Girl Named Faithful Plum, A

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Curriculet Details
79 Questions
85 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in sixth grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining historical and cultural references, and asking students to make personal connections. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about literary language and dance. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of supporting details, text structure, and author’s purpose. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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Glossary of Chinese Places, Terms, and Names

It is important to take the time to read through the pronunciation notes before starting the story. 
This is an important cultural difference to note. It signifies that the family and ancestry are more important than the individual. 

A Note to the Reader

This note to the reader is written by the author, Richard Bernstein, who is also husband to Li Zhongmei. Mr. Bernstein is an American journalist, columnist, and author. He writes the "Letter from America" column for The International Herald Tribune. He was a book critic at The New York Times and a foreign correspondent for both Time magazine and The New York Times in Europe and Asia. 


Why would Li Zhongmei have to get up two hours earlier than the other girls? 
"Comrade" was a common form of address in the Communist Party. 

Chapter 1 - Leaving Home

The very first sentence reveals the ___________ of the story. 
Baoquanling is north of the city of Haerbin in the upper right corner of the map below. Beijing is just to the left of the "North Korea" label. The two cities are about 1,000 miles apart.  (This annotation contains an image)
Zhongmei is ____________that her family will not have wasted their money sending her to Beijing. 
From the foreshadowing, we can infer that Zhongmei's life in Beijing will be 
The last two sentences of this chapter are an example of foreshadowing. Watch the video below to learn more about this literary technique. Then answer the question that follows. (This annotation contains a video)
Those "famous pronouncements" were published in what the West calls the "Little Red Book", which all Chinese families would have owned. (This annotation contains an image)
Below is an image of Tiananmen Square. It is often used to hold large military displays. (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter 2 - An Impossible Dream

To explain the Cultural Revolution, the author relies mostly on 
Notice that Zhongmei's response shows that she's got a spark to her personality. 
To introduce readers to Zhongmei, what type of detail does the author use? 
A "state farm" is a farm that is owned and run by the Chinese government. 
Why are the parents not home to eat with their children? 
Can you imagine what it would be like to only bathe twice a year, to use a public toilet down the street, or to have no running water inside your house?  
The best adjective to describe Zhongmei's parents is 

Chapter 3 - The Hunger Strike

Remember that one yuan is equal to about 15 cents American. That means the cost of a round-trip ticket to Beijing would be $9.00, but the family can't afford even that. 
Which definition of "stewed" best fits the context of the sentence? 
Is it fair for Xiuying to threaten Zhongmei with being given away, even if Zhongmei thinks it wouldn't really happen? 
What does it mean that Lao Lao gave Zhongmei a "conspiratorial look"? 
Note this important background information about Zhongmei's parents and their town.  
What detail does Lao Lao use to show how poor China was back then? 
We can see that Zhongmei comes from very determined parents. 
Why did Lao Lao tell Zhongmei the story of her mother's trip? 

Chapter 4 - An Outfit for the Big City

Notice how this first paragraph takes place in the present, while the next one is again a flashback to Zhongmei trying to get permission to go to Beijing. Pay attention for these time shifts as you continue reading. 
What human quality is being given to the steam? 
The highlighted phrase is an example of a type of figurative language called "personification." Watch the video below to learn more, then answer the following question. (This annotation contains a video)
Below is an image of the type of clothing available to people at the department store. (This annotation contains an image)
Mao Zedong, pictured below, was the founding father of the People's Republic of China, which he governed as Chairman of the Communist Party of China from its establishment in 1949 until his death in 1976. In 1966, he initiated the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, a program to basically remove everyone from the society who didn't agree with how he wanted to move China forward. It lasted 10 years and was marked by violent class struggle and widespread destruction of cultural artifacts. Zhongmei would have grown up during the Cultural Revolution, but this story takes place just after the revolution ended. (This annotation contains an image)
Who were the "sent-down youth" originally and why were they in Baoquanling? 
The highlighted phrase is an example of a type of figurative language called "hyperbole." Watch the video below to learn more. (This annotation contains a video)
What is the author trying to show by telling the story about the carrots? 

