technology)

Children During the Holocaust (US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Hitler’s Children:

Hitler Youth (Wikipedia)

League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Maedel)

The Child of Auschwitz’s Kommandant (BBC)

Nazi Legacy: The Troubled Descendants (BBC)

German Grandchildren of Nazis Delve into Past (CNS News)

The Children of Nazi Leaders (CBS News) video

Holocaust:

Holocaust Pictures (History 1900s @ about.com)

Holocaust Survivors (Holocaust Survivors)

Holocaust (Jewish Virtual Library)

Holocaust (Yad Vashem)

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Holocaust Studies (AISH)

The Holocaust Just Got More Shocking (New York Times)

State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda (US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Holocaust Responsibility:

Responsibility for the Holocaust (Wikipedia)

The Noble and the Base: Poland and the Holocaust (The Nation)

Poles and the Jews: How Deep the Guilt (New York Times)

Bystanders, Blackmailers, and Perpetrators: Polish Complicity During the Holocaust (Iowa State University) pdf

The Holocaust and Coming to Terms with the Past in Post-Communist Poland (US Holocaust Memorial Museum) pdf

Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (The History Place)

Genocide:

No Lessons Learned from the Holocaust: Assessing Risks of Genocide and Political Mass Murder Since 1955  (American Political Science Review) pdf

Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity (University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

Genocide Watch (Genocide Watch)

Literary Wordplay:

Pun (Wikipedia)

Pun (Grammar @ about.com)

Parables and Fables: From Symbolism to Allegory? (Carson Newman University) pdf

Fable (Wikipedia)

Aesopica: Aesop’s Fables (Myth Folklore Net)

Aesop’s Fables (Tales With Morals)

Fables of La Fontaine (Wikipedia)

Proverb (Wikipedia)

English Proverbs (Phrase Finder)

The 50 Most Important English Proverbs (PhraseMix)

Creative Proverbs from Around the World (Creative Proverbs)

Allegory (Wikipedia)

Further Readings:

Bibliography of the Holocaust (Wikipedia)

List of Holocaust Books (Remember.org)

Holocaust Bibliography (Florida Center for Instructional Technology)

Annotated Bibliography of the Holocaust (US Holocaust Memorial Museum) pdf

 Discussion Questions:

1. Discuss the relationship between Bruno and Gretel. Why does Bruno seem younger than nine? In a traditional fable, characters are usually one-sided. How might Bruno and Gretel be considered one-dimensional?

2. What do “innocent” and “naive” mean when used to describe children? Can adults be naive? In what ways can they be naive? What adults in the book seemed naive?

3. Can you give an example of a time when you were a young child and saw the world from a more innocent perspective? What experiences helped you see the world differently than what you initially thought?

4. Does Bruno and Gretel’s tutor take advantage of the children’s innocence in what he teaches them?

5. At age 12, Gretel is the proper age for membership in the League of Young Girls, a branch of Hitler’s Youth Organization. Why do you think she is not a member, especially since her father is a high-ranking officer in Hitler’s army?

6. Gretal believes the viewpoints of Lieutenant Kotler, the tutor Liszt, and Father about Jews. Although Bruno is younger than his sister, he questions their viewpoints. Why?

7. What is it about the house at Out-With that makes Bruno feel “cold and unsafe”? How is this feeling perpetuated as he encounters people like Pavel, Maria, Lt. Kotler, and Shmuel?

8. Describe his reaction when he first sees the people in the striped pajamas. What does Gretel mean when she says, “Something about the way [Bruno] was watching made her feel suddenly nervous”? (p. 28) How does this statement foreshadow Bruno’s ultimate demise?

9. Bruno asks his father about the people outside their house at Auschwitz. His father answers, “They’re not people at all Bruno.” (p. 53) Discuss the horror of this attitude. How does his father’s statement make Bruno more curious about Out-With?

10. Why was it so hard for Bruno to believe that his father could be involved in hurtful acts?

11. At times, Father is shown as a loving parent and husband. How is that possible given his role as a Nazi officer giving orders to treat people inhumanely?

12. Explain what Bruno’s mother means when she says, “We don’t have the luxury of thinking.” (p. 13) Identify scenes from the novel that Bruno’s mother isn’t happy about their life at Out-With. Debate whether she is unhappy being away from Berlin, or whether she is angry about her husband’s position. How does Bruno’s grandmother react to her son’s military role?

13. Mother saying “thank you” to Pavel for treating Bruno is an important turning point for her. What has changed for the mother at this point?

