Abe’s Honest WordsDirt on Their Skirts Eleanor, Quiet No MoreEscape from SlaveryFreedom ShipFree at Last!In The Promised LandJohn’s Secret DreamsJudge/JuryLady LibertyLiving Dangerously: American Women Who Risked Their Lives for Adventure Martin’s Big WordsNobody Gonna Turn Me AroundNo More!The School Is Not WhiteUnited No More!Victory or Death!We Are the Many

Abe’s Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln

  1. How did Lincoln’s parents encourage him about learning?
  2. Abraham learned a lot without going to school. Do you think that would be difficult? Explain.
  3. How did what Lincoln saw in New Orleans affect his life? Why did Lincoln want to be a lawmaker? Why do you think he lost the first time he ran?
  4. Why did Lincoln think slavery was wrong? How did his determination help to end?
  5. What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
  6. Why did the North want to punish the South at the end of the war? Why was the South angry at the North?
  7. Do you think Lincoln was a good leader?
  8. Vocabulary: marksmen; justice; trotline; perpetual; surveyor; elocution; biography; legislature; ideals; Fort Sumter; Commander-in-chief; fourscore and seven; malice.
  9. RESEARCH: Why were most white Northerners opposed to the Emancipation?
  10. How does the use of Lincoln’s quotes affect the storytelling?

Dirt on Their Skirts: The Story of the Young Women Who Won The World Championship

  1. During what war does this story take place?
  2. Why did women take on men’s jobs during the war?
  3. What happened to the women after the war was over? Why do you think it happened?
  4. Did you ever hear of any of these athletes before reading this book? If not, why do you think you had not?
  5. Why do you think that the women wore skirts to play baseball?
  6. Find books about other women athletes. Make a list of their accomplishments.
  7. Talk about how the author uses these words: usual; broadcast; panther; lariat.

Eleanor, Quiet No More: The Life of Eleanor Roosevelt

  1. Why was Eleanor so quiet as a child?
  2. List the events in her life that led to her speaking up?
  3. What did it mean when people told Eleanor that her work was “improper” for a First Lady?
  4. Why did Eleanor resign from the DAR?
  5. Why do you think that people called Eleanor names and mocked her?
  6. How do you feel when people call you names?
  7. Do you think that Eleanor was a courageous woman? Explain.
  8. How does the use of Eleanor’s quotes affect the storytelling?
  9. Vocabulary: polio; the Great Depression; slum; prejudice; United Nations; a “proper” man; hounded; polio; sharecropper; slum; Declaration of Rights.

Escape from Slavery

  1. Why did slaves risk their lives to escape when they could have stayed with their masters and lived?
  2. Why were free people, black and white, willing to risk their lives to help slaves escape?
  3. In the story Pretending, the Colonel says that Jane “has it good” with his family. Do you think that is true? Why or why not?
  4. Read up on the 1851 Fugitive Slave Law. Why did people in the free states allow this law?
  5. Which is your favorite story in Escape from Slavery? Why?
  6. What other ways have you read about slaves escaping?
  7. Explain the meaning of: Underground Railroad; immigrated; writ; militant; abolitionist; Vigilance Committee. top

Freedom Ship

  1. When Abraham told Samuel’s father that the Captain would “whip” them in the morning, why wasn’t Papa afraid?
  2. Why did the boat need to move slowly and carefully in the water?
  3. How does Robert Smalls pretend that he is the Captain of The Planter?
  4. Why did Papa take down the Confederate flag as they approached the Union ships?
  5. Why did Samuel’s mother give Papa a bed sheet to hang on the flagpole?
  6. What was the present that The Planter brought for the Union?
  7. If you were Samuel, explain how you would have felt during the escape in the middle of the night.
  8. Pretend you are Samuel. Write a letter that he might have written when he was a slave describing his life. Then write a letter that he might have written describing his new life as a free person.

Free at Last! Stories and Songs of Emancipation

  1. Why does the author write that the years described in this book are “one of the most shameful periods in American history?”
  2. What were the Black Codes? Why were they created?
  3. Why did white Southerners not want their former slaves to become equals? What did they do to try to keep them from fighting for
    their rights?
  4. In what way did music “sustain the spirit?”
  5. Why were so many whites comfortable with Booker T. Washington and his “policy of accommodation?” Why were so many black Americans angry with his ideas?
  6. Why was the North considered “The Promised Land?” Was the North what black southerners expected it to be? Why or why not?
  7. Explore the Harlem Renaissance. Read works by Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Zora Neale Hurston, Arna Bontemps, and James Weldon Johnson.
  8. List the ways that black Americans kept “resisting” unfair laws?
  9. Explain the meaning of: “apprenticeship” laws; Thirteenth Amendment; abolitionist; Freedmen’s Bureau; Fourteenth Amendment; grandfather clause; Exoduster; segregation; night rides; convict leasing; sharecropper; “separate but equal” policies.

