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“Michele Barker was good enough to come down to teach my high school advanced fiction class, and the session was just wonderful! She provided materials that showed them in a very real way what revision is really about. Then walked them through the material and talked to them about the material. So not only was it engaging but incredibly helpful. The students had a wonderful time with the writing exercise that Michele designed specifically to illustrate the material she was covering. This was one of the most productive and successful visits ever.”

–Barbara Greenbaum, Arts at the Capitol Theater Magnet High School, Willimantic, CT


“Having M.P. Barker visit your classroom is a perfect way to show students how content reading can benefit the reading of fiction. She described how she researched for her two novels by showing various examples of certain texts from that time. Also shared were her writing strategies and even a calendar of events for the story which helped her to stay on track. These real-life examples of editing and revising truly spoke to my students about the importance of those steps in their writing.”

–Mary Munsell, East Granby (CT)  Middle School

“Thank you so much, Michele, for presenting to my class once more. Your visits continue to be the highlight of the semester for my students. As you know, the college freshmen who place into my developmental reading classes are often discouraged and frustrated readers. Many admit that yours is the first book they’ve ever read cover to cover, and they credit your anticipated visit to our class as their motivation. As a published author, you rank a certain level of “celebrity” for them, and meeting you face to face makes them feel important, makes reading your book important. And you never disappoint. You are professional yet approachable, and your amicable, unassuming manner puts them immediately at ease. You bring not only the book to life for them, but the history as well. … Thank you again, Michele, for making a difference.”

– Paula Bernal, Developmental Reading & Writing Instructor, Springfield Technical Community College

“Michele’s presentation to first year college students was quite revealing and surprised some of the students who had no idea how difficult writing could be. Her knowledge of and skill in historical research contributed to the creation of a highly interesting book so germane to today’s problems of conflict and resolution. This is a great book to teach critical thinking skills!”

– S.M. Santucci, Adjunct Professor, Holyoke Community College, Cambridge College

Comments from Students:

“…[T]he fact that a 700 page manuscript became a 300ish page novel floors me. I know cutting extra stuff out is a big part of editing/revision, but I can’t believe all that information can be dumped with enough to still make a coherent and compelling novel. I was also surprised at how many rejections you can get before you get one acceptance- and how far you still have to go before publication. I really liked learning about her method of organization, and that there is no wrong way to organize unless you leave it unorganized….I also greatly admire how much research was put into those books. That’s a step I tend to forget, but it really makes all the difference. Nothing is worse than reading something and thinking the author doesn’t know what they’re talking about.”


“One thing I learned from Michele being here, is that there are a lot of different things that can be done to keep organized. I liked her method with the calendar, where she had pieces of paper with the scene attached to the days they were happening, like a timeline…One thing I will try and use in my writing as I move through this revision phase is to rewrite my pieces at least three times. Also to write down questions I have as I’m writing about possible new ideas and characters, because it could help me later in the process if I get stuck.


“I was surprised by how relatable her revision and editing process story was. I found a lot of my habits in her presentation. It was kind of like an, “Oh, I’m not the only one,” type of thing. I was also really surprised on how much she was able to cut down. 700 pages to 300 is an insane difference….I loved how she organized almost her entire book into sections that would really help me not be intimidated by editing a book that long. All of her organization techniques were fascinating. They way she cut her book into a timeline, her evaluation sheets, even her rejection letters were organized. I could tell that all of that organization really helped her, and maybe if I ever get stuck on revision I’ll organize everything too… She really improved on her writing when she took a second glance and rewrote what she was trying to say/get across. I think that would be a good strategy if I ever get stuck on something, or I am not liking how something is coming out. It’s a good ‘refresh’ button.”


“I couldn’t believe how much she had to cut down on her book- from 700 pages to-what-350? Good grief! Also, I was surprised how she actually started writing the book. Bribed with dinners! Ha! Oh! Here’s one more- I was taken off guard to learn that one of her methods for revising her work was tables. The scene, the purpose of the scene, how to make it better, etc. How clever is that? I learned a lot of things, but the one that sticks with me the most is ‘show, don’t tell.'”


“One thing that surprised me was her ability to shrink her work, I know personally within the 2-4 pages I write I get attached to unnecessary sentences so I can only imagine how many she had to get rid of if she started out with 700 pages and end with 300…One thing I learned was that strategy and organization in writing is more important than I thought. Like the charts she used to keep track of where her characters were was neat and definitely something I might try while writing longer pieces.”


