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A Reading Group Guide to This Is Not a Werewolf Story
By Sandra EvansAbout the Book
This is the story of Raul, a boy of few words, fewer friends, and almost no family. He is a loner—but he isn’t lonely. All week long he looks after the younger boys at One Of Our Kind Boarding School while dodging the barbs of terrible Tuffman, the mean gym teacher.
Like every other kid in the world, he longs for Fridays, but not for the usual reasons. The woods have secrets...and so does Raul. As soon as the other students go home for the weekend, Raul makes his way to a lighthouse deep in the heart of the woods. There he waits for sunset—and the mysterious, marvelous shapeshifting phenomenon that allows him to go home, too. Prereading Activities
1. What does the word metamorphosis
mean? Have groups identify, read about, and present different traditional tales where metamorphosis plays an important role.
2. Is it good to keep a secret? Have you ever kept one? Why? Was it your secret or someone else’s? Were you glad you kept the secret? If you didn’t keep the secret, why not? Who did you tell? What were the consequences? Imagine a situation where it would be good to keep a secret. Imagine one where it would be a bad idea. Discussion Questions
1. How do cliffs, madrona trees, windows, and the bike in the oak represent change? How have you changed in the last year? Can you come up with an image that best describes how that change feels?
2. What kinds of families are portrayed in This Is Not a Werewolf Story
3. Every character has a secret in this story. Think about what each character is hiding and what the truth tells us about him/her. Is there a character whose secret isn’t revealed? What do you think his/her secret might be?
4. Raul says he is not a werewolf. Do you agree?
5. What is the nature of the magic in this story?
6. Why does Dean Swift tell Raul you have to forgive yourself sometimes? Have you ever made a big mistake? Was it hard to admit to it? How did you feel before confessing your mistake? How about after apologizing?
7. What is “poetic justice”? Who administers it best? What does that reveal to you about this character and her role in the story?
8. Discuss the different roles that science, magic, and nature all play in the novel.
9. What does Mary Anne tell us about the origins of Raul’s and Vincent’s first names? What are the origins and meaning of your first name?
10. What does Raul mean when he talks about dandelion fluff?
11. Why is the recipe box so important to Raul? Why does he give it to Cook Patsy? Would you eat one of Raul’s mom’s recipes? Are there other significant recipes in this story?
12. Vincent, Mean Jack, Sparrow, Mary Anne, and Raul all
have problems when it comes to language. Discuss their communication issues.
13. List some of the lies that get told in this story. Who are the biggest liars? Why do you think Vincent, in the end, tells the truth?
14. Does Dean Swift really know everything
? How is not knowing
a theme of this book? What is wonder?
15. What do light and darkness mean throughout the story? Analyze the use of light in the scene where Dean Swift has Raul and Mr. Tuffman meet in his office, and then find other passages where light and dark contribute to Raul’s development.
16. Are there any people or animals in the story who are not identified as “one of our kind” but whom you suspect might be?
17. Which teacher or adult in the story is your favorite? Why? Nobody is perfect. Where do these grown-ups leave some “room to grow”? Extension Activities
1. If you could have a second skin, what would it be? Why? What do you admire about that animal? In what ways does your personality resemble that animal? Is it a resemblance based on how the animal looks? Or is it based on an intrinsic quality that you associate with that animal? Where would you shift? Choose a real place that you know. Is there someone in your life who would help you? Is there someone who would try to trap you?After you write it, draw it (or vice versa!).
2. Make puppets of your second selves, and then, in groups of three to five, come up with your own lost scene to the story.
3. Describe the ideal boarding school. Imagine you spend a year there. What would your weekday schedule look like? What classes would you take?
4. Make a map of the story and be sure to include White Deer Woods, the school and the road to it, Fort Casey, and the ranger’s trailer. Make the map as detailed as possible. Can you imagine some secret places that the story doesn’t mention?
5. Choose one of the types of trees or plants mentioned in the story and research the legends associated with it as well as its scientific properties.
6. Go online and find out about places near you where wolves have been reintroduced to their natural habitat. Educators should divide the class into two groups. One group will look at the situation from the point of view of conservationists and those who believe wolves need to be protected. The other group will look at the situation from the point of view of farmers and ranchers. Hold a classroom debate. How have some communities resolved these challenges?
7. What do Mary Anne and Mean Jack do to solve the mystery? Imagine the days after they visit the ranger in his trailer. How do they investigate the gray wolf’s curious hatred of Vincent?
8. Visit the author’s website at http://www.sandra-evans.com/
for additional teaching resources.This guide has been provided by the author for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.