Chapter 5 - Second Thoughts

List three differences  Zhongmei notices between Baoquanling and Jiamusi. 
Chinese writing does not use an alphabet. Instead, they have specific characters that represent syllables, which could be words on their own or which could be part of larger words. Educated Chinese know about 4,000 different characters. The image below shows a sampling of characters and their pronunciations. (This annotation contains an image)
The Forbidden City, pictured below, is the former imperial palace, which was the home to 24 Chinese emperors between 1420 and 1911. The palace is surrounded by a moat 3,800 meters long and 52 meters wide. There are five entrances to the gate, but the central one was reserved for the emperor. The empress was allowed through it, only once, on her wedding day. It was forbidden for anyone to enter or leave the palace without the emperor's permission. (This annotation contains an image)
How could the departure for Beijing have a sweet and sour taste to Zhongmei? 

Chapter 6 - Stranded

Below is an image of a modern-day hard-seat car. It is much cleaner and better-lit than the one Zhongmei and Huping travel on.  
What sensory detail does the author use to paint a picture of the train journey? 
If these types of announcements woke us up each morning in the United States, what would they say? 
What changes in China after Chairman Mao dies? List three examples from the text. 
Beijing's streets are so crowded, it's faster (and cheaper) to travel by bicycle. The image below shows one street lined with the type of bicyclists that catch Zhongmei's attention.  (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter 7 - An Amazing Coincidence

Why would Zhongmei's father send Policeman Li a photo of Zhongmei from four years ago? 
How would your life be different if you didn't have immediate access to a phone? 
How did Chen Aiyi end up living in this house? 
Notice how Zhongmei tries not to worry her family, even though she's not sure what will happen to her. 
Why does Zhongmei enjoy walking around her neighborhood? 
Below is the image of the Drum Tower. It actually sits in line with the Bell Tower. These towers were originally used to create music, but later were used to tell time. They played an important role in helping people live and work regularly when there was no other means to keep track of the time hundreds of years ago. (This annotation contains an image)
How did the woman get a photo of Zhongmei? 
Do you think Zhongmei is relieved to know that he really did try to find her at the train station? 
How does the author indicate Zhongmei's excitement in the highlighted section? 

Chapter 8 - Taking Measurements

What would it be like to face the crowds and the important audition without any family there to help? 
How long has Zhongmei stood in line just to be able to register? 
Can you bend at the waist and touch your elbows to the floor? Note how flexible Zhongmei is. 
When does Policeman Li's motorcycle bring Zhongmei to the Dance Academy? 
Why would the woman be telling Zhongmei how difficult her life will be if she makes it into the Academy? 

Chapter 9 - “Have I Done All This for Nothing?”

This ballet premiered in 1964, just before the official start of the Cultural Revolution. Watch the video below to see an excerpt and to learn more about China's National Ballet.  (This annotation contains a video)
Where does Tianyuan's grandmother probably work? 
Does Tianyuan really believe what she's saying or is she just playing mind games with Zhongmei? 
Zhongmei describes Jia Zuoguang as 
Swan Lake is a ballet composed by Tchaikovsky in 1876. It tells the story of Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer's curse. Watch a scene below. Is the music familiar? (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following sentences uses the word "faltered" in a way that has the same meaning as it does in the text? 
What details in the highlighted section show Zhongmei's excitement? 
Watch the video below to learn more about this traditional Chinese instrument. (This annotation contains a video)
What word does the author use to show the emotion of the girls who did not receive cards? 
Notice how Zhongmei reacts when faced with challenge. 
Why is there no alphabetical order in Chinese? 
Part One 

Chapter 10 - “I’m Not Going Back Until I Dance!”

Notice how the tension has been building up to Zhongmei's final audition, the climax of this part of her story. We will soon discover whether or not she makes it into the school. 
Why is Zhongmei being dismissed from the competition? 
Is it likely that Zhongmei will be given a second chance? 
What does the highlighted phrase mean? 

Chapter 11 - Becoming Grass

Why does Zhongmei think the woman doesn't like what Jia is saying to her? 
Why would Zhongmei care about the color of grass if it's not something she can physically show when she dances? 
What details in the highlighted section are used to increase the tension in the story? 
Notice that the first main episode in Zhongmei's story has come to an end. Next we will discover what life is like for her in the Academy. 

