Questions for Reading Connections: Year 3 and 4 Maus: Art Spiegelman. 1. A great part of Maus II is a graphic representation of what happened in Auschwitz. Many people who form the senior sector of the Dutch population were children when the horrors of WW2 occurred. The stories they carry about what they saw and experienced are often deeply troubling and emotional. Find a person in your family or community who would be willing to share one of their stories. Retell this story in a written piece. Then, write a response to how you experienced listening to the story. Did it trouble you or did you remain unaffected? Why do you think your response was the way it was? Choose an episode out of Maus II that affected you deeply. Explain why you experienced this section with such emotional depth. 2. Art Spiegelman used animals to portray the different races and nationalities in Maus II. Why would this decision be significant in telling this story? In what way does it have an effect in the way a reader understands the impact of this story? 3. Maus II is a graphic example of the Holocaust or Genocide. A Genocide is a deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political or cultural group. Do you think Art Spiegelman made a good choice in depicting this historical event in graphic form? How did Art Speigelman use artistic devices to best illustrate the horrors of the Holocaust / Genocide? Explain your reasons carefully by referring to specific graphic images that are effective visual narratives. Please do not just retell what is happening but rather write about how you interpreted the images and how they depict the horror. It would be preferred to add the images in your writing assignment. Sold: Patricia McCormick 1. For many readers, Sold is considered haunting not only through the way it is written but also the disturbing theme. What was the part (or parts) that were most disturbing to you? Explain why that part (or parts) ‘haunts’ you. In what way did Patricia McCormick’s writing style help you experience this story on a deeply emotional level? In what way did this story help you discover the horrors of prostitution using young innocent children? Do you think there is anything you can do to help? 2. Sold is written as a series of vignettes. Two of these vignettes share the same title: “Everything I need to know.” The first is on page 15 and the second is on page 141. In the first vignette, explain what the cultural expectations are by which the protagonist must live by? Does she agree with them? How do you think she experiences these cultural mandates? Then, compare this vignette to the one on page 141 when she is in the city. How does this vignette represent the changes in her life? Red Scarf Girl: Ji-Li Jiang Below are three extracts taken from various newspapers who wrote a brief response to the book: Red Scarf Girl. Choose ONE of the responses and use it as a starting point for you essay. Ask yourself if you agree with the extract you chose or not. Perhaps you would like to elaborate on their responses to formulate a complete essay. The choice is yours. Extract 1: The Five Owls, September/October 1997 "Jiang's story is immediate, captivating and brings readers directly into the world of twentieth century China under Communist rule, a country seldom explored for children - and never before explored to such effect…(The author) deftly avoids an emphasis on cultural detail that would distance readers… It is this capacity that is particularly valuable… At almost every turn, we listen to the thoughts and struggles of Ji-li to accommodate her respect and fervor for Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution while it is clearly delineated that there is no possibility of justice for her… The supporting cast is not shown in black and white terms,…This fair-handed approach increases the intensity of the memoir… Jiang's memoir changes the way we see the world and ourselves." Extract 2: Publishers Weekly 7/12/97 "The passionate tone of this memoir, Jiang's first book for children, does not obstruct the author's clarity as she recounts the turmoil during China's Cultural Revolution." Extract 3: Horn Book Jan/Feb/98 "[Red Scarf Girl] is a rare personal glimpse of the upheaval China suffered during the 1960s, and the child's point of view is firmly maintained…[The] conflict between political and family expectations is well portrayed." Speak: Laurie Halse Anderson 1. Melinda experiences a vast range of physical and psychological trauma in Speak. Below is a list of traumas that relate to sexual abuse. Melinda experiences some or all of these traumas in varying intensities. Physical Trauma Psychological Trauma Lack of sleep Fear of authority figures Eating disorder Fear of being threatened Headache Felling that no-one believes you Stomach ache Being blamed for someone else’s actions Having no energy Being aware of sexual discrimination Struggle to concentrate Feeling helpless Attempts to harm oneself / suicide Being depressed Choose a selection of at least four (two from each column) and discuss how they appear in the novel. Do not summarize what happened but rather discuss how they provide a mirror to understanding Melinda (and those who she represents in the real world) as a well rounded character. 2. Speak is not only a story that delves into rape and sexual harassment. It is embodied in symbolism too. How does Laurie Halse Anderson use the tree as a symbol for Melinda’s emotional torment and consequently emotional growth throughout this story? 