The River Between Us Discussion Questions

This month we started our new homeschool year. (I know…sob! I don’t like back to school in August. Nevertheless, I am part of a homeschool co-op/commonwealth/liber community school that started this month.)

I co-mentor a class about the Civil War/the War between the States for young teen scholars with my friend Dena. Yesterday for class, we discussed The River Between Us. It was such a wonderful book! I wanted to get the kids emotionally hooked by a novel that get the youth fascinated by this time period, so I picked this book to launch our study of this war.

I led the discussion of the book, and here are the questions I planned. We only used about three, and then I thought of new questions to ask as different things came up. Next time I want to plan at least 45 minutes for a book discussion in our class instead of 30 minutes.

Discussion Questions for The River Runs Through It by Richard Peck.

  1. Let’s talk about vocab words (I wrote these words on the whiteboard before the discussion started)

Who can tell me what these words mean? Without looking at your book, you can use your notes though.

Loblolly

Tignon p. 162 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7rXUsRbCtI)

Les Sirenes

Femme de coleur libre

Quadroon

Ok, now who can tell me what these words mean by referring to your book?

(I wanted to see if anybody had taken notes about definitions or made notes in the book with definitions. Nobody knew what these terms meant off the top of their heads. One boy looked up one word on his phone, the one I hadn’t looked up yet, quadroon. It’s really important to know what they mean to understand the story, so I explained the other terms. Hopefully my students will decide to develop the scholar skill of looking up definitions of words on future books we read. We read one a month and discuss at the end of the month.

2. With those words in mind, what surprised you the most when you read this book?

3. Did anything not surprise you? Anything you predicted?

4. How do race and color affect the different character’s freedom of choice?

  • Cass
  • Noah
  • Calinda
  • Delphine
  • Mrs. Hanrahan
  • Howard Hutchings
  • Howard’s father, the young Dr. Hutchings

 

            Do race and color affect Calinda more than Delphine?

           

3. After reading this book and discussing what we just did, what is your definition of freedom?

4. Why is it necessary for Delphine to hide her race in order to protect herself and those around her?

5. What does your core book say about freedom?

6. What does your core book say about race?

7. Questions about the theme of time from shmoop https://www.shmoop.com/the-river-between-us/time-theme.html

8. Questions about the theme of gender https://www.shmoop.com/the-river-between-us/gender-theme.html

9. Questions about warfare https://www.shmoop.com/the-river-between-us/warfare-theme.html#targetText=We%20can’t%20overestimate%20how,Mama%20goes%20mad%2C%20and%20more.&targetText=War%20in%20The%20River%20Between,affects%20the%20lives%20of%20individuals.

10. What were some principles you noticed in the book?

11. What were some quotes you enjoyed in the book?

12. What similes did you enjoy in the book? (Ask if they know what a simile is and then explain if they don’t. Share one or two from the book.)

“the houses were as close as teeth”

“her conversation was like a fan, opening and closing”

13. What metaphors did you enjoy in the book? (Ask if they know what a metaphor is and then explain one or two you noticed in the book.)

14. What do you think the relationship between Delphine and Noah is a metaphor of?

This book is perfect for showing the messiness and horrors of war, and how wars divide families and people. Also to talk about the meaning of freedom.

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