“I learned that changing the point of view of a piece can really alter it (i.e. what I did with my drafts) and that there is no such thing as revising too many times. I also learned that cutting down pieces of a draft does not mean that a scene was bad, it just means that it wasn’t as important as the others…I’m probably going to use the calendar timeline that she brought in. I have a lot of issues with orienting my stories in time, especially if I’m doing time skips and things, and it looked like (and from what she said, was) a very helpful tool.”


“1 thing that surprised me: How organized she was. That board she had with the time line of her story was very thorough, it was almost a story in itself.

“1 thing I learned: There is a fine line between having too little research and too much research. You can’t dump information on your reader and expect them to stick around for very long.

“1 thing I’ll apply to my writing as we go through this revision phase: Organization. I thought it was astounding how much detail that Michele went into in planning how her story would go. But even with all that paper, she kept it all in one place and organized.”


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Mending Horses: Image Gallery

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Mending Horses: Frequently Asked Questions

From John J. Jennings, Theatrical and Circus Life; or Secrets of the Stage, Green-Room and Sawdust Arena

From John J. Jennings, Theatrical and Circus Life; or Secrets of the Stage, Green-Room and Sawdust Arena

Where did you get the idea for Daniel joining a circus?

When I started writing A Difficult Boy, I didn’t have a sequel in mind. But as I was editing the first book, I real­ized that Daniel’s story really wasn’t finished. I kept wondering what he would do and how he would manage in the world, especially since he’d spent most of his life being told what to do. So I thought he might look for Mr. Stocking, the peddler from the first book, for advice. Because Daniel is a natural horse whisperer, I knew he would want to do something with horses, and I at first thought he might get involved with the military, in the cavalry service, but that didn’t feel right to me. So I began thinking about what other jobs might involve horses, and the circus seemed like a natural fit. It also provided lots of opportunities to create interesting characters and situa­tions.

Museum of the Early American Circus, Somers, NY

Museum of the Early American Circus, Somers, NY

How did you do the research for Mending Horses?

Some of the background for “Mending Horses” came from work that I did as a historical interpreter at Old Sturbridge Village, which is a living history museum in Massachusetts. There, I learned about daily life of people in 19th-century New England. But working at OSV didn’t teach me about early 19th century circuses, so I did a lot of research at the Museum of the Early American Circus in Somers, New York. They have circus post­ers, account books and journals, publications, and more. The website of the Circus Historical Society was another excellent resource. Most important of all were the works of Stuart Thayer (1926-2009), who wrote wonderful books and articles about pre-Civil War American circuses.

From William Guild, A Chart and Description of the Boston and Worcester and Western Railroads

From William Guild, A Chart and Description of the Boston and Worcester and Western Railroads

I also had to do a lot of research about the Irish immigrants living and working in New England mill towns and work­ing on the railroad. Brian C. Mitchell’s The Paddy Camps: The Irish of Lowell, 1821-1861 was a wonderful resource for some of that information.

I learned about the Western Rail Road from newspaper accounts of the time period, papers and records of the Western Rail Road, and from Dennis Picard, Director of Storrowton Village, who has done considerable research on Irish railroad workers in 19th-century New England.

To learn more about the horse training elements of the story, I attended demonstrations by horse trainers like Monty Roberts, read lots of books about horse whispering, and had the opportunity to observe a young woman who retrains abused horses. I also read about 19th-century horse trainers like John Rarey, who was known for his humane methods of training.

Is Mending Horses based on real people, places, or events?

With the exception of Farmington, Massachusetts, and Chauncey, Connecticut, all the towns and villages mentioned in the book are real places. All of the people in the story are fictitious, except for the landlord at the inn in Springfield toward the end of book. There really was a Jeremy Warriner, whose inn was famous for hospitality and good food.

One event that actually occurred was the arrival of the Western Rail Road in Springfield, which happened on October 1, 1839—perfect timing for my story. I’d known that the railroad was under construction in the late 1830s and early 1840s, but it wasn’t until I’d already chosen the date for my story and decided to make Hugh a railroad worker that I learned of the October 1 event, which fit in perfectly.

dan rice & learned pigWhile Mr. Chamberlain’s traveling show is fictitious, the stunts that his players perform are based on circuses of the time period. James “Grizzly” Adams (1812-1860), Dan Rice (1823-1900) and Joe Pentland (1816-1873) were just a few of the real-life performers who provided the ideas for my characters and their performances.

How were circuses in the 1830s different from circuses today?

