The Art of Racing in the Rain

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Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.

Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals.

On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through: the sacrifices Denny has made to succeed professionally; the unexpected loss of Eve, Denny's wife; the three-year battle over their daughter, Zoë, whose maternal grandparents pulled every string to gain custody. In the end, despite what he sees as his own limitations, Enzo comes through heroically to preserve the Swift family, holding in his heart the dream that Denny will become a racing champion with Zoë at his side. Having learned what it takes to be a compassionate and successful person, the wise canine can barely wait until his next lifetime, when he is sure he will return as a man.

A heart-wrenching but deeply funny and ultimately uplifting story of family, love, loyalty, and hope, The Art of Racing in the Rain is a beautifully crafted and captivating look at the wonders and absurdities of human life . . . as only a dog could tell it.

Curriculet Details
64 Questions
69 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in 11-12 grades, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining the novel’s setting, plot details and literary devices. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about theme and textual connections. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of reading comprehension, text structure (author’s purpose), and text-to-text connections. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

The curriculet is being added to your library


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? Consider trying this feature using the highlighted word. 
In the highlighted text, the narrator not only reveals that he is a dog waiting to die, but he also looks at death in a positive way. In fact, he wants to die. 
For what reason does the narrator feel that death is a positive fate for him? 
The video below gives you a look at the race that the narrator is speaking about in the paragraph above. As you watch, consider how this video relates to Enzo's owner. (This annotation contains a video)
Watch the video below which discusses direct and indirect characterization. While you watch, consider how each of the characters presented, thus far, have been directly and indirectly characterized. (This annotation contains a video)
Choose a line from the text that contains an example of indirect characterization of Denny. Once you have provided the line, please explain the quality/characteristic that is being presented through this piece of text. 


The video below discusses flashback. Why do authors use flashbacks in their writing? (This annotation contains a video)
Make a conjecture as to the reason that the author would place this flashback into the novel. 


Considering the information provided in the text, choose the statement that Denny would most likely agree with. 


The map below shows the locations of Spangle and Seattle. Notice the distance between these two locations. (This annotation contains an image)
The definition of the word "disingenuous" is deceptive or false. With that in mind, what does Enzo's use of this word reveal about his feelings for Eve? 
The words, "We were both satellites orbiting Denny's sun..." contain a metaphor. With that in mind, craft a definition for the literary term, metaphor. 


Choose the option that offers a characteristic of Eve that was revealed through direct characterization. 
The picture below is a portion of Whidbey Island. This island lies about 30 miles north of Seattle, WA. Its area is 168 sq. miles, and it has a population of about 58,211 (2000). (This annotation contains an image)
Using the article as a guide, explain why Eve's decision is not so off-the-wall. 
The article below offers insight into the option of having a midwife deliver a baby at home, as opposed to hospital staff at a hospital. (This annotation contains a link)


What information from the article negates the story (about watching television) told by the narrator? 
The article below discusses the likelihood that dogs actually pay attention to and watch television. As you read, consider the argument and how it relates to the narrator's story. (This annotation contains a link)


What literary device is used in the highlighted text? For a review of these terms, refer to the annotation just below this question. 
The image below is a 1989 Mazda Miata. (This annotation contains an image)
The link below provides a brief review of the most popular types of figurative language used by authors. Click the flashcards tab, in order to review the definitions and examples. (This annotation contains a link)


According to Wikipedia, Watkins Glen "is an automobile race track located near Watkins Glen, New York... The sports car racing facility is owned by International Speedway Corporation. It was long known around the world as the home of the United States Grand Prix, which it hosted for twenty consecutive years (1961–1980), but since 1948 the site has been home to road racing of nearly every class, including Formula One, the World Sportscar Championship, Trans-Am, Can-Am, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and the IndyCar Series. Initially, public roads in the village were used for the race course. In 1956 a permanent circuit for the race was built." (This annotation contains an image)
Which choice below best describes Denny's greatest strength when racing? 
The video below discusses literary allusions. Please watch it, in order to gain a better understanding of this literary term before answering the question below. (This annotation contains a video)


How can this sentiment be a attributed to life? What symbol(s) are present within this passage from the text? 


