Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Tracie: Do you still write guides?

So you found Wild Geese Guides and you're wondering if I still write book club guides, teacher guides, discussion guides,or  guides aligned to the Common Core Curriculum.

Yes, actually, I do!

Why get a guide?
It's the best chance to get your book used in classrooms (traditional and otherwise)
Increased sales
Fantastic website content
Great for school visits
Helps your book stand apart

My Credentials:
I've created over 300 guides from wordless picture books to edgy-crossover YA novels

Recent Clients:
Random House
Little Brown
Author Clients:
Barbara O'Connor
Libba Bray
Shana Corey
Lauren Stringer

* I still teach (so I know how to make a book relevant)
* I'm well-trained in the Common Core Curriculum
* My master's degree is in literacy from Miami University of Ohio
* I've taught pre-school through college
* This is my 12th year writing guides (Did I mention that I've never, ever missed a deadline?)
* I have six of my own children's books

I teach full-time
I'm a mom of two fantastic teens
I'm writing a two-book fantasy series for Disney/Hyperion titled SECOND GUARD (Out in Summer of 2014: Crazy dream-come-true life, I know!)

I create less guides than I once did
My fees are more commensurate with my experience (but still reasonable)
I do not have time to upload them to this blog once they're completed (sorry) but you can add it to your website, the publisher's site, and make gobs of copies all you like
Here's a  very recent example:

All that sounds good to you email me at and we can talk shop.
I'd be honored to help get your book in the hands of teachers and readers.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Under the Mambo Moon by Julia Durango

PUT on your poetic dancing shoes! My writing partner, and best pal, Julia Durango has a stunning new book out that combines lyrical poetry, latin music, and fascinating non-fiction. HOORAY, Julia!

Under the Mambo Moon
by Julia Durango
Illustrated by Fabricio VandenBroeck

About the book:
On summer nights
Marisol helps Papi
at the music store.

For those who stop by,
Tia Pepa,
music’s more than just music.

It’s stories—
dreams and memories—
poems that

With the rhythms of

Papi says you can
read people’s souls
by the music
they listen to.

About the author:
On summer nights Julia Durango likes to salsa dance and drink limonada. Julia is a children’s librarian and the author of several books for young readers, including Sea of the Dad, The Walls of Cartagena, and Cha-Cha Chimps. She is also the coauthor with Linda Sue Park of Yum! Yuck! A Foldout Book of People Sounds. Julia has a degree in Latin American studies and travels to Colombia whenever she can. When she’s not traveling she lives with her family in Ottawa, Illinois. Visit her at

About the illustrator:
Fabricio VandenBroeck is the illustrator of Uncle Rain Cloud, My Name is Jorge, Under the Breadfruit Tree, The Witch’s Face, My Shoes and I, and many other books for children. A former member of a rock band, he lives in Mexico City, where he creates his own sounds on the electric guitar. His musical tastes range from Latin jazz to world music to punk rock.

Author Interview:

1.       What first inspired Marisol’s story?

When I first travelled to Latin America as a teen, I immediately fell in love with the music.  Each type of Latin music that I encountered, from tango to salsa, merengue to mambo, seemed to tell a story about people transcending adversity and embracing life, with all of its pain and joy.  Marisol’s story is my thank you letter to an art form that has brought me so much pleasure through the years.

2.       How is writing poetry different from prose? What did it teach you as a writer?

Poetry is much like a song.  You have a brief amount of time (or words) to tell a story, evoke a feeling, or conjure an image.  It’s a small square of dark chocolate rather than a banana split, or a perfectly formed rosebud instead of a bouquet.  Writing poetry taught me to search for one delicious bite, one exquisite bloom in a forest of words.

3.       What can your fans look forward to next?

Another music-inspired offering!  My upcoming project, Dream Away, is both picture book and lullaby.  Illustrated by Robert Goldstrom and co-authored by songwriter Katie Belle Trupiano, Dream Away tells the story of a boy’s nighttime travels through the sea of constellations along with his father and crew.  You can read more about the book and listen to the song here:


What is your favorite kind of music? What types of instruments does it feature? Can you explain what you like best about it?

Discussion guide:

1.       Why do people come to the music store? What do they hope to find there? Why does music do more than just entertain us?

