Kissing Doorknobs

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In her first novel,Kissing Doorknobs, Terry Spencer Hesser has written an inspiring, often humorous novel about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a topic that merits discussion and compassion. Fourteen-year-old Tara Sullivan has always been a worrier. On the surface, she has been able to behave like a normal girl. But when she is 11 years old, she hears a phrase that changes her life:Step on a crack, break your mother's back. Now, everywhere she goes, Tara must count every crack in the sidewalk. If she gets interrupted or loses her place, she has to go home and start all over again. As she gets older, her "habits" don't get better--they change and increase. She has to arrange her meals, recite prayers, and chat with her dolls, over and over again. Tara does not know why she has these habits, she just knows that she has no choice: she has to complete the rituals. Then one day, before leaving the house, she finds herself kissing her fingertips and touching the doorknob . . . . Terry Spencer Hesser is a screenwriter and a documentary filmmaker.Kissing Doorknobsis based on her personal experience with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Curriculet Details
61 Questions
73 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in 8th grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining vocabulary, tone and point of view. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about irony and character development. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of overcoming obstacles and feeling isolated. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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Chapter 1 - Cracks … Everywhere you Look

This paragraph is a good example of 
A Slav is a member of a large and varied ethnicity of people most commonly found in central and eastern Europe.  
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? 
A facade is the face of a building. This word can also be used in a figurative sense, to describe a deceptive outward appearance. 
Find a piece of evidence (probably a quote) that shows Tara becoming more isolated from the world. What is she saying/doing that alienates herself? 

Chapter 2 - Childhood

This quote is a good example of 
Fire feeds off oxygen. Therefore, when you add oxygen to fire, it will get bigger. Knowing this, you can infer that Tara's mother being so kind to her about the nightmare actually makes her feel worse.  
How would you describe Tara's tone when she talks about her summers with her mother? 
This is a useful video about tone and mood. Tone and mood are two important literary devices that are present in every text. Think about the tone and mood of this text so far. (This annotation contains a video)
Do you think "constant fretting" and "worrywarting" are good descriptions for Tara? How do you think Tara's mother feels about her daughter's anxiety? 
Catechism lessons are classes that serve as an introduction to the Christian religion. These are usually for children and are conducted all over the world.  (This annotation contains an image)
This is a good example of how serious Tara's behavior is becoming. She takes so long to confess her sins that other people waiting in line faint from the heat. Her need to confess everything is starting to have serious consequences, not just for Tara but also for those around her. This is a good example of exposition and rising action. We are seeing Tara's difficulties become increasingly serious. Look for other examples of this as you read. 
How do the people in Tara's life respond to her constant fears?  

Chapter 3 - Fifth Grade

This is an example of an old gymsuit from the 1970s.  (This annotation contains an image)
Compared to earlier in the story, Tara's attitude seems to be much more carefree.  
Which of the following is a good example of sensory detail? 
What sort of conflict does this paragraph suggest? 
Tara's teachers are trying to find out what is wrong with her. They believe that she has problems paying attention. You, as readers, however, know that this is not the case. You know that Tara is misunderstood. This will probably add to Tara's struggles.  
Troll dolls were invented in the 1960s. They became very popular in the United States in the 1990s. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Tara like her troll dolls? 
What is the main purpose of the previous paragraph? 
Note that this is a return to chapter one, Tara's first encounter with the phrase. This was the origin of Tara's problems. Think about how this will affect her now. Will she go back to the way she was? 

Chapter 4 - Counting

Like we saw in chapter one, counting the cracks isolates Tara. She is pulling away from her friends by not walking with them to school. 
We can interpret the phrase "it was a nightmare" to be about all of the following EXCEPT 
A Greek chorus was a group of background performers in ancient Greek plays. They were considered the link between the audience and the play by providing insight into the plot/storyline. (This annotation contains an image)
These sentences describing the carrots are good examples of 
The guillotine was most commonly used in France during the French Revolution from 1789-1799. (This annotation contains an image)
This is an interesting last paragraph because it does a good job of showing Tara's conflict with herself. On the one hand, she has a happy, ordinary life with friends, family and school. On the other hand, this particular phrase is haunting her. We can feel a lot of sympathy for Tara here. 

Chapter 5 - Impure Thoughts

What is Keesha doing to try and help Tara? 
Sometimes, text that is written in italics shows someone's thoughts. Here, the italics are being used to emphasize this line and call your attention to it. Tara is very upset with Keesha here. 

Chapter 6 - Saving Souls

The next question asks you to think about how a particular character has changed. You are being asked to infer based on what you have read so far. This is a useful video that discusses character development and how we use inferences to shape our observations and form opinions about characters.  (This annotation contains a video)
How has Tara's mother changed since chapter four? 
This is the first time we get to see a good deal of Tara's sister and father. We are getting a deeper look into Tara's family and how they see Tara. Both Tara's sister and father currently seem to be more understanding than Tara's mother. But since we know that Tara's mother was once sympathetic and understanding, the question is will her father and sister remain understanding? 
Why do you think Tara thanks God that her sister Greta doesn't want to walk to school with her? What are some possible reasons?  
"Pulling your strings" is an interesting phrase that relates to the idea of marionettes, or puppets. A puppet is connected to strings and controlled by whoever is pulling them. Therefore, if Tara feels like someone is "pulling her strings," it would mean that she feels like someone or something is controlling her. 

