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By Ellen Wittlinger ABOUT THE BOOK Bess Cunningham has parents who give all their free time to the community soup kitchen and to establishing a permanent shelter for homeless women. Her parents and her best friend, Ethan, want her to volunteer at the kitchen, but all Bess wants to do is to be in the school play and to be the most popular girl at her new middle school. Yet Gracie, an elderly homeless woman who eats out of Dumpsters, captures Bess's attention. With the weather getting colder, Bess and Ethan must try to help Gracie survive. THEMES Homeless persons; School and family life; Identity DISCUSSION QUESTIONS - What does it mean to be popular? What makes a person popular? - Have you ever seen or known a homeless person? What makes a person homeless? - Willy (Bess's older brother) and Bess have a typical brother/sister relationship. How do they work at liking and/or disliking each other? ACTIVITIES - As a class or as a school, you could start a food drive and donate food to the local homeless shelter or community soup kitchen. - Put on a play for the lower grades in your school. - Gracie died of heart failure. Do some research on the heart and diseases of the heart. Please visit http://www.emporia.edu/libsv/wawbookaward/ for more information about the awards and to see curriculum guides for other master list titles.
This reading group guide is for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes. Prepared by Steve Fuller, McCarter Elementary
Ellen Wittlinger is the critically acclaimed author of the teen novels Parrotfish, Blind Faith, Sandpiper, Heart on My Sleeve, Zigzag, and Hard Love (an American Library Association Michael L. Printz Honor Book and a Lambda Literary Award winner), and its sequel Love & Lies: Marisol’s Story. She has a bachelor’s degree from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, and an MFA from the University of Iowa. A former children’s librarian, she lives with her husband in Haydenville, Massachusetts.