2.       What memory does Mrs. Garcia relive through music? What song takes you back to a great memory?

3.       What inspired João? How did he turn this longing into music?

4.       Explain how Dr. Solis feels young again. What takes him back to that time? Is there a song that you think makes your own parents feel young? How do you know?

5.       How does Catalina’s poem sound like the music it is talking about? Why do poets play with line breaks and the sounds of words?

6.       What event is Tia Pepa planning for?  What do you think will be the best part?

7.       Why is Tio Freddy like his accordion? What are you like?

8.       What instrument does Professor Soto like to listen to when he’s homesick? What is your favorite instrument? How would you describe its sound?

9.       What do you think the drums represented or symbolized to the people who played them in Uruguay?

10.   Describe Mr. And Mrs. Mayer while they dance. Describe how your own friends dance.

11.   What part of samba school would you like best?

12.   Explain why Susana’s  “whole body/sings?” When does yours?

13.   Where did the cumbia drums sound? Why were some people afraid of them? Does any modern music still scare others?

14.   How does dancing the salsa make Liliana feel? What makes you feel “like the whole world/will be okay?”

15.   How do Marisol and her own parents celebrate after a long day in the music store? What do you like to do under a “Mambo Moon?”



Listen to the different types of music described in the book and rate them using the following chart:

Type of music:
I like the rhythms and beat:
I like the sounds of the instruments:
I need to explore this music more:


Bossa nova









Son jarocho



Language Arts:

Inspired by Under the Mambo Moon, write a poem about your favorite type of music. Try to use at least one simile or metaphor like Julia did!


Memorize (or read dramatically) the poems for a performance. Play the music in the background to give it an authentic flavor!


Inspired by the illustrator, create a piece of art that shows people dancing from your own cultural tradition.


Through music, we are able to trace the influences of different cultures over time. Research how the traditions in the book intersected with each other and what resulted in history, music, and culture.

Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, children’s author and literacy specialist, created this guide.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

HILARIOUS! Thought-provoking! An overdue answer to Golding's Lord of the Flies

Beauty Queens
by Libba Bray

Scholastic Press
ISBN: 978-0-439-89597-2
Ages: 13-18

About the book:

Survival. Of the fittest. The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream Pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

                What’s a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program—or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan—or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

                Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of Going Bovine and NYT Bestseller A Great and Terrible Beauty. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.

About the author:

Libba Bray is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. She was awarded the Printz Award for her novel Going Bovine. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and son. You can visit her online at


Have you ever read Lord of the Flies by William Golding? What is the premise of that novel? After reading the cover, what is the premise of Beauty Queens? Predict everything that could happen on a deserted island with teen beauty queens. Defend your answers.

Discussion guide:

1.       After reading the Prologue (AKA: A Word from Your Sponsor) make a list of everything you know about the characters, setting and conflict of the novel. What tone is established by the author in this part?  Who, do you think, is the The Corporation and what do they want?

2.       How do the girls organize themselves? Who establishes herself clearly as a leader? What must they accomplish to prepare for the pageant and their survival (and without fresh lipstick!)?

3.       What do The Lost Girls discover while exploring the wreckage? The girls seem to size each other up as if the competition were more important than survival. Do women do this to each other even without a beauty competition hovering in the wings? Why? Do you think men or women are more competitive?

4.       “In times of stress, she relied on her skills at accessorizing to calm her.” (p.18 Chapter Three) What calms you in times of high anxiety? Are there things that are truly universal for all young women or not? Why?

5.       We get to know the girls through their individual “Fun Facts Page.” Which one is your favorite? Why? How does it give an additional window into a character? Who is your favorite character? Do all of them have the same motives for the competition or not? With whom do you most identify? How do they identify a great deal of themselves while they practice the question and answer format for the pageant?

6.       Barry Rex says that “a system rewards girls for being pretty and it values compliance and conformity rather than the boldness and rule-breaking that we pride in our boys and which often help them feel entitled to success, to getting ahead in life.” (p. 57 Live on Barry Rex Live) How does high school expect conformity of girls? Are boys allowed to break the rules? Which rules?