Chapter 7 - Bullies, Greta and Friendship

This sentence is a little ironic. Tara says that she chooses to meet with her friends rather than walk with them so she can be "free" to count. However, she is not "free". Her need to count is controlling her every action. Watch this video about irony to increase your understanding. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on this sentence, what is the best way to describe Tara's attitude about Greta? 
What are two big differences between Greta and Tara? Think about their personalities and actions. 
The dictator she is referring to is Benito Mussolini. He was the Prime Minister of Italy from 1922-1943.  (This annotation contains an image)
Again, the italics are used here for emphasis. However, this whole sentence is an example of hyperbole. Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement that is not meant to be taken literally.  
Compared to the other three, which girl stands out the most with her different opinions on beauty? 
Keesha, Anna, and Kristin are each talking about different stereotypes for women here. A stereotype is a common but oversimplified image or idea of a person or thing. 
Based on chapter seven, what is one central idea or theme that you see emerging? Think about subjects such as friendship, family, and hardship. 
This sentence implies a lot about the home lives of Tara's friends. Tara knows that she is not the only one with problems. 

Chapter 8 - Stalking My Parents

The American Legion is an organization that provides help and services to war veterans. 
Gardiniera is an Italian dish of vegetables that have been pickled in vinegar or oil. (This annotation contains an image)
How do you think Tara feels when she is called a stalker? 
This is a good use of repetition. Tara calls this practice a ritual. A ritual can be defined as an act or series of acts done in a particular situation and in the same way each time. 
Here we see more examples of repetition. Not only does Tara repeat the ritual, but the author repeats her exact same phrasing. This may be to emphasize the importance of exact repetition to Tara. 
The line, "I felt fear rush through my veins like hot snakes" is a good example of  
Which of the following is the best word to describe the tone of Tara's actions in this chapter? 
This sentence is a good example of hyperbole. Watch this video about hyperbole. Think about other times when you might have seen hyperbole in this text. (This annotation contains a video)
Why might Tara be focusing on neatness when describing herself to the psychiatrist? 
A monotone voice is an unchanging way of speaking without expression. This psychiatrist probably sounds very detached and uninterested to Tara. 
Kissing Doorknobs: Chapters 1-8 Quiz 

Chapter 9 - Scared of Being

Anorexia is a serious eating disorder that makes people lose more weight than is considered healthy for their age and height. 
What is the best adjective to describe the emotion of this sentence? 
This simile shows how isolated Tara feels. Write another metaphor or simile to describe Tara's loneliness. 
Tara saying "I miss me" implies that she does not feel like herself anymore.  

Chapter 10 - Bad to Worse

A big reason behind Tara's rituals is that she believes they help keep her family safe. Aside from fear, how do you think Tara feels after her father has a heart attack? 
A famous psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kubler-Ross theorized that there are 5 stages of grief. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Tara and her family seem to be in the denial stage here. 
Look at the definition of a martyr. What incident makes Tara feel like a martyr? 
This phrase implies that something is about to happen at the carnival. This is a literary device called foreshadowing. Watch this video to gain a better understanding of foreshadowing. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following items in this list of smells is not like the others? 
The image of Tara being a ball and chain around her mother's neck shows that Tara feels like she is a burden to her mother. 
Why is Tara unable to trust her mother? 

Chapter 11 - Donna

This sentence is a comparison between Donna and Tara. Even though they are the same age, Donna seems older due to her more grown-up physical appearance. 
What is the best word to describe the tone of this scene? 
Earlier in the text we saw the word "facade" used in the literal sense describing the fronts of buildings. Here, "facade" is being used in a figurative sense, as the mask Donna wears to look tough. 
This statement reveals a lot about Tara's character and is a good example of character development. Even though her mother has been cruel to her, she still loves her and wants to protect her. Tara is a very loving person. 

Chapter 12 - Fun

How would you describe Donna and Tara's friendship? 
The Venus de Milo is a famous sculpture from ancient Greece. Venus, sometimes called Aphrodite, was the goddess of love and beauty. (This annotation contains an image)
Compared to earlier chapters, Tara's friends have changed from feeling__to__. 
Shoplifting makes Tara feel powerful because she is in control of her actions, unlike most other times when she feels compelled to perform her rituals. 

Chapter 13 - Speechless

Tara feels that her friendship with Donna has what kind of effect on her behavior? 
The longing that Tara is describing here is called nostalgia. Nostalgia is a sentimental longing or affection for the past. 
Sisyphus is a character from Greek mythology who was forced to roll a stone up a hill every day. Every night, the stone would roll back down the hill, forcing Sisyphus to start over again. He was doomed to roll the stone up the hill every day for eternity. 
"Sun" and "son" are examples of  

Chapter 14 - Warrior Angels

Perhaps Tara feels nervous when she is happy because something usually goes wrong after a long stretch of happiness. If you look back through the text, you will notice this pattern. Things seem calm and normal and then something bad happens with Tara or her friends and family. 
We can infer from this passage that Donna hates her mother because 
Norman Rockwell is a 20th century painter known for his portrayals of American culture and the American family. (This annotation contains an image)
Each of Tara's family members, and Donna, have a different reaction to this outburst. How do you think you would react and why? 
Throughout this text, there are many mentions of eyes, and they are usually emphasized. This is an example of a motif. Watch the video below about motifs and think about others that might exist in this text and why. (This annotation contains a video)
Compare the first page of this chapter to the last page. How has the mood changed? 

