Teach students about the history of World War II and the conflict's lasting impact with online activities, lesson plans, and more.
About the Book
It's 1942 and Jill finds that the war is closer than ever to the small town in Maine where she is staying with Nana for the summer while her mother looks after her sick brother. Soon after arriving in New Haven, Jill finds that this small town has something to hide. And when she finds an injured homing pigeon that is carrying a secret German message, Jill starts to unravel the mystery. Could this be a connection to the strange black shadows that Jill has seen at dark out in the harbor?
Jill begins to suspect that her Nana may be involved in this espionage after she hears Nana plan a secret meeting with a group of friends, including one who is German. As the plot thickens Jill finally uncovers the big secret in New Haven but she also finds herself in grave danger.
This book offers a great historical perspective on World War II and students will love the suspense!
Set the Stage
- Get students ready to read by asking what students know about World War II and the role that German U-boats played in the war.
- Explain to students that this book is Historical Fiction, meaning that the story is set in the past and the characters are fictional. Read the Afterword, starting on page 239, which explains how the author based her book on historical events that really happened in 1944 during WW II.
After students have read the story, review using these discussion starters:
- How was life in the United States different during World War II? What types of things did people have to give up or ration during the war?
- Do you think Jill should have kept her knowledge of German spies a secret? Why?
- What does this story teach us about making quick judgments about people?
- What character did you like best in the story and why?
The What's the Meaning? (PDF) reproducible will check students' understanding of vocabulary words from the story, including some German words!
Try one of these activities to extend the lesson:
- Memory Check: Start a sentence from the story and have students try to finish it. Have students pick a character from the story and retell a scene from their point of view.
- Predicting Outcomes: Have students find sections in the book where they might be able to predict an outcome in the story. Get them started by asking these questions: Was it wise of Jill to sneak down to the harbor? Why did Jill not want to ask her Nana about her secret meetings? What might happen if she does ask her Nana?
- Noting Details: Discuss with students that noting details in a story is important because it helps the reader understand the characters and events. Details also paint the mental picture for the reader and help them to understand the story setting. Read a section in the story and ask students to list the details that give them information about the characters, events, and setting.
- Make it Your Story: Write a new ending for the story. What do you think should happen after Jill finds the U-boat in the harbor? Share your story with the class.
- Messages in Flight: Study how Homing pigeons can be used to carry secret messages. What role did these birds play in the military during World War II?
- Unterseeboote: Research how many German U-boats were found off the shore of the U.S. during World War II and describe what role they played in the war.