Five Smooth Stones Discussion Guide
- Grades: 3–5
About this book
The popularity of the Dear America diaries for older readers, coupled with the requests from children, teachers, and parents for similar books that make American history come alive for younger students, led to the creation of the My America diaries aimed at youngsters in the 7–10 age range. Students at this age love meeting a main character in one book whom they can follow through a series of novels. Five Smooth Stones: Hope's Diary, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1776 is the first diary in a projected series of books that will follow the adventures of nine-year-old Hope, her family, and friends as they live through the American Revolution. Kristiana Gregory, the author of Hope's Diary, starts off this series with Hope describing events leading up to the creation of the Declaration of Independence. Five Smooth Stones helps readers put a human face on history as they encounter Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and various other Tories and Patriots.
"Methinks of my brother Ethan every hour," writes nine-year-old Hope in her diary. "Where is he? Nearly seven weeks he has been gone from us. And Papa? It has been eight months since he last set his hand on my head." It is 1776 in Philadelphia. The Declaration of Independence has been signed, and Americans rejoice at having "stood up" to King George in England. But Hope worries about her father who left suddenly on a "secret mission." And Ethan, believing his father has joined the Tories, has run off to find him. Now the British Army is burning New York City, and soon it may no longer be safe in Philadelphia. Hope, her mother, and her baby sister must flee and travel to their relatives' farm in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Hope is sad to leave her home and her best friend Polly, wondering if she'll ever see them again. Just as they are about to go, a letter arrives from Ethan. He is in a Redcoat prison, accused of being a spy. All Hope can do now is pray for him. Six weeks later, word comes that General George Washington's army has finally won a battle against the British. Everyone is relieved and hopeful, and Hope writes, "I know in my heart that Papa and Ethan shall return to us."
- Is Five Smooth Stones a good title for this book? Why do you think the author chose this title?
- Define the following. Why is each term important in Hope's diary?
Declaration of Independence
- If Hope considers July 9th a day of sorrow in her home, which day do you think Hope considers a day of happiness? Why?
- Why would you not want to be a student in the school Hope and Polly attend? List two or three incidents that convince you Teacher is "mean."
- Hope and Polly are best friends. What are some things they do together? What games do they play? How are they similar to girls today? How are they different?
- In Hope's diary several of the characters are Quakers who were "read out." What does this mean? Why were Miss Sarah and Mr. Dean "read out?"
- What does Benjamin Franklin give to Hope? How is this gift important later on in the story?
- Hope's mother says these words to her, "Daughter, thou must first remove the log from your own eye before removing the splinter from your neighbor's." Why does her mother say this? What does it mean?
In Hope's family, the elder child is given the privilege of choosing the middle name for the newest brother or sister. Recall how Hope received her middle name. Why was she so named? Why did Hope give her baby sister the middle name of Strawberry? Do you have a middle name? Tell why you were given that name.
Girls in Hope's day stitched samplers to show they were handy with a needle and thread. These often included the alphabet, pictures, a proverb, and the girl's name and date. Take a piece of drawing paper and design a sampler you might like to stitch.
Hope tells of church bells ringing to celebrate freedom and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The most famous bell of all is the Liberty Bell. Look up http://www.ushistory.org/libertybell/index.html and learn more about it. How did it become cracked? Where is it today?
In the Historical Note at the end of Hope's diary you can see a picture of a famous painting called Washington Crossing the Delaware. Who is the painter? What can you tell about the weather from the painting? Why do you suppose the painter chose to have General Washington standing up in the boat as they made the crossing?
Examine a copy of the Declaration of Independence. Find the passage that Hope remembered in her diary entry of July 8th. Why do you think those words were special to her? Can you find the signatures of Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin?
Hope's Diary ends leaving readers wondering just what will happen next. Using a quill pen perhaps, write a diary entry where you guess what will happen to Ethan and Papa? To Sarah and Mr. Dean? Compare your entries with others in your discussion group. When the next part of Hope's diary is published, read it and see if you or your friends guessed correctly.
Discussion Guide written by Richard F. Abrahamson, Ph.D., Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults, University of Houston and Eleanore S. Tyson, Ed.D., Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Houston, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Houston, Texas.