Saturday, October 30, 2010

Gone For Good

In the novel, Gone For Good, author Harlan Coben starts the story off with Will’s mother lying in her death bed. His mother leans over and tells Will that his brother Ken is still alive, and with that a few minutes later, his mother passes away. Will is in shock because he has not seen his brother in 10 years. 10 years ago, Will’s ex-girlfriend/neighbor passed away and Ken was the prime suspect. When police started asking questions to Ken, he disappeared and was never seen. Now with this new information of his brother, Will starts researching and finds more information about his brother. In his mother’s room, he finds a picture of his brother at a ski resort. Will is in shock that his brother is actually still alive and goes out to find him. Through series of different obstacles getting in his way and with the help from his friends, Will eventually finds Ken. Alone together, Will asks Ken if he murdered his ex-girlfriend. Without fully answering the question, Ken replies, “You I’ve hurt the most,” then disappears again. I don’t want to say too much without giving away the ending, but Will finds out that his brother Ken has taken something from him. Ken took something that was of great importance to Will and his ex-girlfriend. Will eventually finds out what he has taken and with the help of his friend, gets what Ken has taken back.

Discussion Questions:
1. If you found out that someone very important in your life has taken something of great value of yours, as Ken did to his brother, how would you encounter them?
2. Family seems to be a main concept in the novel. Will’s brother betrayed him, but he still set out to find him to know the truth and to see him because he loved him. Would you be able to forgive family if they have done something to hurt you? Why or why not?

The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson is an enticing thriller that reached #1 on The New York Times Bestseller List.
In the novel, Michael Blomkvist is a fairly successful editor and partner of the widely circulated magazine Millennium. When an old friend turns him on to a story that could expose an up and coming business tycoon as corrupt and manipulating, Blomkvist feels the need to research the story and publish it in Millennium. His friend betrays him as a source, resulting in a libel conviction with fines that nearly wipe out all of Mikael's savings and even forces him to serve a few months jail time. Mikael is then offered a free lance job offering millions if he makes an attempt to solve a 40 year old unanswered murder investigation. The job is far away from his problematic situation at home and puts him under contract to stay there for an entire year. The Millennium is at risk of going under due to investors pulling their advertising after the risqué court decision. Mikael could make enough money to revive the magazine with the free lance job, but also is choosing to leave his magazine partner and lover Erika to run the magazine on her own at a time when she needs him the most.
Mikael Blomkvist is aided in his libel suit by punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Salander is rough around the edges and has a colorful past, but she is the best research detective around. She becomes very involved with Mikael's murder investigation in the Vanger family, and together, Blomkvist and Salader discover unfathomable decades of corruption, leading the reader on a fascinating travel through their gathered evidence and discoveries.

Discussion Questions:

1. Mikael is thrown into a problematic situation due to the betrayal of a trusted friend. Have you ever betrayed a friend that trusted you, or were you ever betrayed by someone you thought you could trust? What were the consequences?

2. Do you think Mikael was justified in choosing to pick up the free lance job? Is money powerful enough of a motivator to leave Erika and the magazine at a time of unmanageable turmoil?

Vengeance by George Jonas

Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team, by George Jonas, is a historical fiction novel set during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Eleven Israeli athletes are taken hostage and murdered by a Palestinian terrorist group known as Black September. In retaliation, the Israeli government recruits a group of Mossad agents to track down and execute those responsible for the attack. Prime Minister Golda Meir okays a black-box operation to hunt down and kill all involved. The Prime Minister says to his advisers, "An eye for an eye leads to a world of blind people, however not believing in revenge results in a world full of blind righteous people" (Jonas 94). The Prime Minister thinks that something must be done to make Black September pay for their doings or else massacres will continue to occur. A team of five gathers in Switzerland led by Avner, a low-level Mossad techie whose father was a war hero and whose wife is pregnant. It's an expendable team, but relying on paid informants, they track and kill several in Europe and Lebanon. They must constantly look over their shoulders for the CIA, KGB, PLO, and their own sources. As the body count mounts -- with retribution following retribution -- so do questions, doubts, and sleepless nights. Loyalties blur. With every death that they cause, situations and goals continue to become more complicated and the mission seems to be nearing a point where it will be impossible to complete. However, the team never loses hope and always continues on their journey with full confidence that they will complete their final goal. Avner says to his team, "Though vengeance is often an eye for an eye, I fully intend to keep both of mine" (193).

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you think that revenge on your enemy is, in some cases, justifiable or is revenge only a means of causing more disruption in society?

2. Do you think that the Israeli government made a good decision to hunt the members of Black September?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thirteen reasons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why is a novel written by Jay Asher about an average shy boy named Clay Jensen returning home from school one day to find a box by his front door. When opening it he is surprised to find 7 cassette tapes. He soon finds out that these tapes were recorded by his class mate Hannah Baker, who he had a crush on, and who recently committed suicide. The tapes were mailed like a chain letter, one classmate with instructions to pass them from one student to another. On these tapes Hannah explains to 13 people how they played a role in her reason to kill herself, by giving 13 stories that each person was involved with. The stories start at the first person in her tapes. A boy named Justin who lied about what she and him did, and ruined her reputation and started all the negative rumors about her in school. These rumors lead a boy to put her on the list as “Hottest Ass in the Freshman Class”, causing her to become the object of sexual harassment. Her best friend Jessica left her alone , because of jealousy that Hannah is getting all the attention of boys, because of the list. Even though Hannah had no control of it. We also meet a conniving girl named Courtney, a boy who stood her up, a guy who stalks her and takes pictures of her without her knowing. Hannah witnesses a rape, a car accident that later killed a classmate, and a counselor that allowed her to leave even though he knew she was thinking about suicide. Each tape explains something that happened, and gave the readers an insight on her life. Fear of exposure and curiosity keeps all of the people listening to the tapes. Hannah states, “ A lot of you cared, just not enough. And that is what I needed to find out”(280). She thought she had no real friends, she thought she had no one. Clay throughout these tapes waited to find out what he did to her that landed him on the tapes” I did nothing wrong”(41), he kept telling himself because he knew he cared for her and she wasn’t really alone. Well I’m not going to tell you, that would be giving away the ending.

