by Mark jean and Christopher C. Carlson
Aboout the book:
Ernie Banks, named for the legendary Chicago Cub shortstop is a troubled thirteen-year-old juvenile delinquent. Abandoned on the doorstep of the Lakeside Home for Boys when he was three years old, he’s now considered a “lifer,” a permanent ward of the state. His only proof that he once belonged to somebody is a vintage Ernie Banks baseball card, a crystal acorn he wears on a string around his neck, and a strange spiral birthmark on the bottom of his right foot.
As a last reprieve before being sent to a juvenile detention facility, Ernie is allowed to spend three weeks on a working farm. When Ernie arrives at the home of Russ Frazier, he learns that the widower’s baby was kidnapped years before. The single piece of evidence was a red quilt found in a puddle in the nearby woods. Fascinated by the town’s famous “Quilt Baby,” kidnapping, Ernie is determined to solve the case. He teams up with Joey, a local tomboy, to investigate clues that lead them on a dangerous journey into a forbidden world of dark secrets, magic puddles, and the cavernous underground kingdom of the Puddlejumpers—eleven-inch-tall water creatures, with whom Ernie has a mysterious connection.
When destiny summons, Ernie must find the courage to save the Puddlejumpers from the Most Dark and lead them in battle against their mortal enemies. Only then can he find his way home.
About the authors:
Mark Jean is an award-winning director, writer, and producer of film and television. He lives in Los Angeles, California.
Christopher Carlson lives in Los Angeles, where he writes, teaches, and rambles the Griffith and Elysian hills with his good dog, Molè.
Mark and Christopher have collaborated on several projects, including the screenplay for Cynthia Voigt’s Homecoming. This is their first middle-grade novel.
Read chapter one aloud. Discuss Ernie Banks situation. How do you think he came to live in the Lakeside Home for Boys? Predict how Ernie got a name “that wasn’t even his real name.”
Questions to consider:
- Describe the Puddlejumpers. Why are they so thrilled at the birth of a human baby? What do they expect this child to be able to do?
- How is Russ left to handle a farm and a newborn? Who helps him manage? What gift is left for his son? Do you think it will be important to the story?
- The main character is known by three distinct names during the story- Shawn, Ernie, and Wawaywo. Explain how he came to be known by each of these names. Which one is most important? Are you known by different names in different places too? Explain them.
- Who are the antagonists or enemies in the novel? Which ones do you think are the worst? Why? What connections can you make to other antagonists from other stories or movies? What successes do each of the enemies make? In the end, how do they fare?
- Why do the puddlejumpers kidnap Shawn? Describe the Cavern of Pools and the rituals to celebrate Wawaywo’s arrival. List the skills he learns from them and circle the one you would most like to have.
- Explain what happened to Shawn and the other puddlejumpers because of the Trogg attack. What happens to the human landscape because of their invasion as well? Do you think Shawn is rescued during the escape or not? What makes you say so?
- Describe Ernie’s life in the Lakeside Home for Boys. What do you think Russ or the Puddlejumpers would think about his time in that facility? Do you think you would turn out as “bad” as Ernie if you were left with Mrs. McGinty or not? What few pleasures is he denied?
- How does Ernie end up back out in Circle, Illinois in Russ’s home? What does he think of Joey and Russ? How has the town changed since he was last in it?
- Explain Joey and Ernie’s journey into Holsapple’s property and mansion. What do they discover? How does Ernie’s training from long ago serve them? Why do people think Ernie is the reason for Joey’s disappearance? Where is she really? Do you think it is fair that everyone blames Ernie or not? Why?
- How does Ernie discover his true identity? What must he do to save the puddlejumpers realm? How, exactly, does he put a plan into motion? What are the results?
- Ernie must drink a powerful potion and become a puddlejumper. Would you be willing to swallow the elixir or not? Why? How does he live up to his destiny? Do you think everyone has a destiny or not?
- In the end, what becomes of Circle, Illinois? Which scene in the novel is your favorite? Would you like to visit the kingdom of the puddlejumpers?
Keep a log or journal as you read the novel and pretend that you are Shawn/Ernie/Wawaywo. Write at least ten entries about what is happening and how you feel about those events.
Good readers realize that every event has a cause and an effect in a story. As you read the novel create a graphic organizer that shows the causes and effects of each major plot point. Example: Cause: Delores dies Effect: Russ left to run farm and care for newborn. Puddlejumpers left easy access to baby.
Create a scene from the novel. You can make a diorama or paint, draw or sketch your favorite moment in the story. On the back include a brief artist’s statement about your design and a page number of the scene you are depicting.
Choose (or create your own) music for the same scene. Explain why you chose this particular piece to represent it.