The Art of Keeping Cool

The Art of Keeping Cool

For Ages: 10 - 14
The War At Home

Fear permeates the Rhode Island coastal town where Robert, his mother, and sister are living out the war with his paternal grandparents: Fear of Nazi submarines offshore. Fear of Abel Hoffman, a German artist living reclusively outside of town. And for Robert, a more personal fear, of his hot-tempered, controlling grandfather.

As Robert watches the townspeople's hostility toward Hoffman build, he worries about his sensitive cousin Elliot's friendship with the artist. And he wonders more and more about the family secret everyone seems to be keeping from him—a secret involving Robert's father, a bomber pilot in Europe. Will Elliot's ability to detach himself from the turmoil around him be enough to sustain him when prejudice and suspicions erupt into violence? And can Robert find his own way to deal with the shocking truth about his family's past?
  • Atheneum Books for Young Readers | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780689837883 | 
  • May 2002 | 
  • Grades 5 - 9
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Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

The Art of Keeping Cool
By Janet Taylor Lisle

About the Book

It is March, 1942, and America has just entered World War II. Robert’s father has left the family farm to fly fighter planes in England, and there’s too much work left for 13-year-old Robert, his mother, and his little sister. When his paternal grandparents invite the threesome to live near them in Rhode Island, it seems like a good solution to their problem. But Robert misses the farm, and wonders why nobody will talk about his father. And when Robert’s cousin, Elliot, starts spending time with a German painter who lives nearby and is thought to be a spy, Robert is forced to make some tough decisions about what he believes and which battles he’s willing to fight. The Horn Book calls this winner of the 2001 Scott O’Dell Award for historical fiction “a brilliantly conceived, multi-layered novel . . . engrossing, challenging, and well-paced.”

Discussion Questions

1. Robert is very disturbed by the fact that the rest of his family will not speak about his father. Why does he find it more difficult to stay silent on this topic than the others do? Why are there no reminders—physical or verbal—of Robert’s father in Grandpa Saunders’ house? Why do you think that Robert and his family stay in Sachem’s Head even after they find out see more

More Books from this Author

Quicksand Pond
Afternoon of the Elves
The Crying Rocks
Sirens and Spies

About the Author

Janet Taylor Lisle
Photo Credit: Alison Taggart Barone

Janet Taylor Lisle

Janet Taylor Lisle’s books for young readers have received the Newbery Honor Award (Afternoon of the Elves), the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction (The Art of Keeping Cool), Holland’s Zilveren Griffel, and Italy’s Premio Andersen Award, among other honors. A graduate of Smith College and former journalist, Janet lives in Rhode Island and often draws on Rhode Island history in her work. Visit her online at