1) Do you think their was a way to save Hannah's life ? and if so how?
2) What would you do if you thought you knew someone that was thinking about suicide?
3) Was it really those peoples fault that Hannah killed herself or do you think it was something else?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

the curious incident of the dog in the night-time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon, takes place in 1998 in a place called Swindon, England. The story starts off with the narrator, Christopher John Francis Boone, discovering a murdered dog in his neighbor, Mrs. Shears', lawn. He decides to try and solve the murder until he gets in to some trouble with the police after punching one of them. He was scared due to his mild case of autism. He is told not to go anywhere near the crime scene but does it anyway. Boone begins writing a book with his thoughts about the murder and interviews with witnesses. He discovers that Mrs. Shears was having an affair in retaliation for her husband's affair with Boone's mother before she disappeared. Mrs. Shears was having an affair with Mr. Boone, who breaks down crying when Christopher discovers his lies. Terrified of his father, he leaves to find his mother. Once there he overcomes his social problems due to his autism, becomes successful at a university, and ends up developing a great relationship with his mother. They move back to England and Boone's father regularly visits. He believes he can do this because he solved the murder.
This novel reflects a coming-of-age story: becoming independent and finding a role in life. Christopher overcomes his inability to understand people, dealing with new environments, and an overload of information all at once. Christopher gains the confidence to move outside his comfort zone which is something he could not do at the beginning of the story. His decision to try and solve the murder case gives him the push he needed to talk to new people. The novel gives the reader a perspective of how Christopher Boone views the world in an uncommon way. He is an uncommon person who finds a way in life.

1. Christopher always believes in acting logically. Do you think that it is a good idea to always be logical in life?
2. Most of the characters in the story treat Christopher like a child and very mean just because of his autism. How would you treat a friend or family member if they had autism?
3. Christopher becomes independent and discovers a role in his life. Do you think it's possible for all people, including those with a mental disability, to become independent and find a role in life?

My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Anna Fitzgerald's older sister, Kate, suffers from a disease known as acute promyelocytic leukemia, which is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. According to Anna's parents, the whole reason behind her birth in the first place was so that the blood from her umbilical cord could be used in treatments to help save her sister Kate. The treatment is initially successful; however, Kate relapses, and since then, Anna is used as a donor for all other bodily substances that are needed to help save Kate's life; Anna is the only match. Anna is usually willing to donate whatever Kate needs, but one day she is told that she needs to donate one of her kidneys in order to keep Kate alive. The surgery is not completely guaranteed to work. Anna gets a lawyer named Campbell Alexander involved so that he can help her make her own decisions about the medical treatment and whether or not to go through with donating the kidney. Anna's mother, Sara, is an ex-lawyer; therefore, she decides to represent both herself and her husband in the lawsuit regarding Anna's kidney. Throughout the novel, Sara tries to convince Anna to get rid of the lawsuit, but she refuses. Anna and her mother are constantly fighting, so Anna moves out of the house to go live with her father named Brian in the fire station where he works. Anna and Kate's brother, Jesse, is ignored due to Kate's illness, so he spends the majority of his time getting into trouble with fire and drugs. He is a juvenile delinquent; however, he goes on to graduate from a police academy at the end of the novel. During the trial, it is revealed that Kate asked Anna to sue because Kate did not want Anna to transplant her kidney on her behalf and also because she thinks that she is going to die soon anyway. At the end of the trial, the judge rules in Anna's favor and gives Campbell, her lawyer, medical power. As Campbell is driving Anna home after the trail, a truck smashes into their car. Anna's father comes to her rescue, but she has suffered an injury to the head and is unconscious. Campbell has only suffered a slight injury to his arm. When they all arrive at the hospital, the doctor declares Anna brain-dead and asks them if they would consider organ donation. Campbell walks into the room and boldly states that there is a girl on the upstairs floor of the hospital that desperately needs Anna's kidney. Meanwhile, Kate is prepped for surgery and eventually Anna's kidney is successfully transplanted. Kate survives the transplant surgery but goes into remission. The remainder of Anna's useable organs are removed so that they can be used for future transplants. Kate stays in remission for about six years. Not only did Anna sacrifice her kidney for her sister, but also she essentially dies so that her sister can live.

Discussion questions:

1). If you were in Anna's situation and knew that the only reason your parents had you was to try to save their other sick child, would you be willing to help in any way possible? Why or why not? What if you did not know that this was your parent's plan and it was merely a matter of helping your sibling, would you help?

2). Do you think Kate really meant what she said in the courtroom when she said she did not want Anna to give up her kidney on her behalf, or do you think she was merely trying to look "good" in front of the judge and her family?

3). When people obtain drivers' licenses, they get to decide if they want to be an organ donor or not. Do you believe that this should be a choice or do you think it should be mandatory for people to register as organ donors? What is your stance on this issue, and do you believe in transplants?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

'Cane Mutiny by Bruce Feldman

'Cane Mutiny is a non fiction novel that was written by the famous sports writer Bruce Feldman. This novel chronicles the ups and downs of the University of Miami football team from the 1970's to 2000's. This program has won 5 national championships and produced a record numbers of NFL stars. The players are recognized just as much for their on field antics as what they do off of it. The Hurricanes, whose win records are only out done by their criminal records, were as the hall of fame wider receiver, Michael Irvin said, "Some bad boys." From nightclub altercations to fights on the field, the Canes were larger than life and always in the media spotlight. The novel's begins in the 1970's as the team is in shambles as the university is about to cut the football program. With the hire of a new coach, Howard Schellenburger and his guarentee to win, the Canes started to recruit and laid the ground work for years to come. In 1983, Schellenburger's last year, his guarentee came true. Miami was led by the young quarterback, Bernie Kosar (future Cleveland Brown), and the team defeated a highly touted Nebraska Cornhusker team 31 - 30. As the beloved Schellenburger left, in came a young man from Arkansas named Jimmy Johnson. Jimmy, who would go on to coach the world champion Dallas Cowboys, cemented what Miami is today. A famous Jimmy quote is "Only two things occur on that field. What I coach you to do or what I allow you to do." With that being said, Jimmy allowed quite a bit. A new brash Miami Hurricane team had arisen from the steets of Liberty City and Lakeland, Florida, coming together on the campus in Coral Gables. Led by greats like Vinny Testeverde, Michael Irvin, Jim Kelly, Alonzo Highsmith, the Hurricanes Swagger bubbled over into the community, stimulating the entire Miami region. With all the pleasantries of winning, so came the media spotlight and pressure to perform. Players often responded to this by rebelling against the world. Feeling under appreciated and under privelaged, the Canes were notorious for stealing, fighting, harrassing, and more while running the streets of Miami. Unable to afford the jerseys they made famous, players coupled with rap star Luther Campbell, formed a reward system. Money would go into assorted pots and whoever knocked certain players out of a game or scored touchdowns during a certain time frame would win the pot and all the money in it. Although highly illegal and grounds for dismissal by the NCAA, players received countless gifts from Campbell and other figures in Miami's social circles. Regardless of all the off the field issues, Thug U continued to win and dominate the college football landscape. Crushing teams like Texas, Penn St., Notre Dame, Michigan, Oklahoma, Miami demolished countless prestigous teams on their way to more national titles. To make matters worse, Miami was notorious for not just winning games but blowing teams out. At one point, they beat Notre Dame by 60 points! Rules and attitudes changed and restrictions came about, but the "Miami Vice" aura stuck and led to further recruiting commits by the likes of Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Jeremy Shockey, Ken Dorsey, Warren Sapp, Randall Hill, Sean Taylor, Lamar Thomas, Clinton Portis, etc. Through the 80's and 90's Miami established itself as a college football dynasty winning more national championships over the last two decades than Notre Dame, Florida State and Oklahoma combined. "The U" tradition continues today with their last championship in 2001.

