Discussion Questions


Discussion Questions for Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey

Dial Books for Young Readers © 2012

Note to discussion leaders: Dragonswood
is a historical fantasy set in medieval England. The story explores the perennial issues of friendship, loyalty, and betrayal. The book also depicts the severe social limitations on girls and women in medieval times, and how one girl fights back and finds her path to freedom.

FOCUS: Students and teacher or reading group leader discuss the roles of friendship, loyalty, and betrayal from the book, Dragonswood. At the end of the discussion, class will define “loyalty.”

Early in the book, Tess is forced to name her friends to the witch hunter, putting them in danger. When her moment of escape comes, she has the choice to flee alone, or to risk her life, staying behind long enough to help her friends escape. This moment tests her true character. Tess puts herself in danger taking her friends out on the road, caring for them until she can find a safe haven for them all.

The story explores the mistakes we make along with the power of decision. The character, Tess, continues to make decisions to alter a destructive course she’s put herself and her friends on. The story explores each person’s power to try and right a wrong.

“We may think of ourselves as loyal friends, but our true loyalties reveal themselves when we are tested.” Author Janet Lee Carey

Have students brainstorm the qualities of a good friend. List the qualities on the board.

  1. Tess gives up the names of her friends, Meg, and Poppy to the witch hunter. Have you ever thought a friend might have been unfaithful to you? What did you do with this sense of distrust?
  2. Tess decides to take the risk to warn her friends before she runs away from the witch hunter. Her friends are in danger if they stay in town, but the road is dangerous, too, especially unguarded women on the run. Does Tess make the right choice or the wrong choice. Why?
  3. While on the run, Tess’s friends are angry with her. Would you be angry if you were in their shoes? What would you do in that situation? Would you do anything differently?
  4. The three friends must work together to overcome the challenges of surviving on the run. Can facing challenges mend broken friendships? How?
  5. Tess continues to feel responsible for her friends’ safety. Can her acts of courage on the road ever make up for her earlier betrayal? If yes, why? If no, why not?
  6. We say people “earn” our trust. What does that mean? Once trust is broken, can it be earned again or is it too late?

Look at original friendship list. After discussing the story do they want to add any new words to the list? Ask the class to define “loyalty.”

Dragons Keep

Discussion Questions for Dragon’s Keep by Janet Lee Carey

Harcourt © 2009

  1. Beauty And Beast:
    Rosie is part princess, part dragon—both Beauty and Beast. She is taught to be ashamed of her claw and to hide that part of herself. Do you ever feel like you have to hide a part of yourself to be accepted by others?
  2. Best Boy:
    As the author of DRAGON’S KEEP, I’m partial to Kye. I also love Ged in Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea books, and, of course, Aragorn in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Who is your favorite romantic hero?
  3. Pride:
    On Dragon’s Keep, Lord Faul teaches Rosie to be proud of her claw, and she begins to come into her power. Can a “weakness” or “fault” become a strength? What do you think?
  4. Imperfect Princess:
    Rosie doesn’t think she’s beautiful because of her claw. Girls today are taught by the media that beauty = love. How do you handle the constant commercial hype you see in magazines and on TV?
  5. Endangered:
    The dragons in Rosalind’s day are endangered. Rosie does what she can to try to prevent their extinction. Do you think people today can create environmental change and save some of the threatened species now? Can Going Green help? What are your ideas?
  6. Oops, I thought . . .
    Rosie assumes Kye has rejected her because of her claw. Have you ever assumed someone felt a certain way about you and later discovered it was only in your head?

Stealing Death

Discussion Questions for Stealing Death by Janet Lee Carey

Egmont USA © 2009
Welcome teachers, librarians, and book groups. Choose any or all of these questions to launch discussions.

      1. Chapter One: Why is Kipp so set on capturing the wild horse?
      2. Chapter Four: Kipp decides to take the Sanuu Witch’s magic potion to steal the Gwali’s soul sack. Why does he want the sack? Would you have made the same decision?
      3. Chapter Nine: Do you think it’s fair for Kipp and Jilly to have to work for the landlord, Sor Tunassi, to pay off their father’s debt?
      4. Chapter Twenty-four: Why does Kipp leave the bone thrower before he’s paid for the snake bones? Do you understand the way Kipp feels?
      5. Chapter twenty-five and Twenty-six: What do you think about the shooting at the fair? Was it an accident or did Zalika do it on purpose?
      6. Chapter Thirty-three: Kipp tries a daring plan to rescue Zalika. Would you have done the same thing in his shoes?
      7. Chapter Thirty-five: Zalika says she understands why Kipp had to leave her the night she was injured. Does she really understand why he did it? Why does her explanation upset Kipp?
      8. Chapter Thirty-eight: Kipp and Sor Twam enter the dragon cave. What is Kipp looking for?
      9. Chapter Forty-one: The mistress in the temple tells Kipp to “Go,” and “change.” Does this have more than one meaning?
      10. Chapter Forty-four: Kipp admits his part in the family fire. How does he feel about his mistake now?
      11. Chapter Forty-four: Why does Kipp want to take this dangerous journey? What does he hope to find?
      12. Chapter Forty-six: Kipp feels ready to do what his teacher asks him to do. Why?

Wenny Has Wings

Discussion Questions for Wenny Has Wings by Janet Lee Carey

Atheneum Books © 2002

        1. We learn what Will’s little sister, Wenny, was like through Will’s letters. How would you describe Wenny?
        2. How do her parents remember her? Did they see Wenny differently than Will did?
        3. Why do Will’s parents become so upset when they catch Will in Wenny’s room?
        4. Why are they upset when Will wants to make Wenny a birthday cake?
        5. What secret is Will afraid to tell his parents?
        6. Do you think Gallagher Krumley is a good friend? Why?
        7. When Will tries to tell the adults about the light and tunnel, how do they react?
        8. If you had a friend who had a near death experience, what do you think you would say to them?
        9. Will thinks his parents loved Wenny more than they love him. Is he right or is he mistaken?
        10. What does Will learn by the end of the story?
        11. Is Will’s family closer by the end of the book? Why?

