Susan Dennard is a marine biologist turned writer. Something Strange and Deadly is her debut novel and the first in a trilogy that includes A Darkness Strange and Lovely and Strange and Ever After. (This annotation contains an image)
"Where else can a telegram be?" differentiated from the rest of the text by use of italics, is an example of
If Eleanor's wardrobe or the telegraph office haven't given it away yet, this novel is set in the late 1800's. The genre of this novel is steampunk, which is a science fiction sub-genre set in the industrialized Western world during the nineteenth century. This novel also incorporates elements of historical fiction.
Eleanor's description of her mother makes her sound
Eleanor is the protagonist in this novel. Watch the video below to learn more about protagonists and antagonists. As you read, see if you can figure out who the antagonist will be. (This annotation contains a video)
Compare and contrast what you know of Eleanor's value system to that of her mother's. Which character do your values more closely align with?
Amethyst is a kind of purple quartz that has been thought to offer the wearer protection and have healing powers. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the narration of the novel?
"I am as innocent as a baby bird" is an example of a simile. Watch the video below to learn how to tell the difference between a simile and a metaphor. (This annotation contains a video)
Why does Eleanor's mother want to see her with Clarence?
"Whack!" is an example of onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is when the name of a word copies it's sound. Another example of onomatopoeia would be "the rain went drip drop."
How is Dennard building suspense in the highlighted selection? Cite examples from the text in your answer.
Sibling relationships are one of the themes in the novel. Despite the time apart and distance that has been between them, Eleanor still feels bonded to her brother, Elijah. Keep this in mind as you read.
Allison's character could best be described as
Allison's perturbed reaction to realizing that Clarence's friends have not been to visit lately is an example of foreshadowing. Dennard uses foreshadowing to build suspense. Look for more examples of foreshadowing as you read. (This annotation contains a video)
Why does Eleanor not want to buy a new hat?
Macbeth is a play written by William Shakespeare. There are many Shakespeare quotes throughout the novel. (This annotation contains an image)
In 1876 the Centennial Exhibition, later known as the World's Fair, came to Philadelphia, and much of the novel is set on the Exhibition grounds. (This annotation contains an image)
What is Eleanor's first impression of Daniel?
Eleanor is used to propriety and manners, of which Daniel displays none.
A Creole is someone from Louisiana who is of colonial French descent. Many Creoles, like Joseph, are also biracial with African descent.
Even though Dennard doesn't tell us exactly what Eleanor says to the Spirit Hunters, her description of it lets the reader know that Eleanor's tone is
A necromancer is someone who communicates with the dead. In this case, the necromancer is the one responsible for turning the corpses into zombies. Death and the occult are among the themes of the novel.
Which of Eleanor's senses tells her that she is near the dead in the highlighted passage?
There are many sources of conflict for our protagonist: Eleanor rebelling against her mother's expectations, Eleanor's relationship with Daniel, and-- in this scene-- Eleanor fighting the zombies. (This annotation contains a video)
What are Daniel and Joseph explaining to Eleanor about the zombies' energy and how they can affect it? Why do you think this might be important information for Eleanor to know?
Kid gloves are leather gloves that are made from the skin of a baby goat (a kid). During the Victorian era, gloves were an important indicator of social status. (This annotation contains an image)
What is happening on Laurel Hill?
Sir Walter Scott was the first English language writer to become internationally famous. Old Morality was a novel of his published in 1816. (This annotation contains an image)
What does Clarence say about Elijah?
Machinery Hall where the Spirit Hunters have their headquarters was a real part of the Centennial Exhibition. Here is a picture of Machinery Hall from an 1876 postcard. (This annotation contains an image)
Do you think that Eleanor should trust Nicholas Peger? Why or why not?
The Women's Pavilion was another real part of the Centennial Exhibition. It can be seen in the drawing below. Sadly, few of these buildings remain intact in Philadelphia. (This annotation contains an image)
How would you best describe the Fitt's kitchen?
The highlighted selection contains another example of foreshadowing.
What is Eleanor's attitude towards the Spirit Hunters?
The Bartholdi Fountain, designed by Frederic Bartholdi who also designed the famous Statue of Liberty, was built for the Centennial Exposition, and is still working, although it has been moved to Washington D.C. (This annotation contains an image)
Do you agree with Eleanor's judgement in following Daniel to Laurel Hill? Would you have done the same if you were in her shoes?
Below is a picture of a sickle. The sickle is similar to the scythe, which is usually associated with the Grim Reaper. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following best describes Daniel's tone in the highlighted paragraph?
