Yearly Archives: 2021

Discussion Guide: Holes, by Louis Sachar

Discussion Guide: Holes, by Louis Sachar

  1. How is the story illustrated by the author’s use of wordplay?


(We see the development of irony and double meaning in expressions :Clyde “Sweet Feet” Livingston and dad’s foot odor spray, Camp “Green” Lake, “Kissing” Kate Barlow, Mr. “Mom” Pendanski, Mr. “Sir”.)

  1. Why do the boys use undesirable nicknames for each other? 


(Perhaps it serves as a coping mechanism during this hardship. It may help them feel like tough guys who are unaffected by the hazardous conditions. It also might be a bit rebellious, distancing their true selves from the staff.)

  1. Stanley lies to his parents when he sends home letters depicting camp as ideal. Why?


(He wants to spare them the burden of knowing the painful truth.)

  1. When Stanley blames his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing” great-great grandfather for all the family troubles, is he just avoiding accountability?


(We believe this at first, but throughout the book we discover more than injustice that affects generations.)

  1. When Zero runs away, all evidence of him is destroyed as they let him run to his inevitable demise. How does this work to his favor in the end?


(They are forced to release him from camp since there is now no evidence that he belongs there.)

  1. Zero eventually confesses his part in the stolen sneakers story. What effect does this have on his friendship with Stanley?


Stanley finds it easy to forgive his best friend. In fact, he is tickled to have a best friend at all.)

  1. What causes the yellow spotted lizards to decide not to bite the boys?


(They have been eating onions – the ones from Sam’s field. The lizards don’t like “onion blood” and refuse to bite them.)

  1. Barfbag allowed himself to be bitten by a rattlesnake and Kate allowed herself to be bitten by a yellow spotted lizard? Why?


(Barfbag puts an end to his misery. Kate uses death as revenge, avoiding Trout, who demands to know where she hid the loot that she stole from Stanley’s great great grandfather.)

  1. What is sploosh?


(Canning jars of Kate’s spiced peaches. Zero and Stanley find these under Sam’s old boat and enjoy drinking/eating them. The jars are many years old by now, but give the boys something to sustain themselves.)

  1. The song “If Only” seems to link Stanley and Zero. How?


(Zero is a descendant of Madame Zeroni, who gave Stanley’s great-great grandfather the pig in order to impress an eligible bachelorette in town. Stanley’s ancestor broke his promise to carry Madame Z up the mountain to drink the water and sing the song to her. Thus a curse was born, and Stanley’s ancestor became a pig thief. Once Stanley performed this act for Zero, the curse was lifted.)

  1. How was Kissing Kate Barlow’s curse lifted?


(Once it is revealed that Stanley’s name is on the box and the warden has no claim to it, Stanley and Zero are happily on their way to freedom. Now the rain begins after 110 years of drought.)

Discussion Guide: The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander

Discussion Guide: The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander

  1. What technique does the author use to compare basketball to jazz music?


(Poetic phrasing, type font, and word placement is used to visually compare the artistic theater of basketball to the dynamic expression of jazz music)

  1. Why does Josh’s father call him Filthy McNasty?


(A fan of jazz music, the dad compares Josh to a famous song by Horace Silver, the legendary American jazz pianist. Dad says that Josh is “fast and free” like Horace Silver on the piano.)

  1. The author occasionally gives us basketball rules. Are they strictly meant as rules for playing basketball?


(No, they are life lessons)

  1. With dad as a retired basketball player plus a twin brother who is also exceptional at basketball, what complications arise for Josh?


(Pressure. He lives with the pressure to live up to his dad’s reputation and standards, but also has to deal with competition from his twin. There is the need to be seen as an individual but also to exceed already high expectations placed on him socially)

  1. Give some examples of intentional double meanings that the author employs to make an impact:


(chapters titled “the nosebleed section”, “storm” , “man to man”, chapter ending in “game over”, and the book title “crossover” to name a few)

  1. Josh and his brother experience conflicts with each other. How does the author convey Josh’s feelings about their struggle?


(pg. 156 “Sometimes it’s the things that aren’t said that kill you.” JB gives Josh the silent treatment and won’t accept his apology. Josh begins to feel very alone and alienated without his brother’s support. We see this in the letter Josh writes to JB on pg. 159 and many other chapters as well.)

