Synopses & Reviews
It's bad enough that her mother gives all her attention to a community soup kitchen, but now Bess Cunningham's best friend, Ethan, wants to volunteer there too. Bess has made so much progress in her attempt to gain popularity at her new middle school -- she's got a wild new wardrobe and is working on the school play -- that the idea of helping out seems lamer than ever. That is, until Grace Jarvis Battle comes into her life.
Gracie is a sweet elderly woman who is not unlike Bess's grandmothers -- except Gracie lives on the street and eats out of Dumpsters. Because of Gracie, Bess quickly becomes involved with the soup kitchen. When her mother spearheads an effort to establish a permanent shelter for women, Bess knows that this is the best way to help Gracie. But the shelter won't be ready until Thanksgiving. With it getting colder, Bess and Ethan try to help Gracie on their own. Will it be enough?
In examining how homelessness can affect anyone, acclaimed author Ellen Wittlinger puts a human face on an all-too-common problem.
About the Author
Ellen Wittlinger is the critically acclaimed author of the teen novels Sandpiper, Heart on My Sleeve, Zigzag, The Long Night of Leo and Bree, Razzle, What's in a Name, and Hard Love (an American Library Association Michael L. Printz Honor Book and a Lambda Literary Award winner), and the middle-grade novel Gracie's Girl. She has a bachelor's degree from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. A former children's librarian, she lives with her husband in Haydenville, Massachusetts.
Reading Group Guide
A GUIDE FOR READING GROUPS
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.
Homeless persons; School and family life; Identity
- 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?
- 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