Eleanor and Daniel's relationship is becoming more complicated. Notice how their feelings for each other change during the course of the novel.
What is Eleanor surprised to learn about Jie?
Grimoires are textbooks of magic. Some grimoires are considered magical themselves. (This annotation contains an image)
How are all of these things that Eleanor mentioned reflected in the theme of the novel? How do you think Elijah is connected to the occult?
Joseph is a very trustworthy character, and there aren't many other trustworthy people in Eleanor's life right now.
The Grecian Bend was a stooped stance popular in the nineteenth century. (This annotation contains an image)
"My stomach turned to stone" is an example of
There are many examples of sexism in the novel which go along with the beliefs of the time period in which the novel is set.
Which of the following best describes Daniel's tone?
Eleanor and Daniel's relationship is changing. They no longer harbor the disdain they felt for each other after their first meeting.
"It gleams like diamonds and distracts the eye from the rotting parts of America-- like Shantytown." What is Daniel saying about why the city government doesn't want to help the Spirit Hunters very much?
Before public libraries in America were free, they were open to those who had memberships and paid fees. The Mercantile Library of Philadelphia was one such library. Below is a picture of people browsing their collections when they new building opened in 1869. The collection of the Mercantile Library would not be absorbed into Philadelphia's Public Library system until 1989. (This annotation contains an image)
Does Eleanor trust Clarence?
"Peger is like a spider who spins my words against me" is an example of
Foot binding was a popular custom in China from the tenth to the early twentieth centuries. It signified social status since a woman with bound feet was not able to work. (This annotation contains an image)
Eleanor says that after her brother left, she abandoned her intellectual pursuits to live up to her mother's expectations. How do you think that statement relates to the period of time that this novel was set in?
Dennard keeps comparing the actions of the novel's fictional Gas Ring to the real Whiskey Ring scandal. The Whiskey Ring scandal, exposed in 1875, involved government agents siphoning millions of dollars of tax revenue from the sale of liquor for themselves. Below is a political cartoon from the time. (This annotation contains an image)
Eleanor is having _____________ regarding her budding feelings for Daniel.
Below is a picture of Dennard with goggles modeled after the spirit-sensing ones that Eleanor has on. (This annotation contains an image)
"But my words froze, trapped in my throat" is an example of
Keep in mind how rare electricity was in these days.
What tools does Dennard use to build suspense in this scene? Cite examples from the text.
Eleanor has been electrocuted in the fight with the spirit.
What is Eleanor's mother's main concern regarding Eleanor "fainting"?
This interaction between Eleanor and her mother is very typical of their relationship and shows how different their priorities are.
What is Eleanor's mother's main priority?
Below is the book trailer from the publisher for this novel. Watch the short video and answer the question on the following page. (This annotation contains a video)
At this point you are halfway through the book and have a good feel for it. Do you think that the video you just watched captured the essence of the book? If you were the publisher, is there anything else you would have included in the trailer?
Eleanor is beginning to doubt whether she really knows Clarence. She has doubted her faith in all of the main characters of the novel so far except for her brother, Elijah, who she is always a steadfast supporter of.
What is the connection between the three boys who have been decapitated by the necromancer?
Daniel knows something about the Gas Ring that he won't share with Eleanor.
Eleanor wanting to find the grimoire before the necromancer does highlights which of the novel's themes?
Joseph now knows what the necromancer is searching for and is very worried about what that kind of black magic can do in the wrong hands.
The highlighted paragraphs deal with an external conflict between the Spirit Hunters and the city officials. What other examples of this conflict have we seen in the novel?
In the Victorian Era, this referred to a young girl of high society coming out as a debutante. Below is a painting of a debutante ball like the one Eleanor would have attended. (This annotation contains an image)
The highlighted sentence displays the theme of ____________ in the novel.
Eleanor is referring to Daniel here. Think of how her mother would react if she were to choose Daniel over Clarence!
Why didn't Eleanor's father join the Gas Trustees?
The Pinkerton Detectives were for-hire detectives/security guards that were made famous for being hired to protect Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and also scandalized for their violent union-busting activities. (This annotation contains an image)
How do you think going to the opera would be different today from how Eleanor describes the experience?
"With all the strange and deadly things in the world" is an homage to the novel's title. Note the context in which it was placed was Eleanor thinking about how her life will never be the same again and that she would rather act than dream.
"Standing in the middle of the laboratory dressed in layers of silk, with a trail of lies snaking behind me" is an example of
Below is an artist's rendering of Eleanor and the Spirit Hunters. Study the pictures and answer the question on the following page. (This annotation contains an image)
Do these characters look how you pictured them? What is different about Jie's appearance?