7.       Explain how Jennifer Huberman and Sosie meet? What do they accomplish in the most {bleep} way?  What is unique about both of these characters? What do the footnotes add to the story? Which one, so far, has been your favorite?

8.       Describe what happens when the girls eat the red, star-shaped fruit?  How does it provide something each of them needed? How else do they end up getting enough to eat and drink? What would you most miss about civilization?

9.       What is the evil plot of The Corporation and who exactly is MoMo B. ChaCha, aka The Peacock? How does this complicate the world on the island? Why do you think the author added this nemesis to the story?

10.   When the surprising truth is revealed about Petra she claims, “ Everybody lies about who they are. Name one person here who isn’t doing that and I will drop out right now!” Do you agree with her or not? How do we lie in both subtle and obvious ways to get through our days and to get what we want? Does Petra’s storyline make you questions your assumptions about gender? How?

11.    “…when it came to love, the message for girls seemed to be this: Don’t. Don’t go after what you want. Wait. Wait to be chosen, as if only in the eye of another could one truly find value.” (p.125, Chapter Eleven) Do you agree? Why do you think society still allows boys so much more freedom in romance and sexuality?

12.   Taylor rewards the girls with goodies from her bag after they prepare for battle. What would you want to nab? Why?

13.   How does Sosie realized that she has “…rolled over and showed her belly, Like me and I won’t be any trouble at all?” Have you done this in your life too? What did she learn from the truly angry girl with cerebral palsy? How is she finally changed on the island?

14.   Why do the girls outlaw the word “sorry” on the island? Should it be outlawed in your own vocabulary? Why do women have a penchant for this word but boys seem unable to utter the two-syllable curse?

15.   At Girl Con which workshops would you be most excited to attend? What other panels and workshops would you like to add to the offerings? Could you sit on one of the panels? What for?

16.   What is Mary Lou’s backstory? How is she from a long line of cursed women? Does it sometimes feel like all women hold a curse? How do we curse ourselves and each other? How does Mary Lou move beyond her curse with Tane? Are there men that can accept women for exactly who they are? Have you ever found one in a high school?

17.   “Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one’s watching them so they can be who they really are….They were no longer performing. Waiting. Hoping.” (p. 177, Chapter Fifteen) Do you agree? Why do girls act differently for the audience of boys and adults? Have you ever spent a significant amount of time alone?

18.   Which one of the “commercial breaks” or “word from your sponsors” is your favorite? Why? What do they add to the story?

19.   Why does Shanti make up interesting stories that people want to believe or hear? What is her motive for winning the competition? How is “…sometimes the truth did not set you free. Sometimes, it was a hard, lonely prison of a place to be” for Shanti? Have you ever been there?

20.   Describe what happens to Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins over the course of the novel. Would you say she is the character who changes the most or not? Why? What is her story? How does she ultimately save the girls and herself?

21.   “All you had to do was introduce the scent of testosterone and perfectly capable, together girls were reduced to giggling, lash-batting, hair-playing idiots.” (p. 231, Chapter Twenty-One) How does this happen on the island or in your school? How do they lose ground, especially Adina? Who is surprisingly accepted for who she is?

22.    What happens between Jennifer and Sosie? Why is it ironic that Jennifer has difficulty accepting Sosie’s explanation of how she feels?

23.   How does The Corporation plan to discredit MoMo and gain power over his country’s natural resources? How is Ladybird Hope a part of this conspiracy? How do they find and “rescue” the girls? How do the girls foil their plan?

24.   “Mary Lou felt something she didn’t let herself feel often: She was well and truly pised off. Why do girls have to be all pure and innocent and good? Why don’t guys have to be?”  (p.299, ChapterTwenty-Nine) Do you allow yourself to be justifiably pissed? When? What really honks  you off? What set Mary Lou off? Why do we teach girls to suppress so much?

25.   In the end, how do the girls survive and rescue themselves? Who stays on the island? Do you think the changes they experienced on the island will be permanent or not? What about your own insights into beauty and being a girl?



Plan your own Girl Con for young women in your community.  Brainstorm topics and workshops that you’d like to attend. See if you can find women leaders (and teens) in your community who care share what they know.


Write a short advertisement inspired by the ones from the novel that show an ironic portrait of an aspect of being a teen woman today.