Discussion Questions:
1. Should college football players receive monetary compensation in addition to their scholarship for their contributions to their university?

2. Much is similar with athletes today, as the overwhelming responses they get fuel their egos and cocky attitudes. Are athletes born with these attitudes? Or is the news media and fans to blame for how they act?

Burned By Ellen Hopkins

Burned by Ellen Hopkins, takes the reader inside the home of a strict Mormon family. A seventeen year old girl, named Pattyn Scarlet Von Stratten, narrates her experiences in the household and her escape from it. Pattyn's father is an abusive alcoholic. He beats Pattyn's mother because he believes women must follow a man's orders. Pattyn's mother thinks her duty is to bear as many children as possible to pass along the family name. Pattyn's mother had only conceived girls so far. Her children from youngest to oldest are: Georgia, Roberta, Davie, Teddie, Ulyssa, Jackie and Pattyn.
Pattyn is extremely stressed with her home life and begins to wnder if there is something better out there for her. She uses books as an escape from real life but the books only spark her curiosity more. Pattyn does not see the world the same way her family does, especially her father. Pattyn does the unthinkable and begins dating a non-Mormon boy behind her parents' backs. Pattyn is soon discovered by her drunken father with her boyfriend in the desert. Pattyn's boyfriend then leaves her for another girl who Pattyn furiously punches in the face. Her father decides that as a punishment she will be sent to Nevada to live with her Aunt Jeanette. Her parents are finally expecting a son and cannot deal with stress Pattyn brings upon them.
During Pattyn's summer in Nevada with "Aunt J," she finds love through her aunt and a boy named Ethan. Pattyn describes him as "beautiful." Ironically, Ethan's father, Kevin, used to be Aunt J's high school sweetheart. Their relationship was torn apart by a threat with a gun and a beating from Aunt J's brother (Pattyn's father) for not being Mormon. Pattyn now understands why Aunt J left the Mormon community.
Pattyn's time with her aunt is very eye opening. She learns how to love, how to be loved, self-confident, and that there is more to life than just religion. Her original prediction was right. Pattyn sees God like her aunt does, heaven will accept her whether she loves a Mormon boy or not. Ethan is perfect for Pattyn, she cannot see her own beauty but he can. Ethan teaches Pattyn the meaning of true love.
At the close of summer, Pattyn returns home. She discovers that her father is now beating her younger sister, Jackie, because he cannot hit their pregnant mother. Soon after, Pattyn realizes that she is pregnant with Ethan's baby. When she calls Ethan to tell him the news, two mean girls from school overhear her and tell everyone in school. The word quickly spread to Pattyn's mom, but she denies it.
Pattyn and Ethan, intimidated by her father's wrath, leave for California. A "perfect Mormon boy" named Trevor was in love with Pattyn and had written down the car's license plate numbers. The father uses this information to call Highway Patrol to go get them. The road they were traveling on was icy and when Ethan sped up to lose the patrolmen, he lost control of the car. Pattyn wakes up in a hospital room only to find out that both Ethan and her baby were dead. Her father disowns her unable to deal with her recent events. Pattyn feels left with a dilemma in the end, shoot and kill all the people who caused her pain or move on. Pattyn says that if her father would just say he loves her, that she would spare him.

1) A major theme of the novel is self discovery. Pattyn is able to find out a lot about herself when she goes to live with her aunt. She is able to do so because of the support and love she receives from Aunt J and Ethan. She is not just another annoyance to them; they love her. Pattyn struggles with self identity all the way until the end of the novel and even then the author leaves the reader hanging without knowing what decision she will make. Has Pattyn grown enough as a person to let go of her past and try to move on with her life or will she disregard her enlightenment and kill everyone who has caused her so much pain? Why do you think Pattyn would spare her father if he said that he loved her?

2) The author, Ellen Hopkins, also emphasizes the importance of love and the effects of dysfunctional relationships. Her relationships with everyone in her family were strained. Growing up in an abusive environment, Pattyn did not know love until she found it from her Aunt J and Ethan. She was able to build healthy relationships with these people because they accepted her as she was. Her family was unable to have her unless she was the ideal Mormon child. Does this new support from love of those around her give Pattyn enough strength to love herself? Or has her past with an alcohloic, abusive father and submissive mother permanently scarred her? If Ethan had lived, would Pattyn then have the strength to love herself? Would Pattyn have been able to have a normal relationship with her baby if it had also lived?

3) Pattyn's father is consistently a negative force in the novel. He beat's Pattyn's mom, he then progresses to beat his own child, he breaks up Aunt J and her true love by threatening him, he drinks constantly, and he disowns Pattyn. He views women as property of men so he feels the need to control them. Pattyn's father does not have healthy relationships with anyone in the novel. It seems as if he has no emotion but anger. In Pattyn's position at the end of the novel, would you be able to move on with your life? If not, what would you do?

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown, is the sequel to The DaVinci Code. In this novel, Robert Langdon, a Harvard Symbologist is called by a friend and asked to speak about Freemasonry at the capitol building in Washington D.C. when he arrives he finds it almost empty. He quickly realizes that he has been set up and that his friend, Peter, has been taken hostage by a madman who goes by the name of Mal'akh. The man claims to need Langdon's help to find what he claims to be an ancient portal.

What follows is a cat and mouse game between Langdon and Mal'akh through all of Washington. Langdon follows a trail left by the Freemasons, learning many of their secrets. By the end of the novel, Langdon must decide whether or not to reveal what he has learned. This helps to develop a theme of forbidden knowledge and whether or not every person know everything. Langdon later finds out that Peter's sister, Katherine, a noetic scientist (the study of mind and intuition), has her lab destroyed by Mal'akh, and with it some very important and groundbreaking discoveries. Things get even more complicated when the NSA gets involved claiming that Mal'akh has information that he can use to threaten national security. Langdon must stop him before he kills Peter and releases this information.