(Revised Discussion Questions from originals found at Kirkwood Public Library Missouri

Children’s Author talks about Near-Death Experience in her book Wenny Has Wings

Zoe Flynn

Discussion Questions for The Double Life of Zoe Flynn by Janet Lee Carey

Atheneum Books © 2004

Questions by Judy Shaw and Janet Lee Carey

These questions are designed to be used either for class discussion or as short writing assignments. Students may also explore their thoughts about these questions in their journals. Some schools have chosen to use the book and questions as a part of a broader study unit on poverty awareness and homelessness, to increase student interest in community service and link up to outreach organizations in their community.

Section One– Chapters 1-4

        1. Zoe Flynn had lived in her house at 18 Hawk Road for almost as long as she could remember. Then her parents decided to move. Have you ever had to move to a new house? How did you feel about that?
        2. On their last night before the move, Zoe and Juke are told to pack what they will take with them on the road in a small backpack. If you could only take a few things with you when you moved what would you take?
        3. In chapter 4, Zoe and Kellen say goodbye. Did you ever have to move away from a friend? Or did a friend ever move away from you? Do you still visit them?
        4. Before her family left the house, Zoe took the glass doorknob off the door of her special dreamroom closet where she liked to read and draw. Why do you think she did this? Have you ever had a special object like that? What was it? Compare your feelings about your special object with Zoe’s feelings about her glass doorknob.

Section Two — Chapters 7-15

        1. In Chapter 7, Grandma Nell has a message for Zoe “Find the door.” What do you think that means?
        2. In Chapter 9, Zoe thinks a cop is following her as she rides her bike to school. Why is she worried about that?
        3. Zoe doesn’t want anyone at her new school to know about her living situation. Why? How would it feel if you and your family had to live in a van like Zoe did?
        4. Why were the sixth grade girls so mean to Zoe, Aliya, and Sheila? Why do you think people act that way?
        5. In chapter 12 (page 65), Zoe thinks about how hard it is to be homeless. How does the family handle being homeless? What kinds of things do they have to do?
        6. How did Zoe decide to help solve her family’s living situation? If you knew a homeless family, what are some ways you could help? What services does our community have for homeless families?
        7. In chapter 15, Zoe asks Asif to buy a lottery ticket for her so she can win back her home. Asif won’t do this for her. What should she do now?

Section Three — Chapters 16-26

        1. Zoe tries to win the Big Cash Prize at Galaxy Burgers so she can buy her home back in Tillerman. What do you think of her new plan?
        2. In chapter 17, Zoe is upset by Kellen’s letter. Why?
        3. In chapter 18, Zoe and Aliya get into a fight on Halloween. Why?
        4. In chapter 20, officer Bergstrom catches Zoe and Juke at the cabin. Why does Zoe take Officer Bergstrom to Mrs. Garmo’s house?
        5. In chapter 23, Juke doesn’t think Zoe should go to Aliya’s house. Who gave him that idea? What do you think about that?
        6. In chapter 26, Zoe and Aliya get into a fight at school. Zoe doesn’t want Aliya to find out she and her family were living in a van. How does this cause a misunderstanding between the two girls?

Section Four — Chapters 27- 42

        1. Zoe takes the bus to Tillerman. Why?
        2. When Zoe goes back to Tillerman, she finds things have changed. Her best friend Kellen has new friend and even worse her bedroom is being remodeled. Was Zoe’s expectation that everything would stay the same realistic? Have you ever had an experience like that when your expectations were completely different from reality?
        3. In chapter 32, Zoe grabs the mobile phone from the kitchen and calls 911 to report the fire. This was a dangerous choice. What else could she have done?
        4. In chapter 33, Zoe and Kellen talk in her room. Zoe still keeps her homelessness a secret. Why doesn’t she tell Kellen?
        5. In chapter 36 Zoe discovers something about Officer Bergstrom. Now she understands why he was following her when she rode her bike. What does she know about it now?
        6. In chapter 39, the manager shows Zoe and her family around inside a mobile home. Zoe thinks she’s going to say “no” to living at the mobile home park, but she changes her mind. Why?
        7. In chapter 41, Zoe starts to draw again for the first time since she left Tillerman. Why?
        8. In chapter 42, Zoe invites Aliya into her “dreamroom”. She’s never invited anyone into her dreamroom before. Why does she ask Aliya to come in?
        9. Zoe tells Aliya the whole story of her move and all about living in the van. What does “home” mean to Zoe now?

Questions for Further Discussion:

        1. Many of the characters in this book have experienced some type of loss. Which character do you identify with most? Why? How did this person cope with their loss?
          • Grandma
          • Zoe and her family
          • Aliya and her family
          • The policeman (Julia’s dad) and his family
        2. The title of this book talks about Zoe Flynn and her double life. What does that mean? Why is Zoe leading a double life?
        3. Why do you think the author chose this topic to write about? Now that you know a little more about poverty and homelessness, can you think of ways you can help other kids in this situation?

Questions by Judy Shaw, Literacy Education Coordinator, Hopelink. And by Janet Lee Carey.

For more on helping homeless families and children in need, see Hopelink at www.hope-link.org and National Coalition for the Homeless at www.nationalhomeless.org

The New Face of Homelessness by the author of The Double Life of Zoe Flynn