In the Promised Land: Lives of Jewish Americans

  1. Why do you think the author wanted to tell the stories in the book?
  2. Why did Governor Stuyvesant make life so difficult for the Jews?
  3. Why did Lillian Wald choose to live on the Lower East Side and work, instead of returning to medical school?
  4. What did Pauline Newman’s “union” do? Why is it important?
  5. Why did Ira Hirschman row out to the boat even though he could not go aboard?
  6. Think about the stories and explain how each of the people was brave in his or her own way.
  7. Each of the people in the book did extraordinary things. Some of the people did things that helped make life better. What were they?
  8. Which was your favorite story in the book? Why?
  9. Explain the meaning of: anti-Semitic; daguerreotypes; visiting nurses; manacles; concentration camp; refugee; vaccine; Holocaust.

John’s Secret Dreams: The Life of John Lennon

  1. “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves” is part of Lewis Carroll’s poem “Jabberwocky.” Read the poem and explain what it means.
  2. Explain how the lyrics of John’s songs on different pages in the book add to the telling of his life story. What do you think of the author’s choices of lyrics?
  3. The book talks about John feeling bad at different times in his life. When you feel bad, what do you do to make yourself feel better?
  4. Why do you think John was scared when he wanted to leave the Beatles?
  5. The author writes: “Now it’s up to us to make John’s dream for the world come true.” What “dream” is the author talking about? What can you do to help?
  6. Vocabulary: “Beatlemania”; meditation; civil rights.
  7. Musical Vocabulary: composer; skiffle; washboard; melody; upward slides; rock and roll.



These concepts are needed for The Lizzie Borden Trial, The Sacco-Vanzetti Trial and The Alger Hiss Trial. Remind the students that the only evidence they may consider is what they hear from the witnesses.

  1. What does a prosecutor do?
  2. What does a defense lawyer do?
  3. What does a judge do?
  4. What is the role of a jury?
  5. What is reasonable doubt? (This is a crucial term for if students don’t really understand this concept they can’t objectively evaluate the evidence.
  6. When does a lawyer make an objection?
  7. What is the difference between circumstantial evidence and direct evident?


To prove the defendants were guilty, the prosecution set out to establish certain facts. Did they establish:

  1. a) motive for the crime;
  2. b) premeditation;
  3. c) the opportunity to commit the crime;
  4. d) the means to commit the crime;
  5. e) that the defendants’ actions before or after the murders showed their guilt.

The defense set out to prove that Hiss, Sacco, Vanzetti, and Hiss were not guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In its cross-examination of prosecution witnesses and through their own witnesses, did the defense

  1. a) cast doubt on damaging testimony given by prosecution witnesses;
  2. b) show that others might have had the opportunity to commit the crime.

What was your impression of each witness after his/her testimony? Explain.

Did you think the judge’s charge was fair of biased? Give examples from his speech to back up your opinions.

Make a list of reasons (evidence that convinced you that ——–should be acquitted or reasons (evidence) that convinced you that ———-was guilt. The evidence should include the names of the witnesses who gave that evidence.

How do you feel about the real verdict? Explain.


The trials can easily be turned into plays. Assign students to be various characters in the trials and act it out. Be sure to assign girls to be the prosecutors and defense lawyers as there are so many male witnesses in the three trials.

Lady Liberty: A Biography

  1. Why did Edouard de Laboulaye want to give America a gift?
  2. Where is the Statue of Liberty located? Why was this location selected?
  3. Why do you thik some people mocked the statue?
  4. Why do you think soldiers who fought in the Civil War gave so much money to fund the statue?
  5. Describe the process used by the builders to create the statue.
  6. What were the obstacles overcome by those working to create this statue and built it in America?
  7. How many years of planning and work did it take to make the Statue of Liberty a reality?
  8. Vocabulary: liberty; dictator; sculptor; coppersmith; structural engineer; publisher.

Living Dangerously: American Women Who Risked Their Lives for Adventure

Chapter 1: – Annie Edson Taylor- “The Birthday Party: October 25, 1901, Niagara Falls, New York”

  1. Vocabulary: cooper, calisthenics, tapered, flange, delirious.
  2. Why did Annie Edson Taylor choose to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel? Did she succeed in her goals?
  3. Can you think of similar risky stunts done for similar reasons in the media recently? Think of reality television, for example. Do you think the contemporary adventurers were more or less successful? Why?

Chapter 2: -Annie Smith Peck- “The Mountain That Refused to Be Climbed:
Friday, August 28- Saturday, September 5, 1908, Yungay, Peru”

  1. Vocabulary: Define: ascent, metabolism, crevasse, porter.
  2. Annie Peck had two guides on her climb up Huascaran. What was her relationship like with them? What difference did it make that she was a woman? Who do you think deserves the credit for the climb, and why?
  3. What were the two possible ways of measuring a mountain in Annie’s era? How did they work?

