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Once Upon a Marigold



Last updated Monday, August 28, 2006

Author: Jean Ferris
Date of Publication: 2002
ISBN: 0152167919
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Sep. 2006

Synopsis: From School Library Journal As the cover proclaims, this story is truly "part everything-but-the-kitchen-sink." Readers first meet Chris when he is a strong-willed, clever child of six. He has run away from home, determined to live on his own in the forest. Edric, a troll, finds him and gives him shelter but cannot make him go back home, and Chris grows up with Edric and his dogs as his family, guided by an etiquette book found in the forest and Edric's own wisdom. As the boy grows, he continues his interest in inventing and watches the princess in the castle across the river. She is headstrong but lonely, and when Chris contacts her by carrier pigeon (or p-mail), they become best friends. When he takes work at the castle, there is no way that Chris, a commoner, can tell Marigold who he is, and he can only stand by as she is to be married to an unsuitable suitor. When he learns that her life is in danger, he must find a way to save her and the kingdom. This complex, fast-paced plot, a mixture of fantasy, romance, comedy, and coming-of-age novel, succeeds because these characters are compelling, well developed, and sympathetic. Quirky personalities and comic subplots give the story additional texture. Readers will be drawn into this world and be satisfied by the denouement. This blend of genres will appeal to a wide range of readers, and it's all great fun.

Note to readers:
•  This is a chapter book, but the text is not dense and it should read quickly. Begin at chapter one and try to read at least through page 71.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  This book is a fantasy. What are some of the characteristics of fantasy as a genre? [imaginary creatures like giants and fairies, magical events, different landscapes]
•  The main characters at the beginning of this story are Edric, a troll, and Christian, a young boy. What other stories have you read or heard that involve trolls? Are all trolls the same, or are there different kinds of trolls?
•  One of the things that makes this story funny is the troll Edric?s misuse of common idioms and proverbs. What is an idiom? [a figure of speech that is specific to one language; it resists direct translation] What is an example of a proverb? [Haste makes waste; too many cooks spoil the broth, ?] What are some idioms you know? [e.g., dress the turkey, you?re pulling my leg] Note to volunteers: As you read the book, pause when you come to one of Edric?s mangled proverbs. Repeat it, then ask the children if they know what the real proverb is and why Edric?s version is funny.

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What are the names of Edric?s dogs? Note: Beelzebub is a name for a devil, and Hecate was a Greek goddess associated with the underworld, night, and witchcraft; Hecate was also a witch in Shakespeare?s Macbeth.
•  What kind of character is Edric? What do you learn about him in the first chapter?
•  What kind of character is Christian? What do you learn about him in the first chapter? Why did he run away from home?
•  Listen to the description of Edric?s cave. What would it be like to live in a place like that?
•  How does Christian find out about Marigold? What do they have in common?
•  How do Christian and Marigold communicate? What other book have you read in which people communicate using birds? [Harry Potter uses owls.]
•  What kind of life do you think Marigold has? Is she happy? Why or why not?

Craft ideas:
•  Draw a picture of Edric?s cave and Christian?s room in it. Include the different colored crystals.
•  Create a secret language/alphabet and write a message to a friend using it.
•  Draw a picture of a troll. Create a good purpose, job, or cause for the troll so he can win the medal.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!