  1. Josh had to learn CPR in gym class and rolled his eyes over the whole experience. Was it a waste of time?


(the father’s health fails and Josh has to perform CPR on him. Thankfully, he recalls his training during this very stressful scene.)

  1. The doctor encourages Josh to speak to his father who is in a coma. Did it help?


(Immensely. First, Josh is able to speak from the heart without pressure. When he opens up, he asks his father when he decided to “jump ship.” Once awake, the father replies, “Filthy, I didn’t jump ship.” His father did, in fact, hear Josh – and the message was clear.)

  1. The championship game and the father’s failing heart take place at the same time. What feelings come to the surface for Josh?


(Guilt, because he was playing basketball with his dad when the heart attack happened. Loneliness, because his brother is still angry with him and barely speaking to him. Jealousy, because his brother has a new girl and Josh has no one. Frustration, because his parents removed him from the team as a punishment and now he has a chance to play in the big game, but his dad is terribly unstable at the same time. Scared, because he doesn’t know how they’ll be a family without their dad. Unprepared to face his father’s death. Plus many more feelings, I’m sure.)

  1. Why did the parents allow Josh and his brother to play the championship game if their father was on his deathbed?


(Perhaps the father didn’t want his sons to see him weak and dying. He wanted to protect them. Also, they technically had an opportunity to say their goodbyes to him when he was in and out of a coma. Going to the game gave them a chance to do something about their situation: to pay tribute to their dad’s legacy and to move on with their lives in a positive way.)

Felt S’mores

Felt S’mores

You will need: needle, thread, scissors

  1. Embroider the face onto the center of the white rectangle. I used the black sequin as the base and stacked a black bead on top to make a 3 dimensional eye.
  1. Make the eyes approximately 1 inch apart
  1. Use embroidery floss to stitch a smile
  1. Stitch the bottom circle to the rectangle
  1. When you finish the bottom circle, then close the flap on the rectangle
  1. Stitch the top circle, adding fiberfill before closing up
  1. Square up the tan felt if necessary for making the top and bottom cracker. Each cracker piece will be doubled up with just a pinch of fiberfill to go inside. Stitch both crackers.
  1. Make a wavy cut for the bottom piece of brown chocolate. Also freehand cut a drip or two for the top piece of brown chocolate
  1. Assemble your smores and use long piece of thread to sew it top to bottom, securing all 5 layers

Origami Dress

Origami Dress (Pinterest pin from

  1. Select a piece of 6” X 6” cardstock or scrapbook paper
  1. Fold in half and crease, then fold those halves again and crease like the image below (This is the backside or “ugly side”  of my work where it’s easier to see the folds, ignore the ruler)
  1. There are now 3 creases to your work. If we number them left to right as “1/2/3”, our next step is to turn work to the front “pretty side” and fold creases 1 and 3 in the direction of crease 2. The image below will show you both pretty side and ugle side.
  1. Now fold your piece in half top down, with pretty side on the outside, like the image below. It should look a little bit like a wallet.
  1. Next make a short crease (I did not measure but ended up with about a half inch) above the center fold. Your work should now look like a letter Z.
  1. Turn work to the pretty side and align top down. It should look like the image below. You should notice that there are 4 parts: 2 shorter above and 2 longer below. Otherwise, it should be a rather neat rectangle.
  1. The 2 lower parts will make the skirt of the dress. You will pull the bottom right corner to the right and press it with your fingers. Afterwards, pull the bottom left corner to the left and press it with your fingers. This will create an A-line to the skirt. 
  1. The 2 upper parts will make the dress bodice. Begin by making a neckline. Fold and crease the centers top-down like the image below.This should look like lapels. 
  1. Keeping lapels pressed open, fold entire bodice in half, top down, following the lapel line. Below is a view from the ugly side of this step. I’ve even ripped the corner of my lapel a little bit but you’ll never see it in the end.
  1. The next step was the most difficult for me. I hope I can break it down for you! I had to unfold the right lapel and re-crease it, making a triangle piece that came to a clean point on the right side. I repeated the same on the left lapel.  
  1. The image below is both lapels turned in a boat neck neckline. 
  1. Congratulations! It’s all much easier from here to the end. You got this! Fold both bodice sides towards the back, making a narrow waistline. You will also fold a portion of the skirt to the back, completing the A-line of the skirt. 
  1. Turn work to the pretty side and fold the 2 top points directly to each side, making cap sleeves. Ta da! You’re done! 