Create a piece of art (or perhaps a banner, inspired by Petra) that best represents what you will take away from reading the novel.  The medium is your choice, of course!

Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, an author and teacher, created this guide.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Cousins of Clouds!!

Dear Teacher Friends,

I am SO EXCITED to tell you that my very own new book is now available just in time for POETRY MONTH, people! The best celebration of the year! If you're looking for a new way to freshen up your poetry unit then have I got a guide for you. Seriously, I went a little crazy with this guide. It's got vocabulary, discussion questions and comprehension plus oodles of mini-lesson ideas for each poem. Plus, a HOW-TO guide for writing  narrative poems (including revision techniques).

Happy poetry,


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku

Teachers’ Guide for
Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku
by Lee Wardlaw
Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
Ages 5 and up

“Wardlaw has a fine understanding of the feline mind,
and each poem packs a big impact…
a surprisingly powerful story in verse.”
  – Publisher’s Weekly

“Wardlaw’s terse, traditional verse captures catness from every angle, while Yelchin’s…illustrations telegraph cat-itude with every
stretch and sinuous slink. Perfect pussycat poetry
for anyone who has ever loved a shelter cat.”
                            – Kirkus, starred review

Both the tightly constructed lines and elegant, playful illustrations
unerringly imagine a cat’s world…
[Wardlaw] creates a lovable, believable character
in this wry, heartwarming title that’s sure to find wide acceptance
in the classroom and beyond.
                                    – Booklist, starred review

  About the Author

  Lee Wardlaw’s first spoken word was “kitty.” Since then, she’s
  owned more than two dozen cats (not all at the same time!) and
  published more than two dozen award-winning books for young
  readers, including 101 Ways to Bug Your Parents and 101 Ways to
  Bug Your Teacher. She lives in Santa Barbara, California with her
  husband, teenage son, and (of course) three cats.

  About the Illustrator

  Eugene Yelchin is a Russian-born artist. He illustrated Who Ate All
  the Cookie Dough? by Karen Beaumont and The Cobbler’s Holiday
  or Why Ants Don’t Wear Shoes by Musharraf Ali Farooqi. With his
  wife, Mary Kuryla, he co-wrote Heart of a Snowman and Ghost Files:
  The Haunting Truth, which he also illustrated. He lives with his
  family in Topanga, California.

  Author Interview

1.How did you get the idea for this book?

“When one of our two beloved cats passed away, my young
son and I went to a local animal shelter to pick out a new
kitten.  We interviewed several of them, and it was like some-thing out of ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’:  This one is too shy, this one too skittery, that one bites, that one is napping
in his litter box (ew!)…but this one is just right.  So Won Ton’s story is based on the journey we took with our new family member, from the ‘choosing’ to the car ride home, to the ‘naming’, to the first subbed meal – and beyond.”

2.Haiku is deceptively simple. What advice do you have for writers of the form?

“Writing haiku is like cupping a moth between your hands. You are capturing a moment, stilling its wings to better see it, observe it, appreciate it. So haiku is all about noticing – with eyes and ears wide open – what is happening before you right here, right now.  That takes patience and practice – but it’s worth it!

“For teachers wanting to introduce haiku to their students, I highly recommend Patricia Donegan’s book Haiku (Tuttle
          Publishing). In her book, Donegan talks about the Seven Keys
to Writing Haiku:  Form, Image, Kigo, Here and Now, Feeling, Surprise and Compassion. I’ll discuss these keys in more detail later in this Guide.”

3.Who are some of your favorite poets? What have you learned from them?

“I enjoy Valerie Worth, Ellen Kelley, Thalia Chaltas, Kristine
O’Connell George, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Joan Bransfield
Graham, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, April Halprin Wayland,
Shel Silvertein, Tracie Vaughn Zimmer…the list is endless! 
As for what I’ve learned from them?  Observe! Notice! And play!”

4.What can your fans look forward to next?

101 Ways to Bug Your Friends and Enemies (ages 10-14)
is scheduled for publication September, 2011; I also have a rhyming picture book for toddlers and preschoolers due out
in the spring of 2012. It’s called Red, White and Boom! and
it’s about the many ways families across the U.S.A. celebrate
the 4th of July.