In the 1830s, circuses were just beginning to evolve into their present form. At first, circuses of the 18th century were primarily exhibitions of skilled horseback riding, and didn’t tend to travel. Traveling acrobats, magicians, singers, and jugglers generally performed separately from such shows. Menageries also tended to be distinct entities; at first they were more like traveling zoos than collections of performing animals. By the late 18th century, circuses had begun to incorporate non-equestrian performers. By the 1830s, show managers were bringing together menageries, equestrian acts, acrobats, comedians, and singers into large traveling shows. Shows might include things we don’t normally associate with circuses today, such as opera singers, displays of artwork, dramatic performances, or panoramas of historic events. Traveling tradesmen, peddlers, teachers, exhibitors, lecturers, and performers—what we might today think of as “sideshows”—often followed a circus in order to take advantage of the potential customers drawn by the larger show.

Courtesy of the Springfield History Museums

Courtesy of the Springfield History Museums

Why is Mr. Chamberlain’s show called a museum instead of a circus?

In many New England towns in the 1830s, there were laws that either prohibited traveling performers, or levied heavy licensing fees. Shows like Mr. Chamberlain’s Peripatetic Museum sometimes might call themselves an “exhibition” or a “museum,” or might emphasize the menagerie portion of the show in order to evade those laws. In spite of such laws, newspapers, diaries, and other records show that acrobats, menageries, trick riders, and other traveling entertainers roamed throughout New England. Advertisements for such shows often went to great lengths to assure audiences that programs would be educational, morally uplifting, and “chaste.”

Names for circuses could get pretty creative and elaborate. Here are a few actual show names from the 19th century:

  • The Hippozoonomadon and Athelolypmimanthem
  • Yankee Robinson’s Colossal Moral Exhibition with Egyptian Wallapuss
  • L.B. Lent’s Universal Living Exposition, Metropolitan Museum, Mastadon Menagerie, Hemispheric Hippozoonomadon, Cosmographic Caravan, Equescurriculum, Great New York Circus and Monster Musical Brigade
  • P.T. Barnum’s Museum, Menagerie, Hippodrome, Polytechnic Institute & International Zoological Garden
  • John Robinson’s Great World’s Exposition, Museum, Aquarium, Animal Conservatory & Strictly Moral Circus
  • W.W. Cole’s New Colossal Shows, Consolidated Three Ring Circus, Menagerie, Gallery of Wax Statuary, Russian Roller Skaters, Elevated Stage, Encyclopedia and Races
  • J. Taylor’s Great American Double Circus, Huge World’s Museum, Caravan, Hippodrome, Menagerie and Congress of Wild and Living Animals

Was it common to sell a child whom a parent didn’t want?

Well, technically it wasn’t legal to sell a child in New England in the 1830s. However, a parent could apprentice a child to a craftsperson or farmer, in effect giving the master under the apprenticeship agreement nearly complete control over the child. This arrangement was also referred to as an indenture, hence such children were sometimes called indentured servants. So when Mr. Stocking offers to “buy” Billy from Hugh Fogarty, he’s not literally buying the child, but offering to take Billy on as an apprentice or indentured servant. Such arrangements might happen if a parent were too impoverished to take care of his or her children. Parents also apprenticed their children in order to get them trained for a particular trade or craft. A parent might also hire a child out as a worker for day wages–any pay the child received would legally belong to the child’s parent or guardian.

Where did Mr. Stocking get the things he sold from his wagon?

In the 1830s, there were a lot of manufacturers of tinware in Connecticut, and they would sell their products through peddlers who traveled across the country. Peddlers also might add things like brooms, sewing supplies, patent medicines, books, and dozens of other products to their wares, which they might obtain by trading with storekeepers or wholesalers. In Mending Horses, Mr. Stocking’s cousin Sophie is married to a man who makes tinware and supplies Mr. Stocking with many of the goods he sells. Like other peddlers, Mr. Stocking also carries dozens of other products in addition to tinware.

Who are the people on the cover?

The cover was created by artist Richard Tuschman. A young actor/model posed for Daniel. Billy was played by the child of one of the artist’s friends. They did a photo shoot in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and the artist developed the cover based on the photos from that shoot. The horse is named Lumpy, and according to the artist, “The biggest challenge was that Lumpy just wanted to eat the grass.”