3. Peer-pressure is a theme that drives the story into a roller-coaster ride. How does peer-pressure drive Melinda to take the actions she does throughout the story? In what way do her actions make her a failure and social outcast at the beginning of the book? How does Melinda become a ‘hero’ at the end of the novel? Fiela’s Child: Dalene Matthee 1. One of the main themes in Fiela’s Child is the unyielding effects of apartheid. Discuss how the theme of apartheid is framed in Fiela’s Child. 2. The character of Fiela is an incredibly strong one compared to Bertha who lives in the Knysna forest. How does Dalene Matthee develop these two mothers as opposites? How do their personalities, status and will-power determine the outcomes of their lives? In what way is Bertha more privileged than Fiela? In turn, in what way is Fiela more privileged than Bertha? 3. Could Fiela’s Child be an illustration of apartheid in South Africa? In what way does Fiela’s Child represent apartheid? Is this portrayal an effective one and does it enhance our understanding of the complexities of apartheid in South Africa? For this essay, please do some research about apartheid in South Africa and then relate your findings to the novel. Copper Sun: Sharon Draper At the back of the book on page 307, you will find a set of ten discussion questions. You may choose any of the questions to write about. Born on a Blue Day: Daniel Tammet 1. At the very end of the book, Daniel mentions his Christian faith. Why do you think he waits so long to mention religion and why does he comment on it at all? 2. Even though the entire book is based on Daniel’s syndrome and his limitations, do you view him as ‘disabled’ or ‘handicapped’ after finishing his story? In what way is autism in general seen today? Are people who are savants, or who have Asperger syndrome or autism seen as disabled or handicapped? 3. Daniel lives in England. Do you see any advantages or disadvantages to his geographical location that may have affected his personal/professional growth? 4. Do you know of anyone who has autism, asperger or is a savant? How do they function in their daily life? In what way is their life different to yours? In what way is Daniel’s life different to yours or other people who suffer from autism? Make Lemonade: Virginia Wolff 1. One of the main themes in Make Lemonade is that of circumstance. In what way is Jolly defined by her circumstances? How does she dwell in her circumstances and how does she eventually liberate herself and her young family from the harsh circumstances she finds herself in? 2. The story of Jolly is framed in symbolism. What is the symbol used by Virginia Wolff to illustrate Jolly’s growth? How is it effective and why is it so precious that her son is the one who unintentionally and quite innocently helps his mother see the ‘path’? 3. Jolly made a mess of her life by getting pregnant too soon. In what way does this story deal with the notion of teen-pregnancy? In what way can this novel be used to educate teenagers about the dangers of teen-pregnancy? My Sister’s Keeper: Jodi Picault 1. Do you think it is ethical to have a ‘designer baby’ like Anna was? Discuss this issue by also doing some research on this topic. 2. The epilogue talks about how the family moved on. How did they grieve? How did they survive? In what ways did Anna give life back to all of them, not just Kate? 3. Discuss the ways each family member copes with their situation. How is each of their identities affected by Kate? How does this affect Kate? The Kite Runner: Khaled Hosseini 1. Amir had never thought of Hassan as his friend, despite the evident bond between them, just as Baba did not think of Ali as his friend (page 35). What parallels can be drawn between Amir and Hassan’s relationship, and Baba and Ali’s? How would you describe the relationship between the two boys? What makes them so different in the way they behave with each other? What is it that makes Amir inflict small cruelties on Hassan? Had you already guessed at the true relationship between them? If so, at what point and why? 2. Khaled Hosseini vividly describes Afghanistan, both the privileged world of Amir’s childhood and the stricken country under the Taliban. How did his descriptions differ from ideas that you may already have had about Afghanistan? What cultural differences become evident in this novel? 3. Has this novel shifted your perspective towards Afghanistan? Has your perspective shifted towards Afghan people living in The Netherlands? Do you see them in a different light? How so, and in what way? 4. What is the significance of kites in the book? What do you think they symbolize? Who is the eponymous kite runner? What is the significance of the kite scenes appearing at both the beginning and end of the novel? Barefoot Jen: Keiji Nakazawa 1. Here is an extract from Jun Ishiko, a literary critic who wrote the following response for Barefoot Gen: ‘But when we ask who is responsible for dropping the bomb, we cannot simply accuse the United States of doing wrong. The Japanese government is culpable too. Even today it continues to take an evasive stance toward its own responsibility. Nor has it provided adequate compensation to the survivors of the atomic bombs. When we insist on talking about the “dropping” not the “falling” of the bombs, it is not just wordplay; it symbolizes our determination to force those responsible to own up to it. ‘ In what way do you agree or disagree with this statement based on your reading of the first volume of Barefoot Gen? 2. In much the same way as Art Spiegelman who wrote Maus I and II, Barefoot Gen captures the horrors Hiroshima in graphic format. Do you think the story told is effective as a graphic format? In what way did the imagery appeal (or nauseate) you as you read the novel. It would be preferred to add the images to your writing as you refer to them. Luna: Julie Anne Peters 1. What signs were exhibited in Luna’s childhood that showed her to be transgender? Did she act outside the gender expectations for a boy? How did people respond to Luna’s behavior? 