The link below provides the beginning words from A Tale of Two Cities, a novel by Charles Dickens. Please read the first paragraph, which includes the rest of the text related to the allusion in Chapter 10. While reading, consider how the words from the text relates to the novel's plot. (This annotation contains a link)


Choose the word that best describes Eve's illness. 
The word "elusive" means difficult to find or catch. What does the use of this word reveal about Eve's illness? 


According to the American Museum of Natural History, "In northern Northwest Coast mythology, Raven is the powerful figure who transforms the world. Stories tell how Raven created the land, released the people from a cockle shell and brought them fire. Raven stole the light and brought it out to light up the world. Yet Raven is a trickster---often selfish, hungry and mischievous. He changes the world only by cleverly deceiving others in his never-ending quest for food." 
Using what you learned from the annotation about ravens, how do ravens and crows relate to one another? 


At this point in the novel, a lot has been revealed about each of the characters and the plot of the novel. Choose a character (other than Enzo), and explain what his/her point-of-view would add to the text. Also, why do you think that Enzo was chosen as the narrator? 
A circuit is a track used for racing. The track that Denny is heading to, which is referenced later, is Sebring International Raceway, in Sebring, FL. It's a classic raceway in the United States. 
This indoor pool is one of eight pools located in Seattle, WA. It is a popular location for children and adults. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the tone of the highlighted statement? 
Since fury, an idea or state of being, is not a living thing that has the capacity to smell, this statement utilizes personification and requires greater explanation, in order to best understand the author's meaning. 


Mercer Island is an island located in Lake Washington and is southeast of Seattle. (This annotation contains an image)
How are the Twins directly characterized in this chapter? 


Phoenix International Raceway is a one-mile race track, which is located in Avondale, Arizona. This track opened in 1964. It hosts two NASCAR race weekends, each year. (This annotation contains an image)
What aspect of driving does Denny attribute to his ending up in dead last at the race that he is discussing with Eve? 


The North Cascades National Park is located about three hours from Seattle, WA. (This annotation contains an image)
The image below shows waffle stompers. They were first known to be used in 1972. (This annotation contains an image)
What literary device is used in the highlighted text? 


Mongolia is a land-locked country located north of China and south of Russia. The majority of its population practice Tibetan Buddhism. (This annotation contains an image)
What do you think is the purpose of including this brief chapter? Cite evidence from the text to support your response. 


Why is Enzo's dog so important to him? 
The video below discusses situational irony. This type of irony is currently being utilized in the novel.  (This annotation contains a video)
Quiz #1 


Based on the synopsis of Le Mans, make a conjecture as to the author's reason for including this movie in the text. How does it relate to Denny and the current events in the novel? 
IMDb provided a summary of this movie's plot. This 1971 movie begins with "drivers...making their way to Le Mans, France for the annual 24-hour Grand Prix race. One of those attending this year is American driver Michael Delaney, despite his being involved in a horrific crash the previous year, which claimed the life of fellow driver, Piero Belgetti..." The media is playing up a rivalry between Delaney, driving for Team Gulf-Porsche, and Erich Stahler, driving for Team Ferrari, although they are friends off the track, as are most of the drivers in the race. Unknown to Delaney, Ritter, a fellow Porsche driver is thinking of quitting race car driving after this event. As the problems mount just over half way through the race, due in part to treacherous road conditions, the drivers, their team, and their personal supporters think all the more about winning the race, regardless of what happens in their lives afterward. 


What does the imagery in the highlighted text add to the story? 
The word "trundled" means to move slowly or heavily. The narrator's use of this word is deliberate. What does it add to the plot? 


According to the article above, what part of Trish's body is controlling her "robotic repeating of the single word "until," which revealed the way in which she was feeling? 
The link below directs you to an interesting article about body language. Please read it, while considering if Enzo's words about body language are echoed in this article. (This annotation contains a link)
If it weren't for the fact that we, the readers, are already privy to the fact that Eve passes away, this information could serve as a form of foreshadowing. These words give away the fact that Eve's state of mind contributed to her demise and tells the reader that she dies. 
The highlighted text utilizes imagery to add to the understanding of the setting/plot. Using the text as your guide, choose the best definition of this type of figurative language. 


