Sam is almost 11 when he discovers a locked box in the attic above his grandfather Mack's room, and a piece of paper that says he was kidnapped. There are lots of other words, but Sam has always had trouble reading. He's desperate to find out who he is, and if his beloved Mack is really his grandfather. At night he's haunted by dreams of a big castle and a terrifying escape on a boat. Who can he trust to help him read the documents that could unravel the mystery? Then he and the new girl, Caroline, are paired up to work on a school project, building a castle in Mack's woodworking shop. Caroline loves to read, and she can help. But she's moving soon, and the two must hurry to discover the truth about Sam.
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This short page before Chapter One functions a bit like a prologue. A prologue comes before a story and introduces something to the reader that is not part of the actual story. In this case, we learn that Sam is afraid of a number. Let's see what would happen if we had not read this page or didn't know about his fear of the number eleven. Would you be able to figure out this information using other clues from your reading?
Chapter 1 - The Pipe
Why does Sam count himself "lucky" here?
Sam doesn't have a clear memory, so we catch only small images of what he remembers. We can assume this memory has something to do with water. We did just learn Sam lived by a river. Let's keep reading to see if the river by his house is the one from his memory.
Why is Sam questioning if Mack is his grandfather?
Chapter 2 - Caroline
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up?
You might have seen a sphinx in movies or in pictures, but do you know the history behind them? Watch the video below, and then try to determine why Caroline thinks she is like a sphinx. (This annotation contains a video)
Why must Sam pretend he does not care if Caroline is his friend?
In order to get the plot of the story moving along, Caroline and Sam must start working together. If Caroline and Sam don't start working together, he might not be able to find out what the article says. This is a rising action in the plot of the story.
Chapter 3 - Sam’s Birthday
What special occasion does Mack pull out the fancy tablecloth for?
To better understand the story, we can analyze who is telling us this story. What point of view is the author using? Watch the video below to find out more. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the items listed below are not true about Anima?
Here we get another of Sam's old memories. So far he has memories of being on a boat, being in a kitchen with an apple, and now hearing an old Iroquois legend. Let's go back and gather details on these memories and record any new ones we find in our notes. These memories might help us figure out what is going on with Sam and why he is in the picture from the attic.
Chapter 4 - The River
Using evidence from the text, explain why Sam is worried about the pipe on the side of the building.
Caning is a term used in furniture making for the effect produced by weaving tiny wooden threads or vines together to form the fabric of a chair. The video below shows how to repair caning, but it also gives you a good idea of what it looks like. Does any furniture in your house having caning? (This annotation contains a video)
Which word listed below would not be a good substitute for the word "pulled" in this sentence.
Chapter 5 - Beginning
Sam has mentioned several times that it is spring at this point in the story. Daffodils are a spring flower, so it makes sense that Caroline would see them when she is outside. The author is continuing to set the scene for us as a springtime story. (This annotation contains an image)
Chapter 6 - Going Home
Here, the author is adding some tension to the story. Readers know that the reason Sam brings Caroline over is to get to the attic to read the article. By putting an obstacle in his path, the story gets more exciting. Do you think Sam and Caroline will find another way into the attic to get to the article?
Why does Caroline say they should start on the castle? Support your answer with evidence from the text.
Caroline has moved around her whole life, so she wants to live in a castle forever. Sam doesn't want to live in a castle. He wants to stay with Mack. Even though they want to live in different places, both characters want to feel they belong somewhere. Let's keep reading to see if they change their minds as the book continues.
Chapter 7 - The Attic
Where is Caroline when Onji asks this question?
Sam's memories of his childhood are often set off in italics. Sometimes they are even featured on their own page. The technique of revealing part of the story by showing the past is called flashback. This video shows Rapunzel's memories--flashbacks--in the Disney movie Tangled. (This annotation contains a video)
Chapter 8 - The Boat
Why do Anima and Onji wake up?
Remember back to the first part of the story, even before we meet Sam officially. He says he is scared of the number 11. Do you think that this boat has something to do with it? (This annotation contains an image)
Chapters 1-8 Quiz
Chapter 9 - The Resource Room
Geraniums are a popular potted plant. It isn't actually the flowers that Sam is thinking about but something that reminds him of the flowers. The narrator tells this story about Sam for a reason. Let's see if there is a lesson by the end of this story. (This annotation contains an image)
"Shrank" is the past tense verb of shrink. Use the dictionary features and other context clues. Rewrite this sentence substituting a similar word or phrase for the word "shrank" that doesn't change the meaning.
Chapter 10 - Clues
A ferry would run large groups of people (and sometimes their cars) over large bodies of water when there is no bridge. A ferry would run on a regular schedule, like a train. Sam is able to use his reasoning that the body of water it crossed was fairly short since the ferry ran frequently. We can see that even though he can't read very well, Sam is actually pretty smart. (This annotation contains an image)
Chapter 11 - The Castle
Explain, in your own words, how the castle Mrs. Stanek gave to Sam is different from the castle Sam sees in his dreams. Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
This castle is probably not the one that Sam remembers from his dream, but it can give us an idea of what it's like to sketch out a castle. The artists took five hours of sketching and compressed it to a five minute video. Do you think this sketch will help Sam unlock some memories? We will have to read on to find out. (This annotation contains a video)
Chapter 12 - Onji
Which sentence from this paragraph best explains why Sam must wait for a while before he can go to the attic?