Chapter 3: -Bessie Coleman- “Bird-In-Flight: Waxahachie, Texas, Autumn, 1923”

  1. Vocabulary: Define: aviation, barnstormer, grandstand, chocks.
  2. What did Bessie and her mother do to get Bessie an education? How far did Bessie get? How did this affect (or limit) her ability to become a pilot?
  3. Why did Bessie think it was important for black Americans to become pilots in the 1920s?

Chapter 4: – Delia Akeley- “The Hunt: April 1925, Belgian Congo”

  1. Vocabulary: Define: taxidermy, okapi, pantomime, canopy.
  2. Delia Akeley saw herself as a conservationist. What did she feel was threatening African habitats, animals and peoples? Did her methods make sense in her time? Do they now? Explain.
  3. How did the indigenous African people Delia was living with procure food? What did the women do and what did the men do?

Chapter 5: -Eugenie Clark- “The Deep: March 18, 1959, Little Salt Springs, Florida”

  1. Vocabulary: Define: ichthyologist, terrarium, stalactite, prehistoric.
  2. What is “rapture of the deep?” How does it work?
  3. Why was Eugenie diving in Little Salt Springs, Florida? What kind of dating technology came about after her dive?

Chapter 6: -Thecla Mitchell- “Going the Distance: November 4, 1990, New York City”

  1. Vocabulary: Define: marathon, prosthesis, chemotherapy, aerobic.
  2. What physical disabilities does Thecla have from birth and from surgery?
  3. Explain this statement: Thecla’s strengths are greater than her physical disabilities.
  4. What is the Achilles Track Club? When was it founded, by whom and why?

Research Projects:

  1. A) Research the life and feats of a woman adventurer not in this book from the appendix or another source. What motivated her? What personality traits, skills or circumstances helped her succeed or not succeed?

    B) Write your own Adventure: Write a first person description of something your heroine did, based on your research.

  2. Pick a type of adventuring done by one of the women in this book and research how the technology used in this endeavor has changed from her time until today. How have tools, equipment, gear, measuring and recording devices changed? What changes in technology prompted these changes? What is state of the art today? Are there risks now that didn’t exist before because of new technologies?

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

  1. What does the author mean by Dr. King’s “Big Words?”
  2. Why did the whites in the South put up the “White Only?” signs?
  3. Why did young Martin feel bad when he read these signs? Describe how you would have felt.
  4. Why were the black Americans who protested for equal rights told to stop by whites?
  5. Why were blacks who worked for equal rights jailed, beaten or even murdered?
  6. Why did Dr. King not want people to fight with their fists? Do you think someone is brave or cowardly when they don’t fight with their fists or with guns?
  7. Explain the meaning of: hymns; segregation; civil rights; Nobel Peace Prize; sit-in; discrimination.
  8. How did the artist’s style affect the storytelling? top

Nobody Gonna Turn Me ‘Round: Stories and Songs of Resistance

  1. How was the decision in Brown v. Board of Education significant?
  2. If you were a black Southern parent in 1955, would you have let your child integrate an all-white school?  Explain.
  3. If you were a black southern child in 1955 do you think you would have integrated an all-white school?  Explain.
  4. Why do you think Emmett Till’s murder changed the way Anne Moody felt about her everyday life?
  5. The officer who arrested Rosa Parks said he was just “doing his job.” Do you agree with that?  Explain.
  6. How do you think it helped African Americans to write and sing songs about their experiences?
  7. If you were a black Southerner during this time, what role would you have playedin the movement? Explain.
  8. Explain the meaning of:  Klu Klux Klan; speaking “improperly”; segregation; MIA; nonviolent direct action; mass action; segregationists; desegregation; role-playing; sit-in movement; “keep your eyes on the prize”; freedom rides; “We Shall Overcome”; self-evident.

No More! Stories and Songs of Slave Resistance

  1. In the Introduction, Doreen Rappaport writes about African Americans who resisted slavery by living their “inner” freedom. “Their music, culture, and community nurtured them until they were free,” she
    says. What does she mean by “inner freedom”? How did slaves hold onto their memory of their lives and culture in Africa? How was this a form of resistance?
  2. What role did faith or spiritual belief play in the lives of enslaved African Americans? In what way was their practice of Christianity a form of resistance?
  3. Many slave owners argued that slaves were happy with their way of life, as shown by the fact that they so often sang and played
    music. After reading the songs in NO MORE! would you agree or disagree with this? Why?
  4. Why did white Southern lawmakers forbid slaves to learn to read and write? Why did slaves risk punishment and break the law to learn to read?
  5. Why did President Lincoln not want free blacks to fight with the Union army? What do you think of his choice?
  6. Which is your favorite story in NO MORE? Why?
  7. After reading NO MORE!, what did you learn about slavery that you didn’t know before?
  8. Explain the meaning of: Middle Passage, mutinies, trickster tales, hush harbors, secret schools, spirituals, abolitionists, Drinking Gourd, Underground Railroad, Emancipation Proclamation, and Thirteenth Amendment.
  9. How did the artist’s style affect the storytelling? top