It has been discussed in the story that Enzo can sense when Eve is not well. Watch the video below, and consider your thoughts on dogs that can detect medical ailments. (This annotation contains a link)
What are your thoughts about the likelihood that certain animals can sense and/or sniff-out diseases like cancer? Do you believe in this practice? Why or why not? Consider the video when crafting your answer. 


The highlighted text contains allusions that help Enzo to introduce the concept of the flawed or tragic hero. Watch the prezi below, in order to gain a better understanding of this literary element. (This annotation has embedded rich content)
What event might Enzo be introducing, in order to reveal Denny's tragic flaw? 
The video below offers a brief overview of the elements of a plot diagram. Watch this short video. While you do so, think about where this story is at on the plot diagram. (This annotation contains a video)
Which aspects of the text are acting as the rising action toward a possible climax? How do you know that something important is about to take place? 
Using the define feature of this book, the word "viable" means "capable of being or living." Considering this fact, what might be a good synonym for this word? 
What excuse has Annika provided to her father about her hasty departure from Denny's house? 


This idea most likely serves the purpose of adding a bit of comedy to the novel. Other than for comedic relief, why else might the narrator have chosen to insert this event into the story? 
Throughout the novel, the relationship between Denny and Enzo is revealed. What does this event reveal about this pair's relationship? 


In the words spoken by Zoe, she reveals her feelings about her future, after the likely death of her mother. In the article "Families With a Missing Piece," first published in the Wall Street Journal in 2010, the author writes, "Among the findings: 73% believe their lives would be "much better" if their parents hadn't died young; 66% said that after their loss "they felt they weren't a kid anymore."" It's interesting to think that Zoe, at such a young age, is already beginning to exhibit the characteristics of a child whose parent has passed away. In this article, the author also explains that, "Some activists say it's vital to start helping young people even before their parents die. To that end, the Georgia-based Jack & Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation provides free vacations to families in which one parent is terminally ill." 
How does this event in the text correspond with the advice given in the Wall Street Journal article? Cite evidence from the text to support your response. 


What reason has the author chosen to include this event (with the squirrel) in this portion of the story? 
The highlighted text contains anaphora. This repetition at the beginning of each sentence creates the sense that the point that Enzo is trying to make is important and worthy of notice. 


The highlighted text contains a metaphor. Denny is being compared to a statue. This type of description helps the reader to picture the stillness of Denny's body, along with his demeanor. 
Using the Define feature, look-up the definition of the word "gauche," then choose the best synonym for this word (as it is used in the sentence of the novel). 
The author uses a great deal of figurative language in this text, in order to add interest and to more thoroughly form a picture of the events in the readers' minds. The highlighted text contains a simile. Maxwell's arm is being compared to a heavy chain. Consider the image that is created by this statement. What picture would form in your mind, if his arm were compared to a limp rope? 
Breakdown your thoughts and feelings about the proposition currently being discussed in the text. Are the Twins' demands fair? What might be their motivations for making a request of this nature? 


The description of the man sitting with Denny outside of the coffee shop includes a large amount of direct characterization. Choose the option from below that is NOT an example of direct characterization of this man. 
The video below discusses theme (in a general manner). As you watch, consider the themes that are emerging in the text, as the story unfolds. (This annotation contains a video)
Choose the theme that can be attributed to the events and discussions currently taking place in the novel. 


For what reason is the highlighted text italicized? 
The video below includes a reading of Billy Collins' poem "The Revenant." This is the poem that Garth Stein referenced in the video, included at the beginning of this curriculet. Listen to the reading, pausing when necessary, and consider how this poem relates to the novel's plot, theme, mood, etc. (This annotation contains a video)
Consider the way(s) in which Enzo's feelings about Denny are similar and different from the dog's in the poem "The Revenant." When crafting your answer, be sure to use specific details from the texts to support your points. 


Yet again, Enzo is showing the readers that much of his knowledge-base stems from what he sees and hears on television shows and movies. Imagine what it would be like to get all of your information from television. Is the information presented on TV and in movies always the truth? 