What is haiku? Do you think it is easy or hard to write? Why?

  Discussion Guide

What does the shelter have? What does it NOT have? What does our cat hero mean when he says, “or so I’ve been told.”
How are the cats alone but together in the shelter? Describe what feelings you think Won Ton has.
What’s special about visiting hours?
Explain why the cat thinks there is “no contest” with dogs.
Do you agree? Make a pros and cons list for each pet.
Do all the children during visiting hours treat the cats kindly? How do you know?
How hard is it to name a pet? How do you decide? What name does the boy choose? Do you think it’s a good name or not?
How does Won Ton feel about the new place? What details prove this? Have you ever been nervous or afraid to try something new?  Why?
What does it mean to “snub” something? What foods do you snub?
What habits does Won Ton have that you like or dislike?  Would you like him to live with you?  Why or why not?
Where is Won Ton’s favorite place to sleep? Where is yours?
What happens when the boy’s sister plays with Won Ton? Do cats usually like little children or not? Why?
What does your “nose know?” What are good snacks for cats? Which ones are disappointing? What’s your favorite snack?
Describe the types of things that the boy and Won Ton like to do together. How do cats get the attention of their owners? How do you get the attention of your parents?
What is the best part of owning a pet? What can be difficult?
In the end, what does Won Ton tell the boy that’s important?


All stories (even ones written in haiku!) have three parts to them: a beginning, a middle, and an end. As you re-read the story, fill out the following graphic organizer on the most important things to remember about Won Ton’s story.
In the beginning…
In the middle….
In the end…


  Try writing your own haiku or senryu poem. Tell the story of your
  own pet (or dream pet) in a series of at least five poems. Read the
  author’s note at the opening of the book for more information about
  this form of poetry.


  Solve these word problems:

1.If Won Ton, Pumpkin and Gypsy each eat a cup of food a day, and they spend two weeks at the shelter before they’re adopted, how many cups will they eat in total?

2.If  Gypsy spends an extra week at the shelter (she has a cold, poor baby), how many more cups of food will you need?

3.Imagine you received $75 for your birthday to pay for adopting a cat.  If the adoption fee is $35.00, and it costs $15.00 to have her spayed and $20.00 for her first shots, do you have enough to adopt?

4.If a cat sleeps 18 hours a day, how many hours are left to play?


  Inspired by the sharp angles and lines of Eugene Yelchin’s
  illustrations, create a portrait of your own pet (or dream pet) on
  the flat surface of a paper plate. Paint or color the ruffled edges to
  look like a wooden frame. Hang your favorite haiku/senryu beneath
  it for a hallway display.

  Community Service Project

  Host a bake sale, carwash or other fundraiser to benefit a local pet 
  shelter or Humane Society. Be sure to call the shelter and ask what

  type of donations they need. Care packs for newly adopted pets are
  often welcome.


  Both poetry and science rely on close observation. As you work on 
  creating a haiku or senryu, use the following chart to make direct
  observations of your pet or topic:

What you notice about your topic:
Details you can SEE (color, shape, size, movement)

Details you can HEAR (volume, repetition, tone)

Details you can SMELL (strong, pleasant, sharp, warm, etc.

Details you can TASTE (sweet, sour, tangy, bitter)

Details you can TOUCH (scratchy, silky fuzzy, soft)


  The Seven Keys to Writing Haiku
  From Haiku by Patricia Donegan

1.Form:  A haiku poem should have three lines with or
without a seventeen syllable count. (Five syllables in the
first line, seven in the second, five in the third.) A good rule
of thumb is to make your haiku one breath long.

2.Image:  Your poem should have a descriptive image. For
example, instead of ‘a cat’, write ‘a black cat in the grass.’

3.Kigo:  Kigo is a ‘season’ word. Haiku always refers to
nature in some way, hinting at the day’s season or weather.

4.Here and Now:  Write from a real observation – an experience or a memory of an experience – instead of from your imagination.  Remember: you are noticing – and writing about noticing – a present moment.

5.  Feeling:  Show, don’t tell.  Your haiku should not explain;
      use an image to show your feelings.

5.Surprise:  Haiku should have an ‘ah’! or an ‘a-ha!’ moment:
Something that wakes the reader up.

