Discussion guide for 'the detective's assistant'

Be-feathered bonnets and hats off to Anne Bond, who created some remarkable teacher’s guides to using The Detective’s Assistant in the classroom! Anne’s work was presented at an education research symposium at Loyola University-Chicago in spring 2016. With her permission, I am sharing links to the guides at the Illinois READS homepage. Thank you, Anne!

The Detective's Assistant Teacher's guide 1
The Detective's Assistant Teacher's guide 2

Below is the discussion guide that I created. You can see why I write and Anne teaches! Either way, enjoy discussing the book with your readers!

  1. Nell is delivered to the doorstep of her long-lost aunt, and she's excited to stay with her. What would you do if you were deposited on a strange relative's stoop? How would you act?

  2. Kate Warne was hired as a Pinkerton detective, an incredibly rare decision at the time. How is the world different today for women seeking work than it was in the 1850s? What opportunities do women have today that they did not have then

  3. The Pinkerton detectives went to great lengths to solve their cases, sometimes misrepresenting themselves. Do you think they were justified in tricking people to solve crimes, as in the fortune-teller charade and the Maroney murder case where one of the operatives dressed up as the dead bank teller?

  4. Nell is thrilled to join the detectives on their cases, despite the danger of revealing their identities. How would you feel if you were asked to dress up for a fortune-telling ruse, or as a helpmate to solve a bank robbery, or as a ghost to scare out a confession from a killer? Would you be scared or excited?

  5. Nell pays attention to the news of the day, as well as listens to what people are saying when she's out and about. Do you have detective skills in your everyday life? If so, what are they?

  6. Abraham Lincoln entered Washington, D.C., in February 1861 under the cover of darkness. Many people criticized him at the time, saying he acted like a coward. What do you think he should have done when he learned of the assassination plot in Baltimore? What would you have done?

  7. Nell carries a little bit of her father – and everyone she loves – with her in her heart. She wore her father's boots to hold him close. How do you honor the people you love in your life? Do you carry a little bit of them with you everyday too, the way Nell does? If yes, how?

Correlates to Common Core Standard Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details 5.2, 5.3, 6.2, 6.3; Craft and Structure 5.4, 5.6, 6.4, 6.5, 6.6; Range of Reading and Complexity 5.10, 6.10. For a printable version, click.

discussion guide for 'cupcake cousins'

  1. Willow dreams of being a chef someday. Even though she makes mistakes – some of them very messy – she doesn’t give up. That’s because she loves to cook. Is there something you love to do? What happens for you when things don’t turn out right the first (or second) time? Do you give up? 

  2. Delia is very organized, and she likes to do things the right way. Willow is loose and doesn’t always follow directions or measure ingredients. Is one way better than the other? Are both ways okay? What about you, are you a Delia or a Willow?

  3. Willow wants to get better at cooking. She wants to work with Cat and learn from a professional chef. How do people get better at things? What makes people succeed in what they set out to do?

  4. Delia worries a lot. She’s most worried this summer about her mom and dad. Do you have worries? How do you keep from worrying too much?

  5. Willow and Delia start off wanting to get out of the ugly pink flower girl dresses and thinking just about themselves. But later in the book, they are focused on bigger problems, like helping Cat’s business and Delia’s father. How do Willow and Delia change over time?

  6. Cat's way of speaking is different from Delia and Willow's way. When she says Southern expressions like, "I fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down," what does she mean? Did she really fall out of a tree?

  7. When there is a knock at the kitchen door the morning of the wedding, the girls try to sound like Cat and throw their moms off. They say things like "happy as a pig in slop." What sort of metaphors did you find in the book? Can you come up with your own?


Correlates to Common Core Standard Reading Literature: Key Ideas and Details 2.3, 3.3, 4.3; Craft and Structure 2.6, 3.6; Language: Knowledge of Language 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 3.3, 3.5, 4.5, 4.6. For printable version, click.