“Amal Unbound” by Aisha Saeed: A Discussion Guide for Writers

Discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey

Amal.pngIn Aisha Saeed’s middle grade novel Amal Unbound, readers are introduced to Amal, a young Pakistani girl whose life is changed when she is forced into indentured servitude. Saeed’s novel gently introduces Pakistani cultural by allowing readers to nibble on common threads of friendship and family while still exploring the struggle girls and women face to be valued, educated, and respected in a patriarchal society. By studying Saeed’s novel, writers can examine how to present a culture without allowing the characters that populate that society to be in awe of their own surrounding and circumstances, how to use setting, plot and pacing to add emotion and readability to a story, how to use secondary characters to present differing views, and how to use sentence and paragraph structure to amplify voice. Continue reading

“Hello, Universe” by Erin Entrada Kelly: A Discussion Guide For Writers

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Discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey

In Erin Entrada Kelly’s middle grade novel Hello, Universe, three characters come together and find friendship and confidence. By studying Kelly’s novel, writers can examine the use of multiple points of view, the placement of adults in a story, the smart and sensitive hand required when writing about characters with disabilities, and the courage required to let a story start and end quietly.

Use the discussion questions on your own or with a book group to investigate Hello, Universe. As you consider each question, take note of how your own manuscripts apply Kelly’s methods. Continue reading

“Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein” by Lita Judge: A Discussion Guide For Writers

Discussion questions prepared by Amanda SmithPicture1.png

Lita Judge’s biography of Mary Shelley, Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein, is the haunting story of events and circumstances that led Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein. It is a biography told in free-verse, with illustrations, and reads like a YA novel.  By studying Judge’s novel, writers can examine tight purposeful story construction, word choice and symbolism.

Use the discussion questions on your own or with a book group to investigate Mary’s Monster. As you consider each question, take note of how your own manuscripts apply Judge’s methods.

These discussion questions were inspired by the KidLit Book Club meeting at The Writers’ Loft. We’d love to have you join us. Check out the Loft calendar to find out about our next meeting! Continue reading

“Clayton Byrd Goes Underground” by Rita Williams-Garcia: A Discussion Guide for Writers

In Rita Williams-Garcia’s middle grade novel Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, the sudden loss of a beloved grandfather, a disconnect between mother and son, and the young protagonist’s desire to become a Blues musician collide. By studying Williams-Garcia’s novel, writers can examine how to write sound and musical imagery, how to weave adult relationships and points of view into a middle grade novel, and how to use secondary or ancillary characters to create conflict, mood, tension and setting.

Picture1Use the discussion questions on your own or with a book group to investigate Clayton Byrd Goes Underground. As you consider each question, take note of how your own manuscripts apply Williams-Garcia’s methods.

Continue reading

“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Erika L. Sanchez: A Discussion Guide for Writers

discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey

Erika L. Sanchez’s novel I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is a first-person narrative of a teenage girl struggling with her sister’s death, her parents’ disapproval, and ultimately with depression and attempted suicide. By studying Sanchez’s novel, writers can explore managing a depressed and potentially unlikeable main character, the balance of dialogue to narrative text, and the tools writers use to create tone in their novels. Continue reading

“Challenger Deep” by Neal Shusterman: A Discussion Guide For Writers

discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey

cd.pngNeal Shusterman’s novel Challenger Deep is a reality-bending study of one teenage boy’s struggle with mental illness. By studying Shusterman’s novel, writers can explore the use of an unreliable narrator, consider the complexity of managing two different plot lines, and examine the methods Shusterman employs to write accurately and sensitively about mental health.

Use the discussion questions on your own or with a book group to investigate Challenger Deep. As you consider each question, take note of how your own manuscripts apply Shusterman’s methods. Continue reading

“Well, That Was Awkward” by Rachel Vail: A Discussion Guide For Writers

discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey

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Rachel Vail puts a modern middle-grade twist on the classic tale of Cyrano de Bergerac in Well, That Was Awkward. Using text messages, Vail’s protagonist helps her best friend respond to a new love. Vail adds tension by giving her protagonist budding feelings for her friend’s new love interest, including a classic nasty mean girl antagonist, and providing parent drama. By studying Vail’s novel, writers can explore the opportunities presented by updating classic tales, the use of text messaging in middle grade novels, the effect of setting on story, and the balance of plot and subplot. Continue reading