Discussion Guide: Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry

Discussion Guide: Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry

  1. How is it possible that the youth of Denmark observed Nazi guards in their streets but did not recognize pending danger?


(parents down-played their concern to protect their children from fear, and the German presence was relatively non-threatening at first. No one could know how intense the political scene was going to eventually become for Denmark, nor when it might happen.

  1. Younger sister Kirsti listens to Annemarie tell stories which include pink frosted cupcakes. Why did the author include this detail?


(to draw our attention to the abundance of food that is available to us daily, and to demonstrate how food shortages affect the entire community during war times.)

  1. “All of Denmark is his (King Christian’s) bodyguard,” said Papa, yet our honorable King surrenders Denmark to Germany without much of a fight. What caused this breakdown?


(Nazis were too many and too powerful to be beaten at this time. Many neighboring countries had already demonstrated failed attempts with great loss.)

  1. As tensions mount, Annemarie becomes concerned with the treatment of Jews in Denmark, including her friend Ellen Rosen. What caused her to lose her conviction and begin to despair?


(putting your life on the line for a friend is a brave theory, but who of us wouldn’t cower at the thought of our very skin in the game?)

  1. How does Papa convince the guards in the middle of the night that Ellen is his daughter? 


(he carefully handpicks baby photos to show the guards that his daughter was born with dark curly hair. Close enough to be convincing)

  1. In what ways does our author describe Uncle Henrik that we know we can trust him, even though he is lying to Annemarie about dead Aunt Birte?


(Uncle is quiet, gentle, and knowledgeable, with blue eyes, rubbing the cow’s neck after milking her. Everything about him is safe and affectionate)

  1. Annemarie is startled to realize that her Uncle and Mama are lying to her. What does she discover about the importance of lies?


(that in desperate times, lying to our loved ones is a way of protecting them from the burden of truth. It also serves to prevent people from having to fake their reactions. How often are drug smugglers discovered at airports because they are acting nervous and sweating a lot?)

  1. Describe how Peter’s relationship to Mama Johanson has changed throughout the book.


(where he once referred to her as Mrs. Johanson, and eventually “Mama” as his future mother-in-law, Peter (a leader in the resistance) now refers to her by her first name (Inge) indicating that they are adults and peers in this endeavor.)

  1. Mama and Kirsti both inadvertently teach Annemarie how to handle herself if Nazi guards threaten your covert operation. Describe both influences briefly. 


(Mama becomes agreeable and accommodating, while calmly lying through her teeth about the corpse that is not in the coffin. She is an amazing actress who realizes that their lives depend on her quick thinking and superb acting. Kirsti comes by her talent honestly, being a typical self-centered and occasionally petulant 5 year old who chatters about silly little girl things, quickly causing guards to roll their eyes and shoo her away.)

  1. As a reader, did you develop your own theories about how the author would use the casket and the very important packet? Did the author surprise you in the reveal?


(Our imaginations definitely run wild with possibilities, but the author found a clever and yet plausible purpose for both of these important elements.)

  1. In chapter 12, Annemarie points out that it was harder for the ones who were waiting. Less danger, but more fear. How is this harder?


(Perhaps our imagination has time to get the best of us when we are waiting too long and we don’t know why we are waiting. It’s easy to become frantic when someone is late and danger is a possibility.)

  1. It seems like everything has gone wrong and Annemarie is doomed to fail. What saves the mission?


(She must rely on her training by behaving like her little sister. Also, it helps tremendously that the packet, which is indeed discovered by the guards, turns out to be a handkerchief that feels insignificant to the guards as well as Annemarie.)

Felt Crab

Felt Crab 

(inspired by Sew Sweet found on pinterest)

  1. Cut out paper pattern and trace onto felt: 
  1. Cut out felt pieces, making sure to trim off any ink marks from tracing. 
  1. Use large needle to embroider smile onto face
  2. Use small needle to stitch sequin eyes onto face
  1. Stitch around claw, leaving bottom open. Insert fiberfill into claw (don’t give up, use a pencil or pen and keep poking it in there; it will resist at first but you will win this fight)
  1. Using straight pins, pin the claws and legs into place. Sew around body of project, leaving an opening at the bottom. Stuff with fiberfill and sew closed entirely. 