1. The novel develops a theme of forbidden knowledge. Do you think that there are some things that we are not meant to know or that we should not know?

2. the knowledge Mal'akh has aquired (i cant reveal what it is without giving away the ending to the novel) would be useless in the hands of any normal person. however he has twisted it for his own use. Can you think of any examples of people using knowledge in an irresponsible way for their own gain?

Death with Interuptions by José Saramago

"The Following Day, No one died" (1). New Years Day finds one country in complete confusion. No one has died since the stroke of midnight, signaling the new year. The very foundation of the church is shaky, people have to die so that they can recieve the blessings of heaven...but no one is dying. People are in the stage of not quite dead, but not living. They are permanently stuck dying. Those bleeding to death continue to bleed, but cannot die. No one knows why death has stopped and no one can find the way to make it begin again. Death has only stopped in this country, and insurance companies, grave diggers, and funeral parlors are losing money. The country is in turmoil which only seems to increase after the wish of an old grandfather brings one family to sadness and starts a revolution of sorts. He desires that he and his young dying grandchild be allowed to leave their misery behind and recieve death. The family fulfills the old man's wish by bringing him and his grandson over the country border. Bringing family members over the boarder of the country is the only way to bring death to these permanently dying individuals. The Government finds out about these secret quests and posts guards at the border to selectively allow only certain people to cross. One government official starts making deals with the maphia, with a ph "To distinguish us from the original mafia" (47) to find a way of making money out of these illegal crossings. A young philosopher has a discussion with a fish spirit at an aquarium and discovers that there are different types of death which is why only human life is spared from death. Why has Death stopped? And will it ever return to this lost country?

1. In the novel Death is personified to be a living being and a female, yet the grim reaper is always portrayed to be male. Why do you think the author has portrayed death as a female?

2. If you were in this country where no one dies and you had a family member or friend stuck in this permanent stage of the "living dead" what would you do? Would you bring them to the other country to simply be rid of them or would you care for them even though you knew nothing would change, they would not get better, but they would not get worse? What if it was their wish to die?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

What if you had to make the decision whether to live or die? Now this may seem like an obvious answer for some, but for Mia, there is no easy answer.

Mia has everything that she needs in her life and is perfectly happy. She has lively, retired rocker parents and a rambunctious little brother named Teddy. Mia and her best friend, Kim are always together, and they know everything about each other. She even finds a rockstar boyfriend, Adam, who shares her great love for music. A prodigy at the cello, she will almost certainly be accepted to Juilliard after her phenomonal audition. Her lone worry is having to leave Adam if she moves to New York to go to Juilliard. "I'm calling it 'The Girlfriend's-Going-to-Juilliard-Leaving-My-Punk-Heart-in-Shreds-Blues," Adam tells Mia (Forman 212).

But everything changes in the blink of an eye. Mia and her family get into a car accident, killing her parents and brother, and leaving Mia in a serious coma. For some reason, Mia is outside her body though and can see everything that is going on around her. As she observes her surroundings at the hospital, she recounts many significant events in her life from her first cello recital to her first date with Adam.

While in the ICU, one nurse helps Mia to understand her out of body experience. The nurse says, "She's running the show" (Forman 87). Mia quickly realizes that it is her decision whether she will live or die. So should Mia choose to live without her family or should she leave behind Adam, her friends, and grandparents and the great life ahead of her?

1)If you were in Mia's situation, so young and with a great life ahead of you but no family to come home to, would you choose to live or die? Why do many people value their family so much?

2) Two repeated themes throughout the book are about making sacrifices and choices. What are some differences and similarities between these two words, and how do they shape our lives?

3) Many times throughout our lives, we have to deal with great loss. Why do you think we are able to move on with our lives after loss? Does our love for the people we lose ever die?


Invictus or Playing the Enemy as it was originally published by John Carlin, is the story of Nelson Mandela and South Africa. The story is told by Carlin who himself met with Mandela and had Mandela's full support to write his story. The story begins when Mandela was imprisoned as a key political figure of the ANC, the African National Congress. At the time South Africa was under apartheid, a system of legal segregation, by the National Party. Mandela and other ANC officials were being imprisoned for fighting apartheid and a white controlled government. From the beginning, Mandela was able to win over Afrikaner jailers with his personal charm, manners, and charisma. He realized what he wanted to accomplish could not be won on the battlefield so he wanted to do it peacefully by winning over National Party officials. Mandela realized that rugby was seen as a religion to the white man and learned all he could about the sport. He used rugby as a way to open a conversation with a prison warden or a government official. Negotations held in secret between Mandela and President P.W. Bortha started in the 1980's to allow Mandela's release. Mandela was later released and began his road to the presidency. If Mandela were to win the presidency many Afrikaners said they would call for a separate white state. Mandela knew they must be brought to his side or a civil war was very possible. Mandela met with Constand Vilijoen, leader of the separatists, and convinced him that the Afrikaners had a future in South Africa. Mandela won the presidency but many began to doubt the ability of the new president to bring together the country. Mandela put all his faith into the Springbok rugby team as a way to unite the country under the slogan,"One Team, One Nation"(172). South Africa was hosting the World Cup and Mandela told blacks and whites to back their countries rugby team. Rugby had been a white man's sport but now Mandela was showing how his nation could bond together in the love of sport. He said,"Let us use sport for the purpose of nation-building and promoting all the ideas which we think will lead to peace and stability in our country"(163). The Springbok's led by Francois Piennar faced all odds and made it to the championship against a heavily favored New Zealand team. The fate of the nation relied on this game. A win would mean success for South Africa, but a loss would result in Mandela's failure to unite the country.

  1. Nelson Mandela believed sport has the ability to change the world. He said it has the power to inspire and unite people that nothing else does. Do you agree with Mandela and can you think of any present day examples?
  2. Do you believe that there are certain people like Mandela who are just born with the ability to lead and inspire others.