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Rude Dude’s Guide to Food – Interview with Author Tim J. Myers

Ever wonder whether hamburgers really did originate in Hamburg? Are fortune cookies really Chinese? And Did Marco Polo actually bring back pasta from the Orient? Well, writer Tim J. Myers wondered about those things, too, and the result is an entertaining book for kids about the origins of some of their favorite foods.

An award-winning author, Tim J. Myers has written more than a dozen books for adults and young readers in genres ranging from poetry to nonfiction to picture books. His most recent publication, Rude Dude’s Book of Food (Familius, 2014), is an irreverent jaunt through food history for young readers. In the persona of the slangy and somewhat etiquette-challenged Rude Dude, Tim explores the history of many foods loved by kids (and adults), from hamburgers to pizza to oodles of noodles, along the way dispensing advice for readers about eating right and staying healthy. (For teachers, Rude Dude also includes an appendix showing how the book can be used in a Common Core Standard-based curriculum.)

Tim recently stopped by to chat about some of the wicked cool history he discovered while researching and writing his new book.

Hi, Tim. How did you get interested in food history?

I suppose the most truthful answer is my plain old love of food! But an equally-accurate answer is that I wrote a picture book called A History of the World from a Hamburger-Lover’s Point of View (me being the Hamburger-Lover in question)–and an editor who rejected it said she’d be interested in a whole book on food history. Which, the world being its cutely ironic self, she also later rejected. But I had a ton of fun researching and writing the book, and it all turned out for the best.

I should add too that anyone who’s paying attention knows that a lot is changing right now in how we think about food, and I gradually came to realize how important many of these changes are. It’s more than just a shift away from, say, corn dogs and potato chips to healthier fare (notice that we’re currently in a kale revolution, for example). That’s important enough! But this big transition we’re in also has to do with maintaining the environment and encouraging economic justice around the world. So I relished the opportunity to get kids interested in food as more than–as it formerly was for me–just the stuff we put in our mouths.

Hey–“relished the opportunity”–unintentional food pun. Awesome, eh?

Ouch! You didn’t warn me that you’d be inflicting pun-ishment on the interviewer!

Where did you do your research?

All over the place. I generally do a good amount of online research, especially with the increase in quality sites on the Web, along with the burgeoning amount of junk. But I always use print sources too, and found many fascinating ones. In fact, this was one of those projects where I had to stop myself, time and again, from doing too much research, reading ahead in a mesmerizing book when I’d already gotten what I needed from it. That’s actually a genuine challenge sometimes! One of my most fervent wishes is to be reborn as a self-aware cat, in which case I’d give one entire life of my nine to the fascination of pure research.

I also learned about some amazing people, whom I mention in the book–like the Japanese scholar who tracked down the true origin of fortune cookies (NOT Chinese!). I even contacted a number of them and got wonderful responses from them.

There are lots of myths behind how various foods developed. How hard was it to sort out food fact from food fiction?

That’s a great question, because it can be a real challenge. Isn’t it funny how prone we human beings are to fanciful or just-plain-wrong explanations for things? I think that’s due to our instinct for storytelling drama, not to mention our desire to have things the way we want them. But for any historical work, Job One is to separate the wheat from the chaff. (Sorry! Another food pun, and a boring one).

The most difficult and interesting issue for me in this book was the famous story about Mongols putting raw meat under their saddles. Now a story like that–so dramatic and stomach-unsettling and cool and crazy–well, I of course questioned whether it’s actually true. And it’s cool enough to have become something like an urban legend, in the sense that it’s continually being retold–and when that happens, a writer has to be cautious, since all kinds of false things can accrete to actual historical practices or events. In retelling stories, people often just haphazardly glom layers of falsehood onto some kernel of truth.

Many of my sources said it was true, and others said it wasn’t, so I compared and analyzed and all the rest. In the end, I found enough trustworthy sources saying it happened, so I presented it as historical reality.

On the other hand, if some medieval Mongol rises from the grave and thrashes me for saying such a slanderous and disgusting thing about his people–well, then I’ll gather up my tattered soul and go back and revise.

What was the weirdest/grossest/most interesting thing you discovered in your research?

I got a huge kick learning about some of the more unusual Chinese dishes, most from times past, like deep-friend camel hump, cooked goose foot-webs, barbecued elephant trunk, and leopard fetus.      But you stated it exactly right, since what’s “gross” to one person or culture may be delicious to another. I make that point in the book. I’ve lived overseas three times, so I’ve experienced myself how something that originally strikes you as odd or distasteful can end up being one of your favorite foods. When we first moved to Tokyo and went to the grocery store, it was–well, a trip! There were, for example, octopus tentacles in plastic bags for sale. We were delighted when we found a big jar of peanut butter and immediately bought it. But when we opened it at home, we found out it was miso, the stock for a Japanese soup–and we were all so disappointed. But that was silly, because now my whole family LOVES miso soup.