The School Is Not White

  1. Why did the Carter children want to go to the all-white school? Why did they feel they couldn’t get a good education at their school?
  2. What do you think the Carters thought would happen to their children at the white school?
  3. Why did the plantation overseer tell the Carters not to send their children to the white school?
  4. Why were the white children so mean to the Carters?
  5. How did the Carter children feel after the first day of school?
  6. What does the author mean when she wrote, “The children are “going off to war”? What kind of battle are they fighting? What do you think is the best way to win such a “war?”
  7. Why did the Carter children stay in the school when they were hurt or angry?
  8. Who do you think shot at the Carter’s house? Why did they do that?
  9. Why did the children’s books feel “heavier than any hundred-pound sack of cotton?”
  10. Were you ever scared to do something, but you did it anyway? Why did you do it?
  11. What did you feel when you read this book?
  12. Why do you think the Carters had photographs of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. in their living room?
  13. Why did the Carter children continue to go to the white school even though things did now get better? What would you have done?
  14. At the end of the book, you can read about the Carters when they became adults. What in their struggles do you think helped them become successful?
  15. Explain the meaning of: record; record player; mocking; overseer; Quaker; sharecropper. top

United No More! Stories of the Civil War

  1. How was life in the North different from life in the South?
  2. As Julia approached the military review, how did she feel?
  3. Why was Julia inspired to write the new poem?
  4. What was Benjamin Butler so afraid of that he enacted such strict laws? What do you think of how Butler behaved during the occupation?
  5. Wealthy white southern women during this era were often viewed as “dainty” and “ladylike.” Does Eugenia Phillips fit this stereotype? Explain.
  6. Eugenia kept a diary. Write two weeks’ entries describing what her life was really like.
  7. How do you think Mary Jackson felt as the protest progressed?
  8. What would you have done to feed your family if you were a woman in Richmond?
  9. Why do you think Shaw and Carney were praised as heroes?
  10. Why do you think Farragut risked the lives of his men?
  11. What did Lincoln mean in his Second Inaugural Address when he said: “with malice toward none, with charity for all?”
  12. Why did Robert E. Lee surrender?
  13. Why do people think the American civil war was so tragic?
  14. If you lived in the South, how would that have influenced your view of the Civil War? If you live in the North, how would that have influenced the way you view the war?
  15. Vocabulary: hymn; grand review; detachment; magic lantern; bayonet; “persuader”; emancipate; “silks”; ironclad; spyglass; malice; buckskin; Seneca.

Victory or Death! Stories of the American Revolution

  1. Assume the identity of patriot Francis Salvador or loyalist James Galloway. Give a speech, stating your arguments for or against independence.
  2. Why was Breed’s Hill chosen as a fort?
  3. Why were the troops so upset by Pollard’s death?
  4. If the British won at Bunker Hill, why was this battle a turning point in American confidence?
  5. Why did Tennent and Harris quote from the Bible?
  6. Write your father, who is fighting the British, about your life at home in Boston during British occupation.
  7. Why was Washington so angry at the men of the Fifth Virginia Regiment?
  8. Why did Washington observe the battle instead of fight with his men?
  9. Research the lives of Nathanael Greene, John Glover, and Henry Knox.
  10. In what ways were Sybil and Robert Shurtliff unusual for their era?
  11. Why did Grace Growden Galloway stay in Philadelphia?
  12. How do you feel about how the patriots treated Grace Growden Galloway and other loyalists? What would you have done if you were a patriot?
  13. Why did Lafayette embrace James Armistead?
  14. Give arguments for/against women being soldiers.
  15. How did the writers’ style affect the telling of these stories?

We Are the Many: A Picture Book of American Indians

  1. How did American Indians learn their history?
  2. Tisquantum’s people had died because of disease brought by white people. Why do you think he still helped the Pilgrims?
  3. Why did Lone Dog choose buffalo skin to paint pictures on?
  4. Why were the Omahas forced to move out of their earth dwellings and into log cabins?
  5. Why did Maria Martinez teach her pottery-making process to her people?
  6. List the Indian nations in this book. Where are their reservations today?
  7. Which was your favorite story in the book? Why?
  8. Explain the meaning of: alewives; colonist; raiding party; expedition; interpreter; malaria; knead; foxhole. top