Where the Lilies Bloom - Literary Analysis, Chap. Summaries and Questions

Grade Levels
6th, 7th, 8th, 9th
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1.66 MB   |   30 pages


Long before middle schoolers had heard of Katniss Everdeen, Mary Call Luther fought for survival and freedom in the harsh mountain setting of Appalachia. The odds were not in her favor, but she succeeded through a combination of wild plants, deception, caution, manipulating a sponsor (neighbor) in order to receive “gifts,” and her overriding will to protect her family. Who wouldn’t want to read this novel and learn the details of Mary Call’s story?

Aside from the Hunger Games parallels, I cherish Vera and Bill Cleavers’ novel Where the Lilies Bloom (WTLB) in its own right, and find it endlessly challenging and surprising in its depth and beauty. It has been a labor of love for me to develop new materials that will help students and instructors to explore the thoughtful and fun wordplay, metaphor, allusion and themes in the book. I hope these lessons will help to ensure a strong future for the book by demonstrating the complexity and rigor of the text: in addition to being a good story, it is a highly-suitable choice for classroom use in the Common Core era.

The thirty pages in this download are organized around some major themes and also include analysis of characters, a list of plants mentioned in the book, and chapter summaries. Topics include the meaning of the terms “mountain people” and “mountain food,” similarities to Louis Sachar’s Holes as well as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, the authors’ connections between mountains and humans, foreshadowing, mythology, the hero’s journey and the conflicts and eventual balancing of contradictory forces. Throughout the materials, I have interspersed numerous sections called “Questions for students.” Also included are some exercises to help students consider similarities between Mary Call and an ancient Celtic deity and to compare Kiser and Roy Luther’s illnesses. For most of the discussion questions, I have included suggested answers that could be expected in a class discussion.

I have meticulously cited evidence and provided a page number for each citation. As the Common Core standards emphasize the need for evidence-based thinking, this explicit tie between text and discussion will be a useful classroom tool.

My passion for this novel causes me to go into great detail, so I know that teachers will want to boil down and adapt portions of this download for use as essay topics or discussion questions to fit the needs of their classrooms. To facilitate this, I noted throughout the document the chapters from which ideas and pieces of evidence are drawn. When you are jotting down (or highlighting) discussion topics for each chapter, these chapter notations (in brackets at the ends of paragraphs) will help you to organize the topics you want to cover on a given day.

Questions and ideas in this lesson encourage students to make predictions, appreciate wordplay and descriptive language, recall uses of foreshadowing, identify motifs, explore themes and make connections for deeper insight into the novel. They go beyond simple comprehension questions, addressing Common Core goals for students to: "...readily undertake the close, attentive reading that is at the heart of understanding and enjoying complex works of literature.... [Students] actively seek the wide, deep, and thoughtful engagement with high-quality literary and informational texts that builds knowledge, enlarges experience, and broadens worldviews."

I usually excise key information from previews to help ensure that people will step up to buy the full product. For this preview, I provide the first five pages of this download without editing. Although I hope people will eventually want to pay for the complete download, I know that North Carolina teachers are among the lowest-paid in the U.S., and I am happy if this preview is of use to you and your students.

For additional materials for use with Where the Lilies Bloom, please look for my lessons addressing vocabulary, citation of evidence, connotation and themes, tests and PARCC -style assessment.

Where the Lilies Bloom - Literary Analysis, Chap. Summaries and Questions by Sara Hathaway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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Answer Key
Teaching Duration
1 Month

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Where the Lilies Bloom - Literary Analysis, Chap. Summarie
Where the Lilies Bloom - Literary Analysis, Chap. Summarie
Where the Lilies Bloom - Literary Analysis, Chap. Summarie
Where the Lilies Bloom - Literary Analysis, Chap. Summarie
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