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The Silent Boyby Lois Lowry
Reading Group Guide
1. Katy is an innocent young girl. During the course of the book, we see certain events and people opening her eyes to the world. How does she react to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory disaster and the San Francisco earthquake (and her mothers pregnancy)?
2. What events or people opened your eyes to the world when you were a young child? Was there a moment or an incident that changed your perspective forever? How did it change?
3. What are the various terms and euphemisms people use to refer to Jacob and his condition (for example, touched)? Why do different people use different words to describe him?
4. What do you think of when you hear the word asylum? How do you think attitudes toward people with a mental disorder have changed-or have they remained the same?-since Katys time? How would Jacob be treated today?
5. Like any child, Katy must sort out fact from fiction as she grows up. What do different people tell her about childbirth and birthmarks, for example? Did you ever believe something that now seems silly? Did you ever tell someone something false about the world that that person then believed?
6. Look back at the discussion Katy and her father have about Jacob and his hat (p. 134). What other “irrational” things do people do to make themselves feel protected or lucky? Do you have any habits or any things you are attached to that make you feel safe?
7. A photograph appears at the beginning of each chapter of this book-did you like that? How did it change your experience of reading the book? Why do you think the author chose to include photographs?
8. “I decided I could do it all, and would. I would go to college. Then I would become a doctor and would marry Austin Bishop and have children” (p. 119).
Katy wants to defy the stereotypes of her gender. What do you think it would have been like to be a woman in the early 1900s? How have things changed for women since then? Do women still face a different set of expectations and opportunities than men do?
9. If you were in Katys place, what would you learn from what happens to Jacob? Look back at the prologue. Why do you think Katy, as an old woman, still feels the need to tell this story?
10. Have you ever had to stand by while something you knew was wrong took place? Are some things just the way they have to be, or is there always a chance to fight for what you know is right?
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