Monday, October 25, 2010


After seeing the atrocities committed during World War II, George Orwell feared for the future of civilization. He predicted that if we as a species continued to progress in the manner displayed during WWII, then we would be doomed to a society dominated by dictatorships and suffering. The book was written in the year 1948, and Orwell predicted what the future would be like in the year 1984. The novel's protagonist is Winston Smith, a member of the all powerful political party of the time. He is one of the countless drones doing the party's bidding. His specific job is to destroy historical documents so that if they party claims something is right, they will always have the evidence to prove it. The party controls all aspects of life, both work and social. They have television screens in every room, and are always looking for those who stand against them. Any freedom of speech or thought, because they now had thought police to take you away if you were thought to be thinking badly of the party, resulted in a mysterious disappearance. Th party even creates a new language called "New Speak," in order to eliminate the meanings of words they feel contradict them. Most of society lives in poverty that is forced upon them by the party, and they are known as proles. The party uses propaganda to teach the members to believe only the party. Kids are put into youth programs, and are taught to betray their parents if they hear anything bad about the party. In social and work settings, one cannot show any emotion or free thought or they will be reported to the party as being suspicious. No one can trust anyone, ensuring that a rebellion cannot occur.
One day, on an impulse, Winston buys a diary and begins to write in it about his life. He writes in his room in a place that the television screen cannot see him, so he thinks he is safe. This is strictly forbidden, and, if caught, he would surely be taken away and never seen again. He begins to show his despise for the party, and one day one of his co-workers sees this in his face and sends him a note reading "I love you." Her name is Julia, and she does not wish to report him. At first, Winston wants to kill her, but soon realizes that she is on his side. They develop a relationship and do things that the party prohibits. Their social skills are rudimentary because they have never truly socialized before. They both agree that they want to contribute to a rumored rebellious group. One of the people who they work with, named O'Brien, seems like he would help them, or so Winston thinks. Winston's anger and rebellious attitude grow as his relationship with Julia develops, and he is finally coming out of his shell. Later in the novel, O'Brien finally calls for Winston and Julia to come to see him, and they both believe that he will be involved with the rebellion. However, things are not as they seem with O'Brien, and there are some things about him that Winston and Julia do not know. Will he be able to help them to contact the rebellion, or is there something else going on with this mysterious character? You'll have to read the novel to find out the rest.

Discussion Questions:

1. If you were a person living in this nightmare society, do you think you would be brave enough to begin to rebel? Would you try to tell others that they are all doing the wrong thing by supporting the party?

2. If another member of the party approached you and said what Julia said to Winston, would you believe them? Would you go against the entire society to make an attempt to do what is right?

The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks

After forgetting their twenty ninth wedding anniversary, Wilson Lewis realizes that he and his wife, Jane, aren't the same people they were when they got married. Countless years of missing family dinners and soccer games for "meetings that ran late" at the office have finally caught up to him as he sees that his wife has fallen out of love with him and is seriously considering leaving. He is a man unable to express his emotions and when he starts to feel the weight of his actions push down on his unstable marriage, he panics and becomes desperate for a way to prove to Jane that he cannot live without her. Wilson's in-laws, Noah and Allie Calhoun, who were initially introduced in one of Sparks' previous and very popular novels The Notebook, provide for him an example of what a relationship should be; they've been married for over fifty years. He uses Noah and Allie's relationship as a guide to help him find a way to win Jane's love again, even though he feels that he may have already caused too much damage to repair.
While all of this is going on, Wilson and Jane's daughter, Anna, becomes engaged. Wilson sees this as the perfect opportunity to show his wife how much she really means to him. After discussing it with Anna, they decide to deceive Jane into thinking that Anna and her fiancée have chosen to have their wedding very quickly - in just a few weeks. Jane is surprised by the decision and is a bit apprehensive about the idea, but knows that she has to bite her tongue if she wants to be included in the wedding plans. Anna and Jane begin to plan the wedding, and Anna agrees with almost every suggestion Jane makes. While she makes a mental note of it, Jane doesn't really pay much attention to this. However, Anna and Wilson know something that Jane doesn't know - Jane is planning her own wedding. The question is, though, will Wilson have the courage to pull all this off? And will Jane take him back, or leave him anyway? Is this gesture enough to make up for all the things Wilson has done wrong over the last thirty years?

Discussion Questions:

1. If you were Jane, a married woman left to bring up her children because her husband became consumed by his work; a woman who gave up on her marriage long ago because the pain was too much to deal with, would this gesture be enough to forgive your husband?

2. If you were Wilson, how would you feel knowing you were the reason for your own wife's suffering? Does this gesture seem appropriate to you? If not, what would you do to win back her affection and prove to her that it won't come to that again?

Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews

The story is the first of its series and is narrarws by Cathy Dollanger, who 12 years old and is the second of four children. She has an older brother, Chris, and her other brother and sister are 5-year old twins, Cory and Carrie. They live with their mother and father until their father dies in a car accident and they are forced to move into their mother's old house. Their mother, Corrine, has abusive parents and the only way her mother agrees to let them stay in the house is if the children stay hidden. The children are locked in the attic and the next day their mother returns and had been badly whipped by her mother, Olivia, who explaines to the children that their parents were half-uncle and niece; their father had been Malcom, Corrine father's, half-brother. If Corrine has any hope of getting her father's approval, the existence of the children must be kept secret. They are told that they must remain in seclusion until Malcom's death. At first Corrine brings them expensive gifts and promises them a bright future, but she eventually stops coming to visit them. They are all verbally and emotionally abused by their grandmother, who tells them that they are "the devil's spawn" and "an abomination in the eyes of the Lord." She often threatens them with horrible physical punishment if they disobey her rules. As Chris and Cathy hit puberty, they begin to become curious about their body changes. Chris walks in on Cathy naked and begins to tell her how she is becoming very beautiful. He later rapes her out of a jealous rage. They are both ashamed and embarrassed, but continue to love eachother. Cory becomes mysteriously sick and eventually dies and Cathy and Christ devise a plan to escape. Chris overhears a butler say how he found arsenic poisoned food to kill the mice, but he knew the food was being used on them, and is what killed Cory. They finally escape, and learn that it is their mother who poisoned them, and not their grandmother. They also learn that in Malcom's will it was stated that if found out that Corrine had any children with her half-uncle, then she would be disinherited, and they learn that Malcom had died 9 months ago. they toy momentarily with going to the police, but decide against it as they did not want to be seperated from eachother and be placed in foster home. They plan to travel to Florida. At the time of their escape, chris is nearly 18 years old, Cathy is 15 years old, and Carrie is 8 years old. Cathy, the one who felt betrayed by her mother the most, vows to herself that she has only temporarily given up her thoughts of justice and revenge against her mother and grandmother, and she will see it through one day.
1. Do you think you would be able to live locked in an attic for three years without communication to the outside world? How do you think it would affect your personality and views on life?
2. Do you think tha the Dollanger children made the right decision in deciding not to go to the police? What would you do if you were in this situation?
3. If you were in this situation, do you think it would more difficult to just move on and forget about the past or get revenge for what was done?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn is a novel that analyzes the creation myth believed by most humans living in the world today, along with mythology, ethics, and how all of these relate to human sustainability on the earth based on the way we are now living. The novel is todl by two main characters; First was the narrator who goes unnamed, who is the pupil. In the beginning of the story he begrudgingly answers an ad in the newspaper reading "TEACHER seeks pupil. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person." When he goes to the printed address, he walks in to find the other main character: Ishmael. Much to his surprise, Ishmael is no ordinary teacher, in fact he is a full grown Gorilla who communicates telepathically with the narrator as they hash out "how things came to be this way."
One of the main points they discuss is the human creation myth, or the story of Evolution.
The way we tell the story, solar system born, earth formed, bacteria grow and multiply, then ocean animals form, move to land, mammals appear, and finally man pops out of all of this.
The end.
In this novel, Ishmael asks the question that I am going to ask you:
1.Why does the story stop there?