Hold off on the goose foot-webs, though–I’m open-minded, but my interest in water-fowl doesn’t extend that far.

What surprised you the most about writing and researching this book?

The biggest and best surprise was realizing just how much different cultures have actually been working together, mostly unconsciously, for centuries. Because new foods often travel, so to speak, crossing borders, and then are often developed in new ways by the new group. This isn’t true of all foods, of course, but it’s surprising how global humanity can be about food, and was even centuries ago. A lot of New World foods, for example–like chilis and tomatoes and potatoes–came to play a huge role in the cuisine of distant and very different cultures. Thai food, as I hope you already know, often uses chilis, to mouth-watering (and nose-reddening) effect. I loved learning that the ethnocentric, conflict-based view of history I was taught in school, though certainly true to some degree, wasn’t really the whole story. It’s as if our general human desire to make things better just keeps happening, and causes us to cooperate, sometimes in ways we’re not even aware of.

I mean, Good Lord!–thank you, Thai people, for the delicious things you’ve done with our American chilis!

What was your favorite part of researching and writing this book?

I’d have to say the stories I learned–like the perhaps-untrue one about Alexander the Great refusing to drink water until his thirsty soldiers also got some–or the one about the northern chieftain at a Chinese feast who ate a banana peel-and-all because he’d never seen one before and thought that was how you did it. And then all the rich detail of human life I encountered.

As just one example of the latter, I learned about the Chinese term for someone who’s puffed up and thinks he’s a big shot but actually isn’t. So I’m just waiting for the chance to call someone a “hat-wearing monkey.”

It was strangely fun too to become the Rude Dude character and just let loose in the ways I thought he would. I’ve always thought I’d like to go to a party in a gorilla suit, mainly because I think it’d be fun to act like a gorilla.

Does that make me weird?

Yeah–I know–it does.

Maybe, but being weird is much more fun, isn’t it?

Will Rude Dude be making any future appearances?

I have no idea. If the market speaks, I obey. I’ve gathered some research and ideas for a second book, but mostly just out of my own interest. Still, it’d be a blast. But out of my hands, I think.

 You’ve written in a lot of genres—non-fiction, poetry, picture books, short stories, and more!—for audiences of all ages. Which genre is your favorite? Which genre is the most challenging? And why?

I don’t really have a favorite. In fact, that’s part of my great good fortune. Writing in different genres and for different ages, writing as a generalist rather than a specialist, isn’t all that practical. I think I’d do better career-wise and money-wise, probably, if I concentrated on one thing. But I’m constitutionally incapable of that, and being a generalist is one of the greatest joy-inducing realities of my life. It’s funny to me–“generalist” is such a dry, abstract term–sounds almost like some kind of doctor. But in my life it’s a fountain of pleasure and fascination. The whole world is my topic.

And even though writing a novel is harder than, say, writing a haiku, longer and more complex works don’t feel any harder to me, just because it’s such a delight to work on them.

 What are you working on now?

I’m doing research and world-building for a–okay, ahem, get ready for the phrase I’ve come up with to describe it: a YA/adult crossover realist fantasy series.

That’s a bit of a mouthful, isn’t it?

For a long time I’ve been preparing to write a big story about three young people whose parents stand up to terrible political oppression, a decision that results in their children having to flee into what everyone considers a hateful, lifeless wilderness. One of the most pleasurable things about this, besides the story itself, is the opportunity to create my own world.

Sounds cool!

Thanks, Tim! Good luck with your new story!

Check out Tim’s web site to find out more about him and his other books.

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Mending Horses: Reviews

mh cover final

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“Fluid writing and a true sense of history—including fascinating insights into early circuses—raise this well above the usual. Barker’s characters are nuanced, difficult, and real, and so is her sense of horses. An absorbing look into a patch of past not often examined.”

Kirkus Reviews (starred review, February 2014)

“Barker’s deft sketches even endow most peripheral characters with individuality… Barker fashions a well-researched roster of circus eccentrics to serve as a colorful backdrop to Daniel’s slow flowering as a horse trainer and Billy’s pugnacious evolution towards contentment..The sideshow troupers, tragic childhoods, and near-fatal altercations—plus some gender disguise—could combine for a noisy novel, but Barker crafts a story of grace and strength.”