6.Compassion:  Haiku expresses open-heartedness toward
living things.

This guide was created by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, a reading
specialist and children’s author. To learn more about Tracie and
her books, visit For hundreds of other guides Tracie has created, visit:

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Youngest Templar: Orphan of Destiny

TEACHERS:  If you're looking for high adventure for reluctant readers look no further!  The guides to the entire series are on this blog, too! Enjoy!  -TVZ

The Youngest Templar: Orphan of Destiny
Book Three
by Michael P. Spradlin

About the book:
Tristan and his companions—the fiery archer Robard Hode and the assassin maid Maryam—have escaped to England. But tragedy has occurred at Tristan's beloved abbey while he was away, and Robard's home in Sherwood Forest suffers under the rule of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Many obstacles still prevent them from delivering the Holy Grail into safe hands. Tristan must defeat the evil Sir Hugh in one final battle. And he must learn the secret of his birth, a secret Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine are willing to kill to protect!.

Praise for the series:
“This is a winner!”- KLIATT, starred review
“[A] stirring saga” – Booklist
“[M]emorable.” – The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Brilliant” and “Riveting” School Library Journal

About the author:
In addition to penning the international bestselling Youngest Templar trilogy, Michael P. Spradlin is also the author of the Spy Goddess novels and several picture books. He lives for the day he can become a full-time writer. He was born in a small town in Michigan and grew up with a healthy and natural suspicion of all Hoosiers and Buckeyes. When he is not writing, he travels the world in his fully automated yacht, aboard which he enjoys cooking, water skiing and plotting Total World Domination. He’s just kidding about that last part. He really doesn’t enjoy water skiing.

Author Interview:

1.Did you map out the entire series from the beginning or did fate play a hand in any of the writing?

I use what I call the “Umbrella Approach.” I sort of know where the story starts and ends in a general way, but I then let the characters take over and tell the rest. It’s much better for me that way. A perfect example is the character Robard. Originally, I thought he and Tristan would meet briefly in Book One, then reconnect in Book Three. But the moment he stepped on the page he was so forceful he demanded to stay. And the series is so much the richer for it.

2.What have you learned about writing while creating this riveting series?

I hope I’ve improved as a writer from book to book and as always I’ve discovered that my characters are always oh so much smarter than me.

3.What can your fans look forward to next?

My next book is called The Raven’s Shadow. It takes place in Washington DC in 1825 and features a teenage Charles Darwin, Edgar Allan Poe and Abraham Lincoln who must team up and save the world from an ancient evil the world will someday come to know as Count Dracula.


Brainstorm a list of everything a reader should know or remember about Tristan, our young hero, and his companions Robard and Maryam. At the end of each chapter make a prediction about what you think will happen next and why.

Discussion guide:

1.Who is speaking in the prologue? Why is he struggling? What are his problems and conflicts?
2.In the opening chapter Maryam is set to hang in the gallows. What happens? Why does the Queen offer a threat to Tristan? Do you believe her?
3.What happens to Tristan in Calais? Have you ever suffered a serious injury? What can be the effects? How does it change their journey throughout the novel?
4.In chapter three Tristan is delirious with pain and fever. What images appear to him? Who are Tristan’s enemies? Why do they want to stop him?
5.Where do the heroes finally land? Why does this make Robard so happy? Where are you happiest?
6.How has Dover changed from when Tristan was there last? What do you think happened to this thriving town?
7.What does Robard believe Tristan should do with Sir Hugh? Do you think his opinion is justified or not?
8.The troupe generally follows Tristan’s decisions. Would you? With whom do you agree with in the story: Tristan? Robard? or Maryam? In a battle whom would you want by your side? Why?
9.How is Tristan  able to turn the people of Dover against Sir Hugh and company?
10. What would Sir Hugh do with the Holy Grail? In modern times, is there an equivalent to this type of power? How is power wielded between nations and factions in modern countries?
11. Who is Little John? How do they come across him? Why does Robard object to him at first? How does he gain his trust and prove his worth?
12.Maryam tells Tristan concerning his feelings for Celia, “ You don’t choose love, Tristan, love chooses you.” (p.91) Do you agree? Does it seem that who we end up loving is somehow not quite under our own control?
13.Describe what Tristan discovers at St. Albans. What and who are left? What does he learn of his heritage?
14. Does he believe he could actually be from nobility? Who would be his father? How does this explain some of the troubles he has faced?
15. Describe the long journey to Robard’s home.  How does it compare to a long journey you’ve taken?
16. Explain why the trio makes friends with bandits. How did they turn to this lifestyle? What would it take to turn you into a bandit?
17. How is Robard’s early life not exactly as he described it? What has happened in his absence? Would you react more like Tristan or Robard? Why does Robard knock Tristan unconscious?
18. How does Tristan handle the situation with Shire Reeve? What does Robard do for his countrymen? How does this gain their loyalty?
19. How does Robard decide is the only long-term way to defeat the Shire and others like him? How does he ask for Tristan’s help? Predict how he will help others in the future (from what you have read in other books or films)?
20.List the steps Robard and Tristan design to defeat the Shire Reeve in the forest. What do they use to defeat them? Why do the people of Sherwood come to fight?
21.Why do Robard and Maryam insist on accompanying Tristan all the way to Rosslyn? To whom would you make this type of oath, if anyone? Why?
22.Describe their journey to Scotland. What does Robard discover after his tutoring? How do the locals treat them?
23. When they finally reach Rosslyn, what discoveries does Tristan make? Why must he finally face Sir Hugh?
24.Describe the final battle between Tristan and Sir Hugh. How does he deal with his nemesis? In the end, is his quest successful?
25. Discuss the ending: what are the heroes plans for the future? Where does Tristan decide he must go? Predict what he will be doing in five years.


Language Arts:
Write three letters as you read the novel. One as Tristan (to Celia, perhaps?) as Robard (to his mother?) and Maryam (to a sister or cousin at home?) about what they have seen and discovered.

Good readers always make predictions as they read about what they think will happen next. Predictions are not just grabbed from the air but are based on what they know about story, clues from the book itself, and what they know about the genre they’re reading. At the end of each chapter, write a prediction based on the evidence. Use page numbers to support your predictions. Remember: predictions are often wrong! Readers love to be wrong!

Design a movie poster, which is based off the series.


Draw, paint or sculpt your favorite scene from this novel or the other two Templar books.

Research one of these topics from the novel: English history, Robin Hood, The Knights Templar, Scottish clan history, Holy Grail, the crusades, medicine in the middle ages, etc.

Guide created by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It's Raining Cupcakes

 A darling middle-grade book which you just can't help but gobble up in one bite! My daughter and I both loved this story...    TVZ

It’s Raining Cupcakes
by Lisa Schroeder

Author Interview:

1.Can you describe how this story about Isabel was mixed together?

    I came up with the idea for the book when I was driving home on a gloomy day     and I had this strong desire to write about something happy. I started brain-
    storming topics that would make people smile at just the mention of a word.
    When cupcakes came to mind, I thought, what fun it would be to write a book
    set in or around a cupcake shop! When I started writing, the character of Isabel     came to me as a girl who enjoyed baking and dreamed of traveling. Sometimes
    I have to work at developing my characters, but Isabel came to me just like that,
    and since I had similar interests and dreams at her age, she was easy to write.

2.What ingredients about writing do you like the best? What makes you pucker?

    I really love playing around in the first draft. I especially love it when I get lost
    in the story and the words come easily to me. Plotting the book is probably the
    hardest part of writing a book for me. If I can get it right the first time, great,
    but if I don’t, and I have to fix it in revisions, it can be really hard! Of course,
    revisions are necessary to make the book sparkle and shine, but revisions seem
    more like work to me, whereas writing the first draft is like playing in a
    sandbox and just having fun.

3.Did you use this book as an excuse to bake? How much fun was it to come up with the cupcake recipes?

    I love to bake, and although it was fun coming up with the recipes, it was also     kind of difficult. I had to try a few different ones before I finally got it right.
    My editor was the one who suggested coming up with some cupcake recipes
    so after kids read the book, they could make cupcakes if they were suddenly     hungry for them. It’s also fun for book clubs to have a recipe they can make and     serve the day they are discussing the book!