What does Mark mean by the highlighted statement? 


Breakdown the validity of the highlighted statements. What choices/events have led to Enzo's decision to make these statements? 


Explain how verbal irony is being utilized in the highlighted text. Why might Denny be using verbal irony at this point in time? 
The video below discusses verbal irony. As you watch, consider how this device relates to the conversation between Denny and Maxwell. (This annotation contains a video)


According to the ASPCA, "Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition resulting from an improperly formed hip joint. Because the joint is loose, the dog's leg bone moves around too much, causing painful wear and tear." This condition develops at different times in dogs. "Each case is different, depending on the dog. Hip dysplasia can begin to develop in puppies of five months old and worsen as they age—or not show up at all until a dog has reached geriatric years. In many cases, though, the condition becomes visible in dogs in their middle or later years." In Enzo's case, his ailment developed very early on, causing discomfort for most of his life. 
Using the sentence for context clues, choose the option that offers the best antonym (opposite) for the word "acute." 


In choosing to compare Denny's current actions to Fattipaldi's, what personal quality is Enzo revealing about Denny? 
The link below contains an article that documents Fattipaldi's racing career. In short, he was a Brazilian racer who paved the way for racers like Senna and Barrichello (racers that looked-up to him). He won his first title in 1972. He was a smart racer who won over others who simply focused on the speed of their cars, not the calculations of the race. He retired from Formula 1 racing, in 1980 (at 33). (This annotation contains a link)
Quiz #2 


The highlighted text contains an idiom. An idiom is a group of words that have a meaning not understood by simply defining each individual word. For that reason, idioms possess literal and figurative meanings. The idiom in this text means (figuratively) that Enzo is putting up with something, in order to help Denny and his cause. 
Explain the irony present within the highlighted statement. An ironic situation is one whose outcome is opposite of what was expected. 
This statement may be foreshadowing an event to come later in the novel. This statement builds suspense and makes the reader aware of the fact that Enzo may be concocting a devious plan to get back at the Twins. 
What are your thoughts on this situation? Is Denny a better caretaker for Zoe? Why do you think that Denny has allowed this custody arrangement to remain for so long? 


The highlighted text contains a great example of a simile. In order to capture the nature and mood of the present event, the narrator compares the battle between the people that want Zoe to vines that grow up a trellis. Consider the mood that these words create. It makes the event seem tense and argumentative, as it should. 
It is interesting to note that in Washington state, a child's voice is often taken into consideration once he/she turns 11-12. Before that, custody cases are decided based on the best interest of the child. In order to gain information about a child's preference, a judge often interviews a child. With this in mind, Zoe's discussion at the dinner table would not have been sufficient for a court to reverse its decision. Also, based on her age, her choice might not have been a part of the legal proceedings. 
Throughout the novel, Enzo uses racing terminology to make his points. Do the aspects of race car driving that Enzo refers to really apply to life as a whole? Be sure to craft an answer that takes into consideration the events of the novel, as well as his other references to racing. 


Choose the literary device used in the first few lines of this chapter. 
The highlighted text utilizes a bit of verbal irony. Watch the video below for an overview of this literary element. (This annotation contains a video)
What is Enzo referring to when he calls their visits to ride go-karts "secret missions"? 


What characteristic of Mark's is revealed/accentuated in the highlighted text? 
Cafe Vita is a real cafe, in WA. This coffee shop has nine locations around Washington state. (This annotation contains an image)


According to, "Capitol Hill is a densely populated urban neighborhood, close to downtown Seattle, and a major center for the city's LGBTQ and counterculture communities. Students here attend Seattle University, Seattle Central Community College and Cornish College of the Arts. Broadway is the central commercial street, lively with shops, coffee houses and restaurants." (This annotation contains an image)
Why do authors choose to include real-life settings into their novels? What does this choice add/take-away from the story? 