Eleanor is always complaining about how restrictive the feminine clothes of the day are-- from not being able to breathe in a corset to having to wear so many layers of bustling under her dress in the heat. Pay attention to the transformation that she undergoes when she has the mens clothes on and how it is more than just about wardrobe for her character.
Below is a picture of a Victorian dress like Eleanor would wear on the left and on the right you can see all of the garments that go underneath it. (This annotation contains an image)
What did the members of the Gas Ring want?
Clarence and the sons of the other Gas Trustees had been Elijah's bullies at Germantown Academy!
"Drat, drat, drat, what should I do?" is an example of
Daniel puts glow worms in a jar to act as a flashlight. (This annotation contains an image)
How has Eleanor changed since the beginning of the novel? How do you see her character developing?
Dennard is conveying a high level of tension in this scene. Watch the short video below to learn more about tension in literature and as you read notice how all of the tension makes you feel. (This annotation contains a video)
What feeling is Dennard trying to convey in these highlighted paragraphs?
Dennard uses rich imagery to tell the reader that the factory exploded. Notice how she engages most of the senses in the description. (This annotation contains a video)
What is distressing Eleanor?
Clarence reveals that the boys bullied her brother on the order of their fathers, the members of the Gas Ring.
Clarence claims to be full of remorse for his past actions. Do you believe him? Why or why not?
Eleanor is having an inner conflict about whether or not she can trust Clarence with her secrets.
What does Eleanor think happened to Clarence?
Eleanor sees how the necromancer had been plotting this and taken all necessary precautions.
The necromancer plotted this attack so he could get the ____________ from the Spirit Hunters.
The evil spirit that Eleanor's mother let in is after the same thing as the necromancer!
What is happening here? What do you think that it means?
It was Elijah who saved Eleanor from the animals. From this point in the novel onwards, the theme of sibling relationships becomes stronger.
Elijah's motivations are clear-- he was getting revenge for both himself and his father.
How would you best describe Elijah's character if you were anyone EXCEPT for Eleanor?
Laudanum is a liquid derived from opium. It is now considered a dangerous drug, but during the Victorian Era it was a very popular medicine. Below is a Victorian advertisement for using laudanum for soothing teething babies. (This annotation contains an image)
Eleanor's mother is upset because Eleanor has lost her wealthy suitor. How does Eleanor react to her concerns, and how is this interaction indicative of their relationship as a whole?
Daniel has been framed for one of Elijah's murders.
Eleanor is having ______________ about the presence of evil in her brother.
The expression "shut pan" is used frequently in the novel. Pan was slang for face so this was like saying shut your face or, as more commonly say today, shut up.
What is Daniel implying that he knows about Eleanor's brother?
Eleanor has misunderstood Daniel's meaning here. Daniel doesn't think that Eleanor is a mistake, but he feels ashamed that he acted improperly in kissing her.
What do you think Eleanor's plan is to stop Elijah? Do you think that she will be able to put her past loyalty aside and see her brother for what he is?
Remember when the Dead were in the Exhibition and Joseph was able to control their speed and movements by standing in the pool? Eleanor wants to try something similar using the river.
"Briars and brambles clawed at me, but I barreled through" contains an example of
The novel is set in Philadelphia in 1876, eleven years after the end of the Civil War. There are likely many Union soldiers buried in the cemetery.
A pulse bomb like the Spirit Hunters are using emits an electromagnetic pulse (similar to lightening) to stop the corpses.
How does Elijah's death affect Eleanor? Does she still have conflicting feelings about him?
Marcus was Joseph's former partner who became involved with black magic and died when Joseph was trying to stop him from conjuring up the dead.
Daniel's tone could best be described as
Notice all of the tension that Dennard is conveying in this scene. As you read, look to see what tools she uses to build suspense.
"Hit," "gouged," and "bucked" could best be described as ___________ words.
Marcus' character is an archetype for evil. Watch the short video below to learn more about archetypes. Are there any other characters who fit into an archetypal mold? (This annotation contains a video)
What does Eleanor realize about herself? How did Dennard foreshadow this before Eleanor realized it?
"His soul slithered and slid" is an example of alliteration.
How have the events at Laurel Hill impacted Eleanor?
Notice how Dennard is setting up for the novel's sequel, A Darkness Strange and Lovely.
Without Daniel saying so, Dennard conveys that his character
Despite everything that Eleanor has gone through, she remains optimistic about her future and excited about what adventures await her.