Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

John's Secret Dreams

John’s Secret Dreams
By Doreen Rappaport
Illustrated By Bryan Collier

About this book:
John Lennon's influence on music and culture is legendary. He was a rebel, a genius, an innovator, and a peace activist. From a young age he dreamed of fame and fortune. When he achieved it as one of the Beatles, he recognized the need for a deeper meaning in life. His inner search for happiness shaped his life and brought new dimensions to the world of rock 'n' roll. As a follow-up to their award-winning title, Martin's Big Words, Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier present John Lennon's life through a combination of narrative and song lyrics, cut-paper collage and watercolor art-capturing the energy and the essence of a man whose vision and creative genius continue to inspire people today.

About this guide:
This guide includes discussion questions intended to provoke thought and insight into the themes of the book, which include peace, fame, music, and dreams.

Comprehension Check:

  1. Describe what it was like at Aunt Mimi and Uncle George’s house.
  2. Who were some of the musicians John really admired?
  3. What kind of music did the Beatles play?
  4. How popular were the Beatles?
  5. Did fame and money make John Lennon happy? What else did he do to try to find peace?
  6. What is the name of the artist who changed the way John saw things and later became his wife?
  7. What war was raging when John wrote his peace anthem “All we are saying is give peace a chance?” How did this affect his music?
  8. What happened to the Beatles?
  9. How did John’s music change once he left the Beatles?
  10. What do you think were John’s secret dreams?

Discussion Guide for younger readers:

  1. On the first page it quotes John Lennon, “I like to write about me, because I know about me.” What does this mean? Do you like to write about your own life? Should all writers just write about themselves? Why or why not.
  2. One kind of dream you have at night, what is the other kind?
  3. Would you like to grow up in Aunt Mimi and Uncle George’s house? Why or why not.
  4. How did Rock and Roll change John? Has anything ever changed you like this?
  5. What does it mean to be famous? Would you like to be famous? Why or why not?
  6. The Beatles loved to experiment while making their music. What kinds of things did they do? Would you like to try it too? What kinds of things do you like to experiment with?
  7. After ten years the Beatles stopped making music together. Do you think you would like to play with the same people for ten years? Why or why not.
  8. Yoko Ono encouraged John to share his feelings. Who encourages you to share yours?
  9. Biographies are stories written about a person’s life. Why do you think John Lennon is an important person to learn about? Who would you choose if you wrote a biography about someone?
  10. A palette is the colors that an artist chooses to show the feelings of a picture. Choose two pictures to compare. Why do you think Bryan Collier used these colors for each part of the story?

Discussion Guide for older readers:

  1. What were John’s dreams as a young boy? What were his dreams as an adult? What can you learn about following your own dreams from John’s story?
  2. Even though his Aunt Mimi discounted John’s dreams of being an artist or musician, he stuck with it. Why do you think he was able to stay true to what he wanted?
  3. What events do you think shaped John’s life most?
  4. What do you think made the Beatles so popular?
  5. Many people believe they want to be rich and famous. What are the advantages and disadvantages of being forever in the public eye?
  6. When John first met Yoko Ono he looked through a magnifying glass and read the word yes. Discuss what you think the author meant when she said, “How wonderful to see Yes instead of No.” Why is this an important moment for John?
  7. Discuss John’s relationship to Yoko Ono. How did it change him? How did it change his music?
  8. The author says, “Some people called John a poet.” What makes someone a poet? Do you think lyrics and poetry are the same thing? Why?
  9. Review the lyrics mentioned in the book, which are your favorite? Why? Do they remind you of any other music or poetry you’ve listened to?
  10. Which illustration in the book is your favorite? Why?

Read the author’s note and discuss these questions:

  1. Do you think the author is a fan of John Lennon and The Beatles? Do you think it is possible for someone to write a great biography if someone is not? Why or why not?
  2. The author researched many different types of documents to prepare to write this biography. Discuss why it is important to use a variety of sources when researching. How do you know when a source is valid?

Read the illustrator’s note and discuss these questions:

  1. What does the illustrator say that inspired him about circles? Look through the book again and find examples of how they are used to represent his meaning.
  2. Why do you think this book was such a challenge for the illustrator? How did his art change for this book? What types of things did he have to consider differently for this piece than for his previous books?

Across the Curriculum: Projects

Language Arts:

Write a letter to John Lennon about your own secret dreams and wishes. Or, try your hand at writing lyrics with a friend. You write one line, your partner writes the next.


Interview someone you know who remembers when the Beatles were popular. Write at least five questions that you are curious to learn about the time when the Beatles were most popular.

Make at timeline of historical events that spans John Lennon’s lifetime. Then, add in notations about major events in John’s own life. In a short journal (or classroom discussion) tell if you think some of them are related.


Choose one of the Beatles or John Lennon’s songs to illustrate. Use any technique you prefer, but you might consider using a collage inspired by Bryan Collier’s masterful illustrations.


Why listen to the music of the Beatles and John Lennon of course! Throw a 60’s party and feature the music, clothing, and sayings of the period. Also, listen to the musicians who inspired John Lennon.

Fill out this diagram about John Lennon after reading
John’s Secret Dreams By Doreen Rappaport
Illustrated By Bryan Collier