What literary element is being employed in the highlighted text? 
Volunteer Park, located in the heart of Seattle, is the home to Volunteer Park Conservatory and Seattle Asian Art Museum. (This annotation contains an image)


The article below explores the magnitude of this man's death, as it relates to his home country. (This annotation contains a link)
In the highlighted text, Enzo uses anaphora to make his point clear. What is his point, and how does it relate to the novel's theme? 
It's interesting to note that Enzo sees himself as a driving force in this novel. He is not just a "normal" dog sitting in the background watching events unfold. In essence, he sees himself as a catalyst for changes to come. 


In what way has Enzo refrained from truly believing in the words that he wishes to speak to Denny? 
Why might the narrator speak in past tense when talking about Denny, then switch to present when speaking about himself? 
It's interesting that Enzo has revealed the fact that he believes that Denny is alone. Doesn't Denny have Enzo? Do you think that Denny feels the same way? 


A savanna is a grassland with shrubs and trees (sparsely scattered). Savannas can be found between rain forests and desert biomes. They are found in a wide band on either side of the equator. They have warm temperatures year round. 
Where else in the book is a zebra discussed? Compare the events that reference zebras. Why/how are zebras significant to the story? What do they symbolize? 


Pacific Raceways is a 2.25 mile, nine turn road course. It is located in Kent, WA. In 1969, Mario Andretti won his first and only Indianapolis 500 on this course. Pacific Raceways is a training ground for law enforcement agencies throughout the Northwest. It is also home to ProFormance Racing School and Pacific Grand Prix. 
The picture below is a Ferrari F430. (This annotation contains an image)
Which fact can be inferred, based on the short conversation between these men? 
According to Wikipedia, "Enzo Ferrari was not initially interested in the idea of producing road cars when he formed Scuderia Ferrari... in 1928, as a sponsor for amateur drivers headquartered in Modena... In 1943, the Ferrari factory moved to Maranello, where it has remained ever since. The factory was bombed by the Allies in 1944 and rebuilt in 1946, after the war ended, and included a works for road car production." (This annotation contains an image)
Explore your initial reaction to the offer being made to Denny. Do you think that this is a viable option for him and his family? 


Throughout the novel, Enzo references the watching of television often. What role does this activity play in the novel? 
The Amazing Race is a televised game show where "12 teams of 2 players each race around the world, trying not to be eliminated at a series of checkpoints in which the last team to arrive is booted from the show. CBS chooses teams with relationships containing at least some tension, especially when the situation involves intense pressure" ( With that in mind, why would Enzo enjoy this show so much? 
In the highlighted text, Denny is using a metaphor to compare his advances (even if they were subtle) toward Annika to the green light on a traffic light. 
Make an inference as to the outcome of this very brief dialogue between Annika and Denny. What difference do you think that it will make? 


What literary device is being employed in the highlighted text? 
The Space Needle is a well-known landmark in Seattle, WA. It is a 605' foot observation tower. (This annotation contains an image)


The information provided at the beginning of this chapter is relayed by Enzo using a lot of repetition of words (finally, about, and I learned). What effect does this repetition have on the novel's plot? 
The highlighted statement serves to create a hopeful mood in the story. It may foreshadow positive changes in Denny's life. 


Often times, the author's description of a setting can serve to foreshadow events to come. Do you believe that this is so at this point in the novel? What makes you feel one way versus another? 
The highlighted text contains personification. Weather does not actually have the ability to oppress an individual; although, it feels that way sometimes. 
Explore the above paragraph. How does its summary (inner-meaning) apply to the theme of the novel? 
Yet again, Enzo uses television to make a point in this novel. Throughout the novel, he uses television programs and recordings to relay his view of the world and the events that take place around him. Why might television offer him much of his insight? 


Using context clues, as well as the annotation above, choose the option that offers the best definition for the highlighted word. 
Since 'propitious' cannot be defined using the Define feature, it is helpful to know that it means to present favorable conditions. 


The link below takes you to the poem "If," by Rudyard Kipling. Read this poem and consider how it may relate to the novel's events and overall theme. (This annotation contains a link)
Pretend that Enzo is the narrator of "If." Considering the events from the novel, how might this poem be an apt monologue directed at Denny? 
What event in Enzo's life is he currently insinuating? 
Quiz #3