    About the author:

 Lisa Schroeder is a native Oregonian, which means her childhood summers were spent camping, fishing, reading books, and playing in the sun, when it finally came out. These days, Lisa spends her summers, and every other part of the year, sharing all the wonderful things Oregon has to offer with her husband and two sons. Besides It’s Raining Cupcakes she is also the author of three verse novels for young adults published by Simon Pulse - I Heart You, You Haunt Me, an ALA 2009 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Far From You, a Texas Tayshas selection, and Chasing Brooklyn.


What are your favorite things to do with your mom? Would it still be fun if you turned it into a business?

Discussion questions:

1.After reading chapter one, list everything you already know about Isabel and her family. What does she want?
2.Describe how Isabel’s life has changed since her mom began pursuing her dream. Make a list of what’s good and bad about it. How would you feel in Isabel’s shoes?
3.How is Isabel trying to earn some money for the summer? What does she want to use it for? Is babysitting a good way to make money or not? Like Isabel, do you feel stuck where you live or do you feel like you belong?
4.How does Sophie change Isabel’s summer in a New York minute? What kind of contest would you consider entering?
5.Why is Isabel upset when her mom insists she make a cupcake recipe for the contest entry? Describe Isabel’s relationship with her mom.
6.Explain what mistake Isabel made while babysitting Lucas and Logan. What consequences does she face because of this one error? Do you think the boys’ mom acted fairly or not? Why?
7.Why haven’t Isabel and her parents traveled anywhere? Do you, like Isabel, want to travel too? Where would you go?
8.Why does Isabel end up on the fire escape? Would you rather face your dad or the sidewalk?
9.Why must Isabel choose between her own happiness and her mom’s? What does she decide to do about the contest?
10.What is Beatrice’s Brownies? Why will her mom take this so hard? How do they handle it?
11.What type of advice does Grandma dispense? What do you think she would think of Isabel’s decision about the contest?
12.How are things between Isabel and Sophie after spending most of the summer apart? Why can it sometimes be difficult for Isabel to be friends with Sophie? Do all friendships face these struggles?
13.Do you think Sophie was being a good friend to Isabel or not? What about the other way around? Why? Can a best friend still irritate you? How would you handle it?
14.Do you think Isabel needs distance from her small town in Oregon or her tumultuous relationship with her mom? Predict how they will get along in five years.
15.What do Lana and Isabel do together? How does this help mend things with Sophie?
16.What does Isabel figure out about the cupcake shop? How can this lesson about appreciating the treasure apply to your own story?
17.What surprises does Isabel create for her mom? Is it worth the effort?
18.How was Isabel rewarded by all her hard work creating the perfect recipe? What surprise does she find out about the contest?
19.How does Isabel change over the book? How does a reader get to know a character? Of all the characters in the book which ones did you like the best?
20.What chapter in the book was your favorite? Which relationship reminded you of one of your own?


Because good readers always make predictions as they read, stop at the end of each chapter of It’s Raining Cupcakes and use a sticky note to create a prediction about what you think will happen next in the story. Also, add a note as to what clues made you believe this.

Write a letter from one character to another at an important part of the story. Share with a friend who has also read the book and have them answer as that character.


Write a scene between two characters that either did not make it into the story (but could have) or one that could happen after the story closes. Be inspired by Lisa Schroeder’s style!

Create a mural (on large butcher paper or even a cheap white flat sheet) that you would put in your very own shop. Or, create a finger-painting masterpiece just for fun.

Can you write a jingle or tune for an advertisement for the opening of Caroline’s shop, It’s Raining Cupcakes?


Find  a song that you think would work for the soundtrack of the movie. Which scene would you pick to play it behind? Why? Create a playlist that should be running at the cupcake shop.

Find your favorite recipe for a dessert and add up the price of all the ingredients to create a batch. Then, figure out how much you would have to sell each item for to make a profit. Make and share the desserts if you can!


Plan a trip to a fantastic location like New York City. Research at least three places or things you’d like to do when you got there. How much would it cost to fly? Drive? Create a pamphlet describing all the fantastic possibilities for your trip!

Design your own business. What would you sell? What would you name your shop or service? How much would you charge? What would be your color theme? Would you deliver? How much money would it cost to get it started? Where would it be located? Design a storefront with a shoebox!