Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

On Rough Seas

On Rough Seas
by Nancy L. Hull
About the book:
At fourteen, Alec Curtis knows what he wants to be: a seaman. So when Captain Cairns, skipper of the Britannia, offers him a job as a galley boy, Alec jumps at the chance to escape the future his stern father has planned for him. At sea, Alec is free of his family—and the shadow of the tragedy that has changed all their lives.
            With warm looming on the horizon, Alec’s hometown of Dover on the English Channel is a very dangerous place to be. Mysterious things are happening, and Alec is determined to find out why. Who are the special soldiers being billeted at his family’s inn instead of at the encampment? Why are shadowy figures disappearing into the tunnels that run under the old stone castle? And why has his German friend, Eva, been sent away from her parents to live with strangers? The mystery grows as Germany’s forces close in on Britain.
            Then comes devastating news: 300,000 British soldiers are stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk, France. All ships, large and small, must sail across the Channel to rescue them. Nancy L. Hull’s debt novel is a gripping story of courage and growth in the midst of terrible strife.

About the author:
Nancy L. Hull teaches writing and literature at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she has also run the campus roads while training for marathons. For this book, she took research trips in the United States and in England with her family: Bruce, TJ, and Brent.
            The idea for On Rough Seas began in 2000 with an article in the Grand Rapids Press. Dunkirk veterans were planning to cross the English Channel in small boats to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the evacuation. Captivated by their desire to keep the story alive, Hull read extensively from personal accounts about the evacuation and later visited Dover Castle, the Imperial War Museum, and other sites in Britain. As part of her research, she crossed the Channel on a dreary day and imagined the rescuers encountering similar seas in May 1940.

What do you hope to be when you get out of school? How would you feel if your parents already had another plan for you? What would you do?

Discussion guide:
  1. Why do you think the author decided to open the novel with the scene where Georgie is lost?  What does it reveal about Alec’s motivations and personality? Can you imagine living with his guilt?
  2. What adults play an important role in Alec’s life? Have you ever had an older person as a friend? Who else has Alec lost in his life? Which adult does he seem closest to? Why? How would you describe his relationship with his parents?
  3. What offer does Captain Cairns make to Alec? What offer would you be unwilling to refuse if it came along? Should parents ever discourage their children from following their dreams? Why or why not?
  4. Describe Alec’s first day at sea on the Brittania. Would you want to return to sea under those circumstances?  Knowing that working on a small vessel is one of the most dangerous jobs should his parents allow it? What happens to Badger?
  5. Who is Thomas? Why is it important for him to set things straight with Alec? Why are men seemingly so attracted by the possibility of war? Do you think there will always be wars?
  6. Alec learns many things by his snooping, spying and eavesdropping. What are the most important and compelling facts he learns with this method? Do you think all people snoop?  Does he ever go too far with his spying? Is what he learns worth the risk? Are you, like Alec, a risk-taker?
  7. “War has all kinds of casualties. Those who lose their lives, and those who sometimes lose their hope.” (p. 107) Do you agree? How does the war get closer and closer to Dover? What are the fears of the people of Dover?
  8. How does Alec make a new friend in Eva? How does she change his perspective on the war? Predict what you think will happen between them in the future. Can you imagine being sent away like Eva?
  9.  Describe the scene at the beach in Dunkirk, France. How does Alec come to witness it? Do you think he was brave or foolish to have gone? What does he do while there? Does this make up for what happened at the beginning of the novel?
  10.  What happened to Thomas during the trip back over the English Channel? Do you think Douglas knew the sacrifice he was making? Who made the greatest sacrifice in the novel?
  11. Alec keeps a journal throughout the novel. Why do you think he uses this format to express himself? What ways do you work out your own thinking?
  12. How does Alec change over the course of the novel? Who do you think has the most influence on his transformation? Which character changed his perspective the most?

Language Arts:
Keep a journal like Alec did for at least two weeks. Document not just what happens to you but what you hear, see, and wonder about. At the end of the two weeks read over your entries and write a brief journal about what the experience taught you.

Good readers make connections as they read a story. They think about how things from the story relate to their own life, to the world around them, or to stories they’ve already read. As you read ON ROUGH SEAS use the following chart to jot down connections that you make in these three areas. Be sure to list the page numbers of where you made the connection.

Text to Text Connections
(something that reminded you of another book you’ve read)
Text to Self Connections
(something that you had a personal experience with in your own life. Ex: a row with your dad)
Text to World Connections
(something that reminds you of the world around you. Ex: WWII compared to present day conflict)

Research one of the following topics from the novel and create a pamphlet, powerpoint or website about what you learned:

Dover, England
Children escaping Nazi Germany
Hitler’s plan for Europe
The European Theater of WWII
The Luftwaffe
The rescue at Dunkirk, France
bomb shelters
Removal of English children to the north