Listening For Lions by Gloria Whelan
March 5, 2009 in Books With Social Studies Content, Elementary Educators, Making Predictions, Middle Grade Novel, Research Ideas, Whelan, Gloria Tags: Gloria Whelan, historical fiction for kids, historical fiction novels, Listening For Lions, middle-grade novels, reading activities
Reviewed by Margo Dill, www.margodill.com, email@example.com
Middle grade novel, historical fiction
13-year old girl as main character
Rating: Not only is Listening for Lions interesting because part of it takes place in early 20th century Africa, but Gloria Whelan has you falling in love with the main character and rooting for her during her plight.
Short, short summary: In Listening for Lions, Gloria Whelan tells an intriguing story while providing rich detail of life in Africa and England in the early to mid 1900s. When Rachel’s parents die from the influenza epidemic in British East Africa in 1919, her neighbors, the Pritchards, send her to England to try to win back the heart of their rich father. Rachel has to pretend to be Valerie Pritchard, who died from influenza, to the ill, but interesting and intelligent, “grandfather.” She doesn’t want to participate in the Pritchards’ scheme, but she also doesn’t want to upset the man she grows to love as an actual grandfather, tell him she is a fake, and that his real granddaughter has passed away. While in England, she can not forget about her childhood in Africa and wants to return to finish her parents’ missionary work. She tells Grandfather Pritchard many stories of a “friend” named, Rachel, who grew up in Africa. Grandfather Pritchard is not as easily fooled as Rachel and the Pritchards think–much to Rachel’s relief–and in the end, everyone gets what they deserve.
So, what do I do with this book?
1. Students can research more about the places, events, and time period in Gloria Whelan’s book. Depending on the age and experience of your students, they may not understand that the “flu” could cause so many people to die in the early 1900s. This is a great topic for research, along with why influenza is no longer an epidemic or even why there are flu shots today. Many students in elementary school know nothing about Africa today, let alone Africa in the early 1900s. You can assign students a question to research such as “What was the influenza epidemic?” or “What part of Africa today used to be British East Africa?” and so on. Students can research answers and then present them to the class.
2. The title of this book is an interesting and clever choice, but sometimes kids wonder what the story is about based on the title. First ask students to write in their reading response journals why they think the title of the book is Listening for Lions. Then ask students if they agree or disagree that it is a good title for the story. Finally, ask students to create a couple titles for the story and explain their choices.
3. While reading Listening for Lions with your students or your children, ask students to make predictions about upcoming events in the story. Remember, the important thing about making predictions is NOT if students are exactly right, but if they can support their answers with details from the text. You can ask them to predict what they think will happen when Rachel first pretends she is Valerie. You can ask students to predict what will happen when the Pritchards visit with Grandfather. There are also several predictions that can be made for the end of the book.
If you have read this book with your students or your children, please leave a comment here and let us know what you did! For more information on children’s books and chances to win free books, check out: Writer Musings .