14. When Mother learns that Jews are being exterminated at the camp, she questions her husband. “How can you?” she asks. He responds: “Because I am a soldier.” Contrast these two perspectives.

15. When Bruno and his family board the train for Auschwitz, he notices an over-crowded train headed in the same direction. How does he later make the connection between Shmuel and that train? How are both trains symbolic of each boy’s final journey?

16. Bruno issues a protest about leaving Berlin. His father responds, “Do you think that I would have made such a success of my life if I hadn’t learned when to argue and when to keep my mouth shut and follow orders?” (p. 49) What question might Bruno’s father ask at the end of the novel?

17. Why do you think that Bruno does not try to protect his friend when Schmuel is attacked by Lieutenant Kotler?

18. How does shame and remorse figure into the friendship between Bruno and Schmuel?

19. How is it possible for Bruno and Schmuel to have fun together and maintain their friendship in the midst of their circumstances?

20. How does Bruno justify continuing his friendship with Shmuel despite what his father, sister and tutor have said about the Jews?

21. How do Bruno and Shmuel demonstrate the essence of friendship despite their many differences?

22. The barbed wire fence is a physical separation between Bruno and Shmuel. What other types of separation does the fence represent in this story?

23. When Bruno dresses in the filthy striped pajamas, he remembers something his grandmother once said. “You wear the right outfit and you feel like the person you’re pretending to be.” (p, 205) How is this true for Bruno? What about his father? What does this statement contribute to the overall meaning of the story?

24. Why do you think the book ended the way it did?

25. A scapegoat is blamed for things they are not responsible for. During the Holocaust, Jews became scapegoats, blamed for all the troubles in Germany. Why do you think that was?

26. What do you think causes people to treat others in such horrific ways as was done during the Holocaust?Are there people being treated like this anywhere in the world today? What do you think is or can be done to stop it?

27. A pun is most often seen as humorous. But, in this novel the narrator uses dark or solemn puns like Out-With and Fury to convey certain meanings. Bruno is simply mispronouncing the real words, but the author is clearly asking the reader to consider a double meaning to these words. Discuss the use of this wordplay as a literary device. What is the narrator trying to convey to the reader? How do these words further communicate the horror of the situation?

28. Discuss the moral or message of the novel. What new insights and understandings does John Boyne want the reader to gain from reading this story? What are the lessons to be learned from this fable?

29. Discuss the differences in a fable, an allegory, and a proverb. How might this story fit into each genre?

(Questions courtesy of the author, the publisher, and Truly Moving Pictures)

Other books by Boyne: Thief of TimeCongress of Rough RidersCrippen: A Novel of Murder Next of KinMutiny: a Novel of the Bounty (Mutiny on the Bounty) House of Special PurposeNoah Barleywater Runs AwayAbsolutist Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket This House is Haunted Stay Where You Are and Then Leave (October 2013).

Recommendations (NoveList & other sources): In My Hands by Irene Gut Opdyke — Number the Stars by Lois Lowry — On Hitler’s Mountain by Irmgard Hunt– Fatelessness  by Imre Kertesz– The Savior  by Eugene Drucker —  Block 11 by Piero Degli Antoni —  Night by Elie Wiesel — A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal — After Long Silence by Helen Fremont — Nazi Officer’s Wife by Edith Hahn-Beer — Still Alive by Ruth Kluger– Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank — Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine — Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust by Daniel Goldhagen — Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi — Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman — Book Thief by Marcus Zusak — Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz by Denis Avey — Auschwitz: A New History by Laurence Rees — Auschwitz Kommandant: a Daughter’s Search for the Father She Never Knew by Barbara U. Cherish — A Small Town Near Auschwitz: Ordinary Nazis and the Holocaust by Mary Fulbrook — Guns and Barbed Wire: A Child Survives the Holocaust by Thomas Geve — The Last Jew of Treblinka by Chil Rajchman — The Lampshade by Mark Jacobson — Perpetrators, Victims, Bystanders: the Jewish Catastrophe, 1933-1945 by Raul Hilberg — Children During the Holocaust by Patricia Heberer — Hide: A Child’s View of the Holocaust by Naomi Samson — Witness: Voices From the Holocaust by Shiva Kumar, ed. — Stripes in the Sky by Gerhard Durlacher — My Father’s Keeper: Children of Nazi Leaders, an Intimate History of Damage and Denial by Norbert Lebert — Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay — What We Knew: Terror, Mass Murder, and Everyday Life in Nazi Germany, an Oral History by Eric A. Johnson.

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