In case you don't know what i mean by that, I'll share the story that Ishmael shares to encourage the narrator to come to the answer to this question:
(This story is told by a jellyfish)
15 M. years ago the universe was born, then the stars around us were born, and this planet, but nothing happened here until after a billion years or so, life appeared. For many millions of centuries the world was merely microorganisms floating helplessly in a chemical broth. But slowly more complex beings formed: Single celled, slimes, algae, polyps, and so on...but finally jellyfish appeared.

2. How does this relate to our own creation myth? (big bang + Adam and Eve)
3. If you could, do you think you could tell an unbiased story about the creation of the universe?
4. In the novel this discussion led to the question, why do we feel superior? Why do you think we view the world the way we do? Are there biblical stories that tell how God created man as superior? Are there other cultural pieces you have read in class that tell how God wanted man to be superior?

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

The story starts out with Billy Colman, now a grown man reflecting on the year that he bought his two dogs and everything else that happened after. Billy, a ten year old boy, lives on a farm in the Ozarks. One day, Billy found two coonhounds for sale for twenty five dollars each. He desperately wants the two coonhounds, but his dad tells him that their family can't afford to buy two dogs. Hunting dogs are too expensive and Papa has a farm to take care of, as well as Mama, Billy, and Billy's three sisters. Billy decides to earn the money for the dogs on his own. Billy works for two years to earn enough money for the hounds. Once he finally saved up enough money, he gave it to his grandfather, who orders the dogs for him. Billy is so excited to get his dogs that he sneaks off in the middle of the night to go to town and pick them up. On his way home, he has to spend the night in a cave. Outside the cave, they hear a mountain lion and the two puppies howl to scare it away. He decides to name them Old Dan and Little Ann. Billy can already see that Old Dan is going to be a brave dog and Little Ann is going to be very smart.
As soon as Billy gets home with his two pups, he immediately wants to start training them to hunt raccoons. To train his dogs, Billy catches a raccoon and uses the fur to teach Old Dan and Little Ann how to chase a raccoon. His grandfather shows him a way that will help him catch any raccoon. Just when Billy is about to give up on the trap, he catches a coon.
On the first day of hunting season in fall, Billy is ready to take his dogs out hunting. He promises them that if they catch a coon, he will do the rest. The first night out, his dogs find a raccoon and chase it into one of the largest trees in the forest. Billy feels obligated to cut the tree down because he promised his dogs that he would help them get it. Cutting the tree down takes a few days, but when the giant sycamore finally falls, his dogs catch the raccoon and Billy is very proud of them.
Billy and his two dogs go out hunting almost every night. Billy brings the coonskins to his grandfather to sell, and soon stories about him and his dogs spread all over the Ozarks. Not long after gaining local fame, two boys from the Pritchard family (Ruben and Rainie) bet Billy that he and his dogs can't catch the mysterious "ghost coon" that no other hunter has ever been able to catch. After a few hours of hunting for the raccoon, Little Ann finally chases it. Once the raccoon is caught in a tree, Billy decides to let it go out of respect. Ruben and Rainie get angry and start to beat Billy up, and at the same time the Pritchards' dog starts to fight Old Dan. Ruben grabs Billy's ax to try and kill Old Dan but he falls on the ax and kills himself. Billy is very upset but after a while he goes to Rubens' grave with some flowers and feels much better.
Weeks pass, and Billy's grandfather enters Billy in a coon hunting tournament. At the tournament there are a lot of experienced hunters with expensive equipment. On the first day of the tournament, Little Ann manages to win a beauty contest. Billy also makes it to the championship round of the competition. While Billy, Papa, Billy's grandfather, and the judge are out hunting with the dogs, a blizzard hits and they lose track of the dogs. In the morning they find the dogs with just enough raccoons to win the contest. Billy wins $300 and gives it to his family.
One night after the tournament, Billy takes his dogs out to go hunting. They end up on the trail of what Billy thinks is a raccoon, but when his dogs get the "raccoon" into a tree, they find out it is a mountain lion. Old Dan and Little Ann get into a fight with the mountain lion and injures them, especially Old Dan. The dogs save Billy's life by jumping in between him and the lion. Finally, Billy strikes the mountain lion with his ax and kills him. Unfortunately, Little Dan's wounds are too severe and he dies the next day. Billy is heartbroken, but Little Ann is so sad that she loses her will to live and dies a few days later. Billy buries both dogs next to each other on top of a hill. His Papa tells him that it is for the best because they are going to use all the money that the dogs earned to move into the city. Even though his parents try to make him feel better, nothing works. Right before they leave, Billy goes to visit his dogs' graves to say goodbye. He is astonished by what he sees. A beautiful red fern has grown in between the two graves. Billy remembers an old Indian legend that only an angel can plant a red fern and wherever it grows is sacred. Finally Billy feels like he is able to move away without feeling guilty for leaving them. Billy says his goodbyes and says that he will never forget them or the red fern.