Chapter 15 - Kissing Doorknobs

Just like on the first page of this chapter, this sentence is a contradiction. When Tara performs a ritual, it makes her feel both good and bad. These contradictions are another motif. 
Tara describes her and her mother being at war. Think of another literary work you know in which family members are "at war" with one another. Describe it. 
Notice that Tara rarely says anything during her visits with these various doctors. She is too embarrassed to try to explain what is wrong with her. So far, the atmosphere of Tara's house makes her feel like she needs to stay silent.  

Chapter 16 - Chinese Food

This means that Tara's father is far-sighted. He can only see things clearly when they are far away. 
Look at the definition of "testy." Which of the following is the best antonym for this word? 
Ambidextrous means having the ability to write with both left and right hands. 
This may be an example of foreshadowing. It is significant that this is Tara's fortune. 
What is the tone of this sentence? 
The idea that the psychiatrist, one who diagnoses disorders, might have one herself is an unexpected idea. This is an example of what literary device? 
Kissing Doorknobs: Chapters 9-16 Quiz 

Chapter 17 - Facing Facts

These questions imply that Tara's father is very confused by his daughter's behavior. He believes that Tara is perhaps choosing to perform these rituals to get attention from her parents. 
Based on their conversation, how do you think Tara's dad is feeling in this moment? 
This is the first time that we hear about someone who is similar to Tara. One theme of this text is Tara's isolation and loneliness. Imagine what it will feel like for Tara knowing there are other people similar to her. 
This implies a matter-of-fact tone of voice. Greta is used to Tara's strange behavior. 
How do Tara's parents feel about this potential new diagnosis? Choose the best word. 
This is a reference to the foreshadowing we saw in chapter 16.  

Chapter 18 - The Open Brain Door

Which of the following lines contains a simile? 
This is a powerful metaphor that illustrates Tara's problem. 
What does Tara mean when she says, "I was visible"? 
Below is a picture of the brain with the basal ganglia labeled. (This annotation contains an image)
Tara's mother is most likely apologizing here because of her behavior toward Tara and her quirks. She is also probably expressing sympathy now that she understands just what Tara is going through. 
Which line do you think best shows Tara feeling less alone and isolated? 
What is significant about Tara needing to kiss the doorknob at the end of this chapter? 

Chapter 19 - Behavior Therapy

Susan is the first therapist to show interest and concern for Tara. 
Tara equates "poison" to 
Simply having an answer seems to have improved the relationship between Tara and her mother. 
Why might it be a good thing for Tara to be scared? 

Chapter 20 - The Game Plan

Tara is using the word cheerleader here to mean someone who is encouraging and supportive. A cheerleader might also be a little relentless. 
This is another good metaphor. This touches on the theme of overcoming obstacles. 
Try and answer Tara's questions. What does free will mean to you? 
Which of the following is a synonym for daunting? 
Watch the video below on parallel plot. Here we are introduced to a potential conflict concerning Donna. (This annotation contains a video)
Tara is showing a lot of strength in this scene. 
This sentence implies that Donna is feeling 

Chapter 21 - My Civil War

This is known as an extended or sustained metaphor. There are multiple occasions where Tara's OCD is compared to a battle or war. 
What is the best word to describe the tone of this scene with Tara's friends? 
Tara is not going to be able to defeat all of her rituals at one time. She needs to work her way through her list. 

Chapter 22 - Sam

Look at the definition of "gushed." Based on this word, infer how you think Tara feels about Sam. Is there another moment in the text that supports this? 
Rather than treat her OCD as something secretive and shameful, Sam allows Tara to laugh about her disease. This is an important coping strategy. It is a way of acceptance. 
Contamination therapy is part of Sam's treatment since he fears germs. He exposes himself to germs without washing his hands afterwards. 
What does the doorknob symbolize?  
In this sentence, we can infer that Uncle Joe's steel eyes represent 
This is a key word and very important to the overall themes of this text. Think back to the beginning of the text and think about how Tara has changed. 
How does this scene connect to one theme of this text? 

Chapter 23 - Living with It

This quote is a variation from William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar. The original quote is "A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once." 
What has Tara learned since beginning her journey four years ago? 
The picture below is the television Tara is describing. (This annotation contains an image)
Who is Uncle Joe? 
Sam has experienced a relapse in his therapy. Some of his OCD symptoms returned. 
What is ironic about this scene? 
However, unlike her mother, Tara understands Sam's difficulties. It is easier for her to sympathize. 
Kissing Doorknobs: Chapters 17-23 Quiz 
What lessons or big ideas will you take away from Kissing Doorknobs?