–Robbin E. Friedman, Chappaqua Library, NY, School Library Journal (April 2014)

“…Barker skillfully evokes the realities of class, racial, and gender oppression in the nineteenth century through a rich cast, lifelike setting, and complex, compelling plot.”

Francisca Goldsmith, Booklist (starred review, April 2014)

“A skillful evocation of race, class, and gender in nineteenth-century New England.

Ilene Cooper, Booklist (Top 10 Historical Fiction for Youth, April 2015)

“’Mending Horses’ may be the best book I have reviewed in the past year. M. P. Barker’s young-adult novel is dramatic, insightful and lyrical…’Mending Horses’ is meticulously researched and smoothly paced. Barker explains in an afterword that the circus acts depicted are based on real 19th-century practices and she effortlessly draws readers into her story….I would recommend ‘Mending Horses’ to readers over the age of 11. The book has dark moments, but its message of hope and understanding should move teenagers and adults.”

–Tinky Weisblat, Greenfield Recorder (24 January 2015)

“…a poignant and seriously written work of  historical fiction and deals with issues of gender equality and acceptance of different cultures and races….an incredibly sweet, touching book about learning not only to trust others, but to trust yourself. It’s a wonderful coming of age novel about a boy and his horse and a girl who learns what it means to truly be free.”

–Morgan Lee, “For Such Love We Feel” blog

“M. P. Barker’s new book, Mending Horses, is a sequel to her first novel, A Difficult Boy. Quite often second books do not match the quality of the first effort, but in this case, the story of Daniel, an Irish lad recently freed from indentured servitude, continues the riveting plotlines and social conscious introspection that characterized its predecessor. The sense of time and place, New England in the 1830s, is so stark and vivid that you can almost smell the earthy richness of the farm country and hear the hoof beats of the prancing ponies that Daniel tames as the story progresses. The other major characters, a youngster with an angelic voice that belies an angry heart and an aging peddler who struggles to do what is best for his two young charges, bring vigor to the tale as they navigate physical, emotional, and moral obstacles. Even secondary characters, such as a wily conjurer, and a plethora of curious and sometimes cunning circus people, bring energy and imagination to this young adult novel. I am well beyond the young adult stage, and I found this book engaging, suspenseful, and delightful. The deep descriptions lured me into the time period, and I could not put it down. I would heartily recommend Mending Horses for anyone between the ages of twelve and a hundred and twelve.”

–Melva Michaelian, Educator and Author of Contemporary Fiction

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Mending Horses: Book Group Discussion Guide

mh cover final

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1                 Why is the book called “Mending Horses”? Who or what is mended in the course of the story?

2                 The story is told from several points of view. How does the author use word choices and language to create a distinctive voice for each point of view character?

3                 How the characters are perceived by others and who they really are is often very different. For example, Daniel is perceived as a thief and a liar because of his Irish accent. Discuss how the characters struggle against the limitations imposed on them by others’ perceptions of who they are or should be and what they should do.

4                 Discuss the role of rumors and misunderstandings in creating difficulties and dangerous situations for the characters in the story.

5                 Why doesn’t Jonathan tell Sophie the truth about Billy? Who would be a more suitable parent for Billy—Jonathan or Sophie? Why?

6                 Why does Daniel object to Billy’s disguise? What makes him reconsider his opinion?

7                 Many of the characters hide their true identities for various reasons. For example, Fred Chamberlain pretends to be an Indian prince when he performs in the show. Choose a character and discuss how and why that character hides who he or she is.

8                 By the end of the story, each character has learned something important about him or herself. Choose a character and discuss the lessons she or he has learned and how the character has changed by the end of the story.

9                 Daniel and Billy both make important choices at the end of the story. Do you think they’ve made the right decisions? Why or why not? Discuss what the consequences of their decisions might be. How might their futures be different if they’d chosen differently?

10              What do you think might happen to the characters after the end of the story? What problems might they encounter in the future?

To find out more about New England in the 1830s, go to the Old Sturbridge Village Web site – . You can find research articles and historic documents here: .

For a HUGE collection of resources on 19th-century America, go to:

If your book club wants to prepare some 19th-century dishes for your meeting, you can find some recipes on the Old Sturbridge Village website here: .

Or go to “Feeding America: the Historic American Cookbook Project” for a variety of 19th-century cookbooks:

For more information on 19th-century circuses, go to the Circus Historical Society’s Virtual Library.

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