1. What do you think the main theme of this book is?

2. Do you think that love or determination helped Billy and his dogs do well at hunting raccoons?

The Hobbit or There and Back Again

Bilbo is sitting on his porch when he a man comes up and introduces himself. Bilbo recognizes him as Gandalf, the man who has fantastic firework displays once a year. Gandalf, and old wizard tries to convince Bilbo to go on an adventure with him. Bilbo declines hastily but invites Gandalf to tea because he felt rude. The next day twelve Dwarves and Gandalf enter his house. They explain to Biblo they intend to go and fight Smaug, the dragon under the mountain to reclaim their lost treasures. Bilbo agrees and decides to go with them. Their band fights goblins and is chased by wargs ont he way to Rivendel, where Elrond reveals even more secrets about the map. They then get separated and Bilbo meets Gollum. With Gollum, Bilbo plays a game with deadly stakes and ends up escaping with a ring that allows the wearer to be invisible. They continue their adventure and encounter giant spiders and eagles. They defeat everything and eventually slay the dragon Smaug. After the dragon is slain, the Wood-elves and Lake-men besiege the Mountain and request compensation for their aid, reparations for Lake-town's destruction, and settlement of old claims on the treasure. However Gandalf warns of an approaching army of golbins and wargs. The men elves and dwarves band together with help from the eagles to defeat the goblins. After the battle, Bilbo takes a portion of his share and returns home.

Do you think the idea of adventure or the greed for wealth made Bilbo go on his adventure?

True Spirit By Jessica Watson

Jessica Watson is currently the youngest person to sail around the world non-stop and unnasisted. Her trip lasted 210 days (7 months) and along the way she faced some very large obstacles such as 50 knot winds and a collision with a freighter.After her trip she wrote True Spirit. I chose this book because as a sailor, I could relate to some of the things Jessica went through, although she obviously has pushed herself further than I ever dreamed of doing.
The book told of her years of preperation before the trip, which seemed like the most challenging part. Finding and funding all the proper equipment and learning how to be ready for any situation took years and the knowledge of many experienced sailors. Her life was not what I consider ordinary, as her family lived on a powerboat for the majority of her childhood. They traveled around Austrailia enjoying the coastline and going on a series of adventures. Her parents believed that going out on your own was important, and let Jessica, her brother, and her sister explore the areas where they were docked. " gave us kids an amazing freedom. We stopped at islands when we were the only boat in the anchorage. We'd swim, snorkel, explore beaches...There was always something particularly special about a place when you had it all to yourself," (Watson 12). She never attended reaguar school, and her home schooling was not very serious in the years leading up to her trip. She kept a blog on the trip, and it is included in the novel. She was knocked down 4 times in the ocean, and dealt with many things I could never imagine handling like repairing her engine and catching her own fish for the occasional fresh dinner. The story line of this book is obviously intriguing, but the day-to-day blogging was a little redundant. It was always, "We didn't go anywhere today, very little wind." or "These past few days have really been tough with up to 40 knots of breeze" (Watson 182, 229). While Jessica is a skilled sailor and a motivation, she is not a very good author. She didn't elaborate much on the interesting parts of her voyage and her return home and beat the weather conditions to death. When she returned home from her voyage she was a national celebrity and the Prime Minister of Australia called he a national "hero". Jessica's goal in sailing around the world was not to become a hero, but to show everyone that ordianry people can achieve their dreams.
1.Jessica may not have been educated in the traditional sense, but she grew up learining new things and exploring the world around her. Do you think that this type of education is better for a young person? And do you think it will help her become a successful adult, or is traditional schooling more beneficial in the real world?
2. Jessica said in the novel that she "just wanted to prove to herself that she could sail around the world" (Watson 338). Do you think that wanting to prove something to youself would be enough motivation the accomplish a feat of this difficult?

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel by Susanna Clarke

The story begins with a group of theoretical magicians who believe that magic has been out of use for many years. They stumble upon a practicing magician, named Mr. Norrel, who proves his powers in various ways including making statues talk, and bringing someone back to life by making a deal with a faerie. He also aids in the war against Napoleon as he attempts to take over Europe. The women that Mr. Norrel had brought back to life has unfortunately taken a turn for the worse and lapsed into a sort of depression. Mr. Norrel claims that this ailment cannot be cured with magic, because it is caused by the faerie he called upon to bring her back to life. In volume II We meet Jonathan Strange, a young magician looking to learn from Mr. Norrel, despite the fact that they have very opposite personalities, and differing views on how magic should be used and wether faeries should be involved. Strange then starts to take on some of Mr. Norrels duties, and eventually goes of to help with the war. When Strange returns from the war, He starts to break away from Norrel due to differences in opinion, and even writes a scathing review of Mr. Norrels book. He then returns to his home and writes his own book to rival Mr. Norrels. The general public then begins to choose sides on the magicians opinions. Volume III starts with an attempt on Mr. Norrel's life by the women he brought back from the dead. Strange is able to assist with helping the women by removing her from the faeries curse. When Strange comes to Norrel, the solution causes them to both end up trapped in an eternal night due to the spell they must use. When trapped in this eternal night they cannot travel farther than a certain distance from each other as they attempt to escape, unfortunately it is left unsaid wether or not they escape.

Discussion Questions:
1.Do you think if Norrel had shared about the faerie up front the women could have been cured earlier?
2.Do you think if Strange had worked with Norrel instead of criticizing his ideas that they could have come up with a better solution to the problem?

