Last Dance on Holladay Street
by Elisa Carbone
About the book:
The year is 1878, and thirteen-year-old Eva Wilkins has lost all the family she’s ever known. With Mama Kate and Daddy Walter both gone now, Eva feels like an orphan- but she’s not. Sadie Lewis, the woman who gave her up at birth, is alive and well in Denver. And Eva sets out to find her, carrying only an address on a slip of paper.
But when she reaches 518 Holladay Street, she discovers Sadie Lewis’s shocking secret- a secret that lands Eva in a house of ill repute, forced to dance with strangers for her keep. In this rough new world, the necessities of life come at a price-but is it a price Eva is willing to pay?
About the author:
Elisa Carbone is the acclaimed author of several books for young readers, including Storm Warriors, the winner of the 2002 Jefferson Cup Award and an ALA Notable; Stealing Freedom, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; Sarah and the Naked Truth; and The Pack. She normally lives in Maryland and West Virginia, but during the years she worked on Last Dance on Holladay Street she spent months in Colorado researching, writing, rock climbing, and skiing. For more information about Elisa Carbone and her work, visit her web site at www.elisacarbone.com
About the guide:
This guide includes discussion questions and projects appropriate for children’s book clubs, literature circles, and classroom discussions. It is intended to provoke thought and insight into the themes of this book which include parent relationships, freedom, defining one’s standards, friendship and meaningful work.
What do you know about the west during the late 1800’s? What were things like for women? For previous slaves? How did people earn their living? What do you think would be the most difficult aspect of surviving during this rough and tumble age?
1. Why must Eva leave her home and set out for Denver?
2. Describe Denver in the 1870’s.
3. Who comes to her aid in Denver? Why? What does he teach her?
4. Compare Eva’s life on the farm to that on Holladay Street.
5. In the end, how does Eva solve her problems?
1. How would you describe Eva? How has she been raised? What does Mama Kate expect of her? What does she expect of herself?
2. When Eva learns the type of house that Holladay Street is what does she do? What would you have done? What choices did she have?
3. How did Eva come to lose both Daddy Walter and Mama Kate? What type of relationship did Eva have with them? How did she come to live with them?
4. Who is Mrs. Santini? What does she teach Eva? How does this come to help her in the long run? What does she notice about her own and Mrs. Santini’s complexion? Why is this important to her?
5. Throughout the rest of the novel Eva talks to Mama Kate, almost like a prayer. How does this help her? How does it influence her decisions?
6. In what circumstances does Eva come to meet Mr. Stonewall? What do you think the stranger had in mind for Eva? Do you think this still happens today? How does Mr. Stonewall help Eva? Have you ever had an adult who was not your parent mentor you like Mr. Stonewall did for Eva? What does she learn from him?
7. How does the economy of the brothel work? Why is this an important element in how it operates? Do you think it is a fair economy? Would you have felt indebted to Miss B like Eva did? Why is she being more than just honorable? What power does Miss B have?
8. At first Eva is excited by the new clothes, abundance of food and the opportunity to learn how to dance. How is not what she expected? Is it a slippery slope toward working upstairs? Why or why not? Would you be willing to dance on Holladay Street (or want a sister to?)
9. Many of the women and girls tell the story of how they came to work at 518 Holladay Street. What were some of their circumstances? Do you think they had other options that they didn’t consider? Are they simply making excuses or is there ever someone who simply must turn to prostitution to survive? Why or why not? Do you think these same issues apply to young women today?
10. Would you describe Eva as having a strong self-esteem? Why or why not? What about Pearl and Sadie? Do you think a girl with a high self esteem would ever be convinced to work in a brothel? Why? How can a girl develop a strong sense of self? Do you think it is easier in modern times than it was back in Eva’s time or not? Defend your answer.
11. Describe how Eva escapes. What is she wearing? Why? What options does she have? Would you have been so bold to act in this way? What would you have done?
12. Why does Eva allow the Flanagan adults to believe she’s an immigrant? Why would she be put out on the street otherwise? How do they treat Eva? What do they do for her? What happens on the mountain? Why don’t they just let Eva stay permanently with them? Were you surprised by this?
13. Would you have run from the orphanage representative too? Why or why not? What would life in the orphanage be like?
14. Where are Sadie and Pearl when Eva gets back to Denver? Why? How does Eva get Miss B to bail them out? What do the three do to change their own circumstances?
15. Read the author’s note at the end of the novel. What did you learn from the author that you were surprised of? Why do you think she decided to write this story more than others?
Showing how much you understand the character of Eva create at least five pieces of writing from the following time periods: Before the opening of the novel, before leaving home, after she learns about 518 Holladay Street, in the end, and two years after the close of the novel. You can write letters, poems, journal entries, even a scene from a play.
Research one of the topics mentioned in the story. Create a PowerPoint presentation, web site design or pamphlet about what you learned. Some topics (or get one approved before starting):
train travel in the late 1800’s
Design a scene for the play adaptation of Last Dance on Holladay Street. You can use technology or old fashioned methods to bring your plan to life. Be as historically accurate as possible!