Have you ever heard the expression "The eyes are the windows to the soul"? There is no exact origin of this, but the idea of being able to look into a person's eyes to know more about him or her is echoed in lots of stories across history. Do you think we can trust Mack if his eyes say he is a good person? (This annotation contains an image)
Sam is very concerned about when Mack will return because _____.
Sam has told us that Mack is afraid of the water. Onji's stories are telling us that Mack used to go on boats to fish, and now that one of his boats had two white sails, just like the toy boat Sam found! Do you think the boat belonged to Mack? Let's see how Sam solves this mystery as we keep reading.
Chapter 13 - Knights
Even though they might hesitate to use the word "friends" to describe their relationship, Sam and Caroline appear to be friends. What makes them more than just classmates? Think about their friendship. Friendship is one of the themes of this book, and the friendship developing between Sam and Caroline is an important factor in the story. (This annotation contains an image)
Use the dictionary tool or context clues from this text to determine the meaning of the word "uneasy." Rewrite this sentence, keeping the same meaning but in your own words. Write the sentence below.
This might be a good time to start making a list of evidence that Sam pulls from the attic. Begin your list with the article from the newspaper, and add the other things Sam found to that list. Perhaps you will figure out the mystery before he does!
Chapter 14 - Anima’s Restaurant
Do you remember the difference between a simile and metaphor? Watch the video below if you need a refresher, and then look at this sentence. Is the author using a simile or metaphor? (This annotation contains a video)
Where does Caroline get these knights from?
Mack says that Sam has a gift, but what he is really saying is that Sam has a talent for working with wood. We know Sam is not a good reader, but he appears to be very smart about other things. Do you think good grades are a good measure for intelligence or smarts? This book explores the idea that there are many different ways to be intelligent other than being "book smart."
Chapters 8-14 Quiz
Chapter 15 - The Media Center
Have you ever read about or visited the National Everglades Park in Florida? Watch the video below to find out more about it. (This annotation contains a video)
Another way to say "the kids barreled out" is to say
Chapter 16 - Onji’s Office
Before we saw the daffodils blooming, and now we continue to see signs of spring. Now the leaves on the trees are out and more plants are growing. We know some time has passed, but not too much. It will be summer soon, and by then Caroline might be gone.
Write a summary, in your own words, of how Sam figures out where the Thousand Islands are located. Use evidence from the text in your answer. Write your answer in two or more sentences.
Chapter 17 - Leaving
Sam now understands the true meaning of friendship. Though he might not have started off thinking of Caroline as a friend, he is sad to see her go and realizes her friendship is more important. Do you think Sam knew this before Caroline announced she was leaving, or did it take her leaving for him to realize this?
Why will Caroline be moving to her third school in a year?
Chapter 18 - The Phone Call
We have already mentioned friendship as a theme for this story, but we can also see the family is very important as well. Even though Mack, Onji, and Anima might not be blood relatives, Sam is loyal to them, as he would be to his family. Mack and Sam act like grandfather and grandson, after all. Family and what makes up a family is an important theme to this work as well. (This annotation contains an image)
What reminds Sam about his trouble with reading here?
Chapter 19 - The Children’s Home
Caroline is showing off her intelligence here. She is more than just book smart. Like Sam, she is able to use her brain to find answers to puzzles that aren't very obvious. Both Sam and Caroline possess intelligence that is important outside of the classroom.
What is "this" in this sentence that Sam suggests might be a wild goose chase?
Sometimes authors use the words "heat in the face" to show the character is embarrassed, but sometimes it means more than that. As Sam is remembering these parts of his past, his body reacts by pumping blood to his face. He is not embarrassed as much as excited.
Use evidence from the text to explain why the number 11 is important to Sam. Write your answer in two or more sentences.
Chapter 20 - Anima
Sam finally directly asks someone to tell him about his past. Anima is going to tell him what she knows. Let's pay attention to what she says because it will reveal a lot about where Sam comes from.
Anima says she bought the house. Why does she decide to have other people move in?
Here we see the author revisit the theme of family. Family doesn't have to be the people you are born to. This story shows you can make your own family by the people you surround yourself with and choose to love.
Chapter 21 - Mack
Explain what you think Mack means when he calls the castle "the work of a craftsman." Use evidence from the text to support your answer.
Boldt Castle really exists! You can watch the video below to find out the history of the castle, and as you watch, think about how Sam might be connected to this castle. (This annotation contains a video)
Chapter 22 - Heart Island
Sam says he has never seen Mack angry. What does Mack say is the reason he is no longer angry anymore?
Here is an example of a metaphor, the same one Mack used to talk about how he got rid of his anger. Sam and Mack have a lot in common, and that makes sense since we know they are related now.
Chapter 23 - The Festival
Even though Sam wants to keep the castle at home, Mack makes him realize that he should share this with others. Sam has a "gift," as Mack called it. Do you think everyone else in his class will feel the same or do you think that Mack is just being a proud grandpa?
Why does Sam decide to try the peas?
Chapter 24 - Mrs. Waring
The author says that Caroline "zigzagged" as she was moving. A zigzag moves back and forth from one point to another. Imagine what it would be to see someone zigzag through the hallway. Have you ever seen someone walk or run in a zigzag pattern? (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Sam ask Mrs. Waring for help?
Chapters 15-24 Quiz