Seeds of Deception by Jeffrey M. Smith

The book Seeds of Deception, by Jeffrey M. Smith shows the high level of corruption in the food industry in recent years. Back in the year 2003, the United States government was looking for ways to end hunger in the states and around the world. The way they chose to go about this was through reliable and easily grown genetically modified foods. This route has little to no scientific evidence, and what evidence their is is not good. But the Government went on with it anyway and gave the reigns to a company called Monsanto to get the project going. Monsanto's goal was to have all crops be genetically modified and come from their company, and the government backed this plan. The United States started exporting GM(what most call genetically modified foods) crops to Europe and other countries, who have refused to take it because of the future problems it may cause. Even some starving African nations will not eat these crops. Animals given two plates of food, one being normal and one being GM, always chose the normal foods. Scientists have tried to publish findings that show the foods can cause severe damage in the body, but are threatened with losing their job and massive lawsuits by companies that find out what they are about to release. Scientists like Arpad Pusztai, who discovered GM potatoes caused life threatening damage to organs and the immune systems of rats, was fired from his research institute and the institute is rumored to have thrown out or distort his findings. Some of the findings that have gotten out show the seeds, which have pesticide resistant chemicals in them, actually transfer the chemicals into the body of those who eat them. As a result, the body can no longer kill dangerous chemicals such as the pesticides when they consume the food, and they are free to roam around the body and cause damage. Since the introduction of the GM crops onto the market, allergies of soy, corn, peanuts, and almost every plant we eat have gone up over 100%. While most think they are not the victims of this, think again. Almost every processed food on the shelf in America today has some sort of GM product in it. Canola, vegetable, cottonseed, sunflower, corn, and any other oil in foods or on the shelves of stores is almost guaranteed to be the product of a GM crop unless bought from and organic store, and even then one can not be certain. Now some are wondering why our government is not starting to crack down on the GM products like my other countries have started to, and the ones to blame are Monsanto, the FDA, and us Americans for not standing up against it. Corruption in the FDA plays a major role. Michael Taylor was the Vice President and later an attorney for the company Monsanto when they were suing anybody possible for bashing their products. Currently, Taylor became a high member in the FDA after being appointed to this position by Barrack Obama, and has started to create policies lowering the regulations on GM foods, also getting rid of information that was not supporting it. It is hard for one not to see what is going on. The company has so much power and lawsuits cause so much fear that Fox News canceled an entire new series on GM foods, Publishing companies have canceled books, and a magazine company shredded 25,000 magazines instead of sending them out because of a story inside bashing GM foods. The doctoring of foods does not just stick to crops though, a steroid is given to many cows to increase milk production, GM salmon is now close to being approved by the FDA, and many others. The book Seeds of Deception causes one to think and take a look at what they are consuming, and also wonder why our own government and FDA are allowing these products that are causing many problems to dominate the market.
1. Do you think the government or food companies should have the power to have people eat foods that are harmful to their bodies with now warnings or anything on the products?
2. In a video that comes with the book, the company Monsanto gave illiterate farmers in India their seeds to grow and had them sign a contract along with it. On the bags were instructions which the company knew they could not read on specific ways to grow the GM crops. When their crops did not produce enough, farms were seized. The farms which did have crops grow were sued and then seized because they reused the seeds and did not return them to Monsanto and buy new ones. Both of those things were in the contract farmers were forced to sign when they were given crops promised to double their profits. Now in what has know as the "GM Genocide" an estimated 125,000 plus farmers in India have committed suicide as a result of lawsuits and having their lands taken away in these scams. Why do you think countries still accept GM foods after stories like this? How does our government support this company and other like it?
3. GM salmon is up for approval in the FDA right now. The salmon has DNA from other fish infused with its own, and the company producing it says it is as safe to eat as farmed salmon, which is not even close to being safe. Many believe that the FDA will approve it and not put labels on the salmon so people will not know what they are eating and what damage it could be doing. What do you believe the FDA should do? Why does the FDA not have the health of people in our country as their first priority?

The Hobbit - or there and back again by J.R.R. Tolkien

One day while the quiet and respectable hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, is out smoking his pipe, the great and adventurous wizard, Gandalf, appears. Gandalf invites Bilbo to go on an adventure with him which makes Bilbo quite flustered. Bilbo respectfully declines and tells him to come back the next day just to get the wizard out of his hair. The next day Bilbo had forgotten about his invitation to Gandalf. When a knock came at the door he suddenly remembered his invitation, but when he answered the door instead of seeing Gandalf he was greeted by thirteen dwarves led by Thorin Oakensheild. The dwarves invite themselves inside and ask politely that Bilbo bring them all food. Once they are all done eating Gandalf finally shows up and they get to talking about the adventure they are about to embark on.

The dwarves talk about their past home under the Lonely Mountain and all of the treasure that remains there. Long ago, a dragon named Smaug chased their forefathers from the mountain and stole their treasure. The group now wants Bilbo to come along as their thief. Bilbo finally agrees to go and they all set off the next morning. They face many hardships on their way east including being captured by three trolls which they only escape due to Gandalf's wit. They make it to the city of elves called Rivendell where they rest and restock their supplies. Then they set off in attempt to cross the Misty Mountains. While they're taking shelter from a storm one night, everyone except Gandalf is captured by a horde of goblins and taken under the mountains. Gandalf rescues them and they make a run for the exit. While they're running Bilbo gets knocked unconscious and left behind. When he wakes up he finds a little gold ring which he absent mindedly puts in his pocket. He then encounters the creature named Gollum who challenges Bilbo to a riddle contest. Bilbo wins by cheating so Gollum must show him the way out. Gollum goes back to his home to find his magic ring that will turn him invisible because he plans on killing Bilbo anyway. Gollum is enraged to find his ring gone and runs for the exit thinking that is where Bilbo has gone. In actuallity Bilbo had slipped on the ring to find he was invisible and follows Gollum out of the caves. Once he leaves the caves he is reunited with the dwarves and Gandalf, but doesn't tell them about the ring.

After some more hair-raising adventures the company makes it to the edge of the enchanted forest of Mirkwood. There Gandalf leaves the company to attend to other business and puts Bilbo in charge. After many days, they are near the end of their food and they leave the path, against Gandalf's advice, when they see lights in the trees. Giant spiders capture them but Bilbo escapes and helps his friends escape. He reveals to them the secret of the ring and they get away from the spiders. The dwarves are captured by woodelves, but Bilbo manages to escape through the use of his ring. After many days of wandering around the Wood King's home he rescues the dwarves by getting them all in barrels and sending them down the river till they get to Esgaroth, which is the closest town to the Lonely Mountain.

In Esgaroth, they are treated like royalty, and after a week, they set off towards the mountain. When they get there, they search for the secret entrance and find it after a lot of trouble. They cannot open the gate, until days later, when they discover the hidden keyhole. Bilbo enters the dragon's lair, and steals a golden cup for them. Smaug wakes and kills their ponies. Bilbo reenters the lair and has a conversation with the dragon; he discovers that the dragon has a weak spot over its left breast. The dragon attacks them, but cannot reach them because they've closed themselves in the narrow tunnel. Smaug goes off to destroy the nearby town of Esgaroth.

In Esgaroth, the dragon destroys the town but is killed by a man named Bard, who was told of its weak point by bird from the mountain. The men begin to rebuild their city, but some of them join the passing wood elf army who have come in search of Smaug's treasure.

The dwarves are informed of the coming armies by a raven, and they decide to fortify the mountain, because they don't want to share the treasure, and send a bird to Thorin's cousin. When the armies arrive wanting a share of the treasure, Thorin refuses to compromise. Bilbo steals a valuable stone and gives it to the armies as a means of bargaining. Thorin agrees to give up some of the treasure in exchange for the stone, but in actuallity he is waiting for his cousin's army to arrive. The army arrives and the sides prepare to fight, until Gandalf stands between them to warn that a great army of goblins is soon to arrive. The armies fight the goblins, and would have lost, if an army of eagles had not helped them. Thorin dies, and asks for Bilbo's forgiveness for his greediness. Bilbo finally returns home with Gandalf and his share of the treasure.

Discussion Questions:
1. Do you consider Bilbo a Hero or just a greedy thief? Why?
2.Can Thorin be blamed for his greed or is it just in his nature?