(see pattern below)

Bleacher Seat Cushion

Bleacher Seat Cushion, by Julie Martin


Size 8 straight needles

Worsted weight yarn in color(s) of choice

Tapestry needle

Foam piece or fiberfill (or you can cut up a really deflated bed pillow like I did)


CO 45 sts

Using color(s) of choice, work front of cushion in stockinette stitch until piece is approximately 18” long.

Begin back of cushion, working in garter stitch until piece is approximately 36” long.

Once you have finished knitting your rectangle, BO all. 

Using tapestry needle and yarn of choice, sew 2 opposite sides of cushion together, making

a pillowcase.

Next, stuff your batting/fiberfill/foam into the inside of the pillowcase. 

Finally, use tapestry needle and yarn to sew your cushion closed.

Discussion Guide: King and the Dragonflies, by Kacen Callender

1) King believes his brother has become a dragonfly. What characteristics of dragonflies made our author chose them? What do they symbolize?

______________________________________________________________________________(dragonflies in this story are nearly angelic. They are dainty, beautiful, winged creatures that represent transformation and self-realization)

2) In chapter one, there is a tense exchange between Mikey Sanders and King with an unexpected outcome. Why is Mikey motivated to extend his condolences to King?

______________________________________________________________________________(Perhaps it is true that no one is all good or all bad; we are all in the process of becoming someone. Mikey may have been at odds with King’s brother, but never wished him dead.  Also, Mikey knows that his own brother is friends with King)

3) At school, 12-year-old King and his classmates begin to hint about crushes they experience. Then the gossip mill starts about Sandy coming out as gay. What challenge does this pose?

(Eager for their own individuality, these students inadvertently added pressure to their peers at a time when identities are still being formed. Shining a spotlight on this formation might make it harder for some to feel respected in their journey.)

4) Why does King keep a notebook of things his brother has said in his asleep?

(King and Khalid shared a bed and had no other siblings, so King really feels a bond with him. Khalid would occasionally utter something profound in his sleep, like “You’re going to be fine” and “I love you, King”. These sayings caused King to be intrigued and comforted.)

5) King shares his secret with Sandy that Khalid is now a dragonfly. Why is Sandy so non-reactive?

(Sandy understands loss – his mother ran off. He explains to King that no one’s ever really gone. This is his way of comforting and accepting King in his moment of grief.)

6) In his sleep Khalid would say, “Everything happens all at once.” What did this mean to King?

(Some of life’s most real moments are outside of time – or at least feel that way.)

7) What does Mardi Gras represent in this story?

(This is the first celebration they’ve dared to celebrate since Khalid’s death. It represents a celebration of life and joy. King worries that it is a betrayal to Khalid to experience this joy.)

8) Auntie Idris is unusually intuitive and compassionate. How does she help King with his grief?

(She bridges the gap between King and his grieving parents. After losing her own father in Hurricane Katrina, she understands the family’s sorrow. “The Spirits of this world don’t stay dead long.”)

9) King explains to his father that being black and being gay is the same sort of hate. Is it possible that this comparison is both accurate and conflicting at the same time?

(Each person will have their own answer to this question.)

10) What did it tell us about Khalid that he didn’t want people to think King was gay?

(Khalid was trying to protect King from others who would judge him unfairly.)



(project found in Mollie Makes magazine, issue #37 February 2014)

You will need: pen, scissors, sewing needle, black thread

1) Using enclosed pattern, cut 2 body pieces in green felt. You will want to make sure you conserve your green felt – there is just enough to make the body if you plan ahead and economize.

2) Using enclosed pattern, cut 2 each of the spikes in light gray. (6 total spines)

You will decorate/stitch just one layer of green felt body:

3) Using your own needle plus pearl buttons and embroidery thread enclosed, stitch eyes in place.

4) Using color embroidery thread and needle, stitch “scales” onto the dinosaur’s side (random placement works fine).

5) Using black embroidery thread and needle, stitch smile in place.

6) Using black thread and needle, stitch spine pieces to your dinosaur’s back, spacing them as you like.

7) Using black thread and needle, stitch back to front of dinosaur, stuffing it with fiberfill when you are approximately ¾ complete.

8) Finish stitching the back of dinosaur to the front.

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