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These open-ended questions can be used for small-group classroom discussions of the novel, or serve as writing prompts for analytical

writing assignments:

1. In the prologue, we read the following statement: "What I love most about backstroke is, it proves a person doesn't need to be looking straight ahead to know exactly where she's going." What do you think this means? Do you agree? Why or why not?

2. Throughout the first chapter of the book Alice is continually running away from someone or something thing, including the police and the pool But what else do you think she's really running away from? What finally stops her?

3. How would you describe Alice's relationship and communication style with her father? How about with her mother? What kind of essential support do they provide Alice? What do you think their relationships might be missing?

4. Alice has a lot of stresses to deal with, including her mom's long-term recovery and her parents' separation. What kind of coping mechanisms does she use? Do you think these are effective? If you were her friend, what advice might you give Alice to help her deal with her problems?

5. Alice has a remarkable ability to communicate with children. What makes her so good at this? Does she demonstrate the same abilities and skill when communicating with her peers and adults?

6. Despite their differences, Alice and Harriet quickly become friends. Why do you think they connect so well with each other? What are the ingredients of a strong friendship?

7. In Chapter 5, "Teeny Tiny Infinity," Harriet introduces the concept that the difference between two seemingly opposite things can actually be very small. How does this idea - the idea of "tiny infinities" - appear throughout the book?

8. One controversial decision that Alice makes is to bring Piper to her backyard and leave Timmy alone while she is babysitting. Do you think this was a good choice? Why or why not? Given what happened, if you were Alice, would you have told Mr. and Mrs. Phoebe what happened in the tent? If so, what would you have said to them?

9. When Alice has her outburst at her mother after Harriet's failed experiment, Harriet comes upstairs to show Mrs. Allyn the syringes. What does this tell you about Harriet's personality?

10. In Chapter 18, "Fortune Cookies," Alice receives a fortune cookie that reads, "It is not in your character to give up." Thinking back over Alice's actions throughout the book, do you think this fortune is accurate? This character trait is frequently called "grit" or "perseverance." When does Alice demonstrate grit in the novel?

11. Though Piper makes it up, the word "bugfire" holds a particularly special resonance for Alice. What does the word symbolized to her?

12. Much of this book explores how people deal with change. How does Alice deal with change? Harriet? Owen? What ways seem to be more effective? Less effective?

13. At the beginning of the story, Alice reacts to the news that her father is leaving by exercising the silent treatment. By the end of the book, does she still think her greatest power lies in silence? If not, where does her power come from?

14. In many ways, this novel is about the journey of growing up and getting caught in between childhood and adulthood. How would you compare Alice at the beginning of the book to Alice at the end? When does she struggle the most with making adult decisions? Do you think she changes?


Loon Chase is about the impacts of human recreation on wildlife, the unique experiences a child gains from learning an outdoor skill, and the value and wonder of spending time outdoors in nature.


For more info about the Common Loon's distinct calls, and for links to a live loon cam, go to this page from the Loon Preservation Committee.

Three Little Beavers is about how every child has their own unique gift, animal adaptions, and steps humans can take to co-exist with wild creatures.


In the teaching materials you'll find questions, word banks, coloring pages, compare and contrast activities, and much more, along with information about alignment to standards.

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