2. Luna is a book about a male-to-female transgender person. After reading this book, how would you define ‘transgender’? How is being transgender different from being gay or lesbian? 3. Do you think fiction books like Luna help you understand and empathize with people different from you? How? The Book Thief: Markus Zusak 1. Why does Death tell Liesel that it is "haunted" by humans? Discuss the symbolism of Death as the omniscient narrator of the novel. What are Death's feelings for each victim? Describe Death's attempt to resist Liesel. Death states, "I'm always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both." (p. 491) What is ugly and beautiful about Liesel, Rosa and Hans Hubermann, Max Vandenburg, Rudy Steiner, and Mrs. Hermann? 2. Abandonment is a central theme in the novel. The reader knows that Liesel feels abandoned by her mother and by the death of her brother. How does she equate love with abandonment? At what point does she understand why she was abandoned by her mother? Who else abandons Liesel in the novel? Debate whether she was abandoned by circumstance or by the heart. 3. How does Zusak use the literary device of foreshadowing to pull the reader into the story? 4. Hans Junior, a Nazi soldier, calls his dad a coward because he doesn't belong to the Nazi Party. He feels that you are either for Hitler or against him. How does it take courage to oppose Hitler? There isn't one coward in the Hubermann household. Discuss how they demonstrate courage throughout the novel. Seedfolks: Paul Fleishman 1. On Paul Fleischman’s official website he wrote the following about the book: Seedfolks I sense that we all have hidden stores of generosity that find no outlet except in such moments of disaster. This was the marvel of the community gardens I visited. They were oases in the urban landscape of fear, places where people could safely offer trust, helpfulness, charity, without need of an earthquake or hurricane. Television, I'm afraid, has isolated us more than race, class, or ethnicity. Community gardens are places where people rediscover not only generosity, but the pleasure of coming together. I salute all those who give their time and talents to rebuilding that sense of belonging. In what way is this excerpt true to the success for the novel Seedfolks? 2. One of the central themes in the novel, Seedfolks, is first generation immigrants into the United States. Discuss how this theme is threaded throughout the novel and its characters. Please make sure to support each conclusion you make about the theme with a quote from the novel. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian: Sherman Alexi 1. Study the image provided below. Sherman Alexi uses several images in the novel to visual illustrate his adventures, experiences, troubles and moments of joy. The image below represents his struggle with identity. Discuss and analyze the notion of Identity throughout the novel using this image as a reference. 2. There are many racial slurs embedded in this book. At one point in the book Arnold tells Gordy that some Indians taunt him: “They call me an apple because they think I’m red on the outside and white on the inside.” What do they mean by calling him an apple on the outside? Why is Arnold so bothered about this taunting? The Road of Bones: Anne Fine 1. The Guardian refers to the novel: The Road of Bones as: an allegorical tale about the nature of totalitarianism; a historical fable inspired by hard experiences from the Soviet republic in the 20th century; a modern parable about how oppression breeds oppressors; and an epic journey of survival, from innocent boyhood to steely manhood. There is nothing small about The Road of Bones. Beneath its cold, white cover, a story of magnitude unfolds. In what way is this quote an accurate reflection of the novel? Consider the following: What is the nature of ‘totalitarianism’ and how does this unfold in the novel? In what way does this novel illustrate a modern parable? How does the main character, Yuri, become a man? How did this story impact your understanding of the Soviet Republic in the 20 th Century? 