Blood on the River Discussion Guide
- Grades: 6–8
About this book
Literature Circle Guide to
Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone
Samuel Collier, a rough-and-tumble young orphan, becomes Captain John Smith's page on his journey to the New World. Brought up in poor conditions, Samuel is street-smart but also quick-tempered. He has to learn to control his anger and to use his head instead of his fists. During the journey on the ship the Susan Constant, Samuel begins to learn how to determine right from wrong. Through his interactions with other boys his age and with key figures such as Captain John Smith, Reverend Hunt, and Master Wingfield, Samuel discovers ways to avoid conflict. His first encounters with the native peoples in the Caribbean and in the New World further teach Samuel about different perspectives and about the value of culture. Survival in the new colony tests Samuel as he evaluates these life lessons and learns to make good choices using his heart and his head.
Elisa Carbone was raised in Arlington, Virginia. She composed her first book before she even learned to write, by having her father take down what she said to him every night. Although she didn't write her second book until she was in her early thirties, she had many adventures in the meantime, including getting married, having children, living in Italy, and teaching music and dance. Once her children were older, she attended college at the University of Maryland. She also received two master's degrees from the University of Maryland, one in speech communication and the other in education. She now makes her living as a writer. She lives part of the time in the Washington, D.C., area and part of the time in the mountains of West Virginia.
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Suggested Answers to Literature Circle Questions
1. At the beginning of the novel, why doesn't the magistrate send Samuel to the gallows for stealing the locket from the pawnshop?
The magistrate takes pity on Samuel because he has a son of the same age. He pulls Samuel out of the jail cell after two days and brings him to the orphanage. (p. 6)
2. Both Captain Smith and Reverend Hunt teach Samuel very valuable lessons. What is the biggest lesson that Reverend Hunt teaches Samuel? What is the biggest lesson that Captain Smith teaches Samuel?
Reverend Hunt teaches Samuel to be kind. Captain Smith teaches Samuel to channel his anger. (p. 74, p. 122)
3. List the names of the three ships that sail from England to the New World. Which of the ships is the smallest? Which ship does Samuel take?
Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery. The smallest ship is the Discovery. (p. 9) Samuel takes the Susan Constant to the New World. (p. 13)
4. Reverend Hunt believes that the settlers get ill in the summer because of the mosquitoes that bite them. What do the natives use to keep from getting bitten by mosquitoes?
They use bear grease mixed with a powder of red puccoon root. (p. 183)
5. Place the following in order, from those who have the least say at the settlement to those who have the most say at the settlement:
This information is not located on any one page. Readers should understand thehierarchy of the settlement after reading the entire novel.
6. After Reverend Hunt introduces Samuel to Captain Smith, he points to the men to whom Samuel and Richard must show respect. What does Samuel do so that he will remember each of the men?
Samuel thinks of things that sound like the men's names in order to remember them. For example, with Sir Edward Maria Wingfield, Samuel thinks of wings and imagines him with bright tail feathers and wings so he won't forget him. (pp. 11-12)
7. As Captain Smith's page, Samuel both serves Captain Smith and learns from him. Think of a time when you acted like a page by both helping a person and learning from that person. Describe who this person was, how you helped him or her, and what you learned from him or her.
Students may describe acting like a page with a teacher. Perhaps the teacher taught them how to cooperate with others and perhaps they helped the teacher by passing out papers or cleaning an area of the classroom. Students may also discuss a parent or other relative, a neighbor, or a friend, and describe how they both helped and learned from this person.
8. The Virginia Company's contract with the settlers sometimes gets in the way of the settlers' ability to survive in Virginia. Explain how this happens.
This happens because The Virginia Company and the settlers want different things. For example, The Virginia Company wants the settlers to make them a profit by digging for gold in the New World. However, the settlers' time would be put to better use by securing shelter and food. Another example is that The Virginia Company wants the settlers to claim the land at James Town as their own. The settlers, on the other hand, would rather make peace with the natives who were there before they arrived. The settlers know that the natives are shrewd fighters who are better equipped for war and more knowledgeable about the land. Therefore, the settlers wish to avoid starting a war with the natives by claiming the land as The Virginia Company wants them to do. (p. 59, 166)
9. At the end of the novel, Samuel says that Ann, John, and Virginia Laydon are like family to him. Explain why it is so important to Samuel to feel like he has family.
At the beginning of the novel, Samuel is an orphan with no family. By the end of the novel, Samuel feels like Ann, John, and Virgnia Laydon are his new family. This makes him happy because he feels like he belongs somewhere again and that people love him. (p. 217)
10. On page 98, we learn that Master Wingfield is no longer president because he hid food from the settlers, and that Captain Ratcliffe is now president. Captain Smith tells Samuel that they "have gone from the frying pan into the fire." Explain what Captain Smith means by this.
Captain Smith thinks that Captain Ratcliffe will be a worse leader than Master Wingfield was. The troubles for the settlers will increase with the change inleadership. The frying pan above the fire is hot, but the fire itself is even hotter. (p. 98)
11. The author begins each chapter with a quotation. The quotations come from the writings of the real men who settled in the New World. What does each quotation have to do with what happens during each chapter?
The quotations describe the main event(s) that happen(s) in each chapter.
12. When Samuel says that his "circle has become bigger" on page 136, what does he mean?
Samuel means that he is not alone any more. He used to be a loner on the streets of London, but now he has learned to depend on, stand together with, and cooperate with other people. These people are his "circle," which, compared to his days in London, has become much bigger. (p. 136)
13. Why do you think the author titled this novel Blood on the River?
The author probably titled this novel Blood on the River because a lot of fighting takes place on the Powhatan River (James River). Many people are killed by fighting or die through illness and starvation.
14. If the settlers had abandoned James Town and gone back to England with Sir Thomas Gates in the spring of 1610, what do you think would have happened to European settlement of the New World?
European settlement of the New World probably wouldn't have occurred. People would have learned of the hardships of living in James Town and would have decided to stay in England where it was less dangerous and where food and shelter were more readily available.
Note: These questions are keyed to Bloom's Taxonomy as follows: Knowledge: 1-3; Comprehension: 4-5; Application: 6-7; Analysis: 8-9; Synthesis: 10-12; Evaluation: 13-14.