2. Fine creates memorable characters in the novel< The Road of Bones. Choose two characters from the novel and provide an in-depth analysis of each. Consider how they develop throughout the story. Consider how they relate to one another. Consider how your selected characters could potentially become representations of illustrating the dark depths of human behavior. Noughts and Crosses: Malorie Blackman 1. A reviewer wrote the following about the novel: Noughts and Crosses: Noughts and Crosses is sometimes distressing, sometimes disturbing, and sometimes heart-rendingly sad. It is about discrimination and injustice and brutal violence. Yet it is also about love and tenderness. A compelling, engrossing and startling novel, it makes us look more closely at the questions of colour, class and social injustice that still plague the world we live in. Choose ONE of the following topics based on this quote and write an in-depth analysis about the book which includes substantiated quotes, reflective arguments and connections to our modern society. a. In what way is the novel distressing and disturbing? b. How is discrimination, injustice and brutal violence portrayed in the novel and how are these three issues still prevalent today? c. Cross-racial relationships: How does society view this relationship in the novel in comparison to society today? d. In what way does Blackman portray social injustice in the novel and are there parallels to be found in our society today? Pride of Bagdad: Brian K. Vaughn & Niko Henrichon 1. Pride of Bagdad is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel. The illustrations go beyond the ‘picture’ because they carry a symbolic value. Animals represent certain cultural groups and the colours used in the artwork transmit certain embedded messages. Choose a selection of at least three images and discuss them in detail. Consider how the artist has designed the images to transmit a symbolic message. Consider how animals portray cultural groups. Consider artistic methods such as composition, use of colour, design, line, shape and text boxes and how they work to deliver the story. 2. A review wrote the following: In the spring of 2003, a pride of lions escaped from the Baghdad Zoo during an American bombing raid. Lost and confused, hungry but finally free, the four lions roamed the decimated streets of Baghdad in a desperate struggle for their lives. In documenting the plight of the lions, PRIDE OF BAGHDAD raises questions about the true meaning of liberation - can it be given, or is it earned only through self-determination and sacrifice? And in the end, is it truly better to die free than to live life in captivity? Answer ONE of the final two questions of this quote: 2.1 Can liberation be given or is it earned through self-determination and sacrifice? How does the graphic novel address the notion of liberation? 2.2 Is it truly better to die free than to live in captivity? How does the graphic novel address the notion of freedom versus captivity? Think about democratic and dictatorship societies today? Babylon’s Ark: Lawrence Anthony 1. Would you consider Lawrence Anthony a hero? Discuss this concept by referring to specific instances in the book. 2. What did you learn about the struggles and victories Lawrence Anthony was faced with in his retelling of his experience in Bagdad? 3. What were the major constraints Anthony Lawrence faced when cultures clashed and how were these constrains overcome? 4. Please answer this answer only you have read Pride of Bagdad too. Compare and contrast how the two books work together as an amalgamated text. Complications: Atul Gawande 1. A review mentions the following: Sometimes in medicine the only way to know what is truly going on in a patient is to operate, to look inside with one's own eyes. This book is exploratory surgery on medicine itself, laying bare a science not in its idealized form but as it actually is -- complicated, perplexing, and profoundly human. Based on the quote above, choose ONE question to answer by using examples and specific references from the text. 1.1 . If you are planning to study medicine, nursing or becoming a doctor, how did this book provide you with information and a new perspective about the medical world? 1.2. Choose a specific section of the book, for example, the patients he encounters or his philosophical reflections towards the medical word, and discuss it in detail. 1.3. In what way did this book allow you to reconsider the medical world as a citizen who is, at times, very dependent upon them. You may refer to personal experiences and align these with experiences in the book. A Thousand Splendid Suns: Khaled Hosseini Afghan women escape violence through suicide: report More Afghan women are choosing suicide to escape the violence and brutality of their daily lives, says a human rights report prepared by Canada's Foreign Affairs Department. The 2008 annual assessment paints a grim picture in a country where violence against women and girls is common, despite rising public awareness among Afghans and international condemnation. "Self-immolation is being used by increasing numbers of Afghan women to escape their dire circumstances and women constitute the majority of Afghan suicides," said the report, completed in November 2009. The document was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act. The director of a burn unit at a hospital in the relatively peaceful province of Herat reported that in 2008 more than 80 women attempted suicide by setting themselves on fire, many of them in the early 20s. Many of those women died, the report said. Choose ONE of the options below to write about: 1. In what way does this report reflect the brutality men enforce on women in this novel? Use specific references from the novel. 2. In what way has this novel deepened your understanding of the Afgan culture, especially the lives of the women? Use references from the novel to explain your answer. 3. Has your perspective changed about the Afgan people who live in your country? If so, explain why by using references from the novel.
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