Chapter 12 - Comrade Tsang

The marble barge is one of many pavilions on the Summer Palace grounds. Built on a bed of stone blocks, it is actually made of wood and painted to look like marble. (This annotation contains an image)
In the last few pages, the author has included many details to establish the time and place for the next episode of Zhongmei's story. Which of the details below is not part of that new setting? 
Is it a good idea to make the girls come to Comrade Tsang when they want to spend their money? Why or why not? 
Why does nobody dare to ask a question? 
What do the girls find funny? 

Chapter 13 - “Six Years to Go!”

Below is an aerial view of Taoranting Park.  (This annotation contains an image)
List two details from Zhongmei's morning workout that show she is determined. 
Soy milk is a traditional Chinese breakfast food. If you'd like to try making your own, visit the blog below for step-by-step instructions. (This annotation contains a link)

Chapter 14 - The Country Bumpkin

It is important to note that Zhongmei has a difficult time fighting people's perception of her as an unrefined country girl. Pay attention to how this conflict develops throughout the book and to how Zhongmei responds to it. 
Why is Teacher Zhu so upset? 
The highlighted phrase is an example of a type of figurative language called a "simile." Watch the video below to learn more about them, as well as about their cousin, the metaphor. (This annotation contains a video)
In what ways is Xiaolan a good friend to Zhongmei? 

Photo Insert

What do you learn from the pictures that better helps you understand Zhongmei's life at the Dance Academy? 

Chapter 15 - Banned from Ballet

How do you think Teacher Zhu will treat Zhongmei after what happened yesterday? 
Which ballet term in this paragraph means "to stand on one leg with the other raised behind, arms outstretched"? 
How does Teacher Zhu prevent Zhongmei from participating in the ballet class? 
Here we can see Teacher Zhu's prejudice on display. 

Chapter 16 - Ice Sticks

What every day activities are taken over by dance practice? 
A 2010 movie called "Sacrifice" was based on this traditional opera. Follow the link below to watch a trailer. (This annotation contains a link)
How do the Lis make Zhongmei feel welcome in their home? 
Why would the author include this scene with the bed sheets in Zhongmei's story? 
Remember that a yuan is worth about 15 American cents, and there are 100 fen in a yuan. Zhongmei's parents would only make $4.50 US dollars a month. 
Why would Zhongmei not want an ice stick? 
How are your birthday celebrations different from Zhongmei's? 
This is not the first time Zhongmei has taken advantage of her sister's good nature. Remember the carrots? 
What does the sliver of wood signal to Zhongmei's mother? 
Here again we see how Zhongmei is in conflict with people's prejudices against her and where she came from. 

Chapter 17 - Slap, Slap, Slap

How did the letter from home make Zhongmei feel happy and sad at the same time? 
What is being compared to a sack of rice? 
The highlighted phrase is an example of what type of figurative language? 
Do you agree with Zhongmei's optimism? 

Chapter 18 - “You Look Like a Duck”

A synonym for the word "becoming" in the highlighted text would be 
Notice all the similes the author uses to describe Zhongmei's grace. 
To what is Zhongmei compared in this paragraph? 
Why does Teacher Zhu want to get rid of Zhongmei so badly? 
What clues tell you that Jinhua is intimidated by Zhongmei? 

Chapter 19 - Hungry in Harbin

Mongolia is a land-locked country to the northwest of Beijing. Can you find Beijing on the map below? It's in the bottom right corner just to the left of the area of water. (This annotation contains an image)
The highlighted phrase is an example of a 
How do you think Zhongmei will respond to this latest challenge? 
What does the highlighted phrase mean? 
Part Two 
Finally someone is kind to Zhongmei! 

Chapter 20 - Daring to Struggle

What rule is Zhongmei breaking by being in the dance studio? 
Remember that television is very new to this area of China. 
Why does Zhongmei feel so alone? 
Shanghai has the largest population of any city in the world. The tower with spheres on the left is the Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower. It was the tallest structure in China until 2007.  (This annotation contains an image)
Follow the link below to read about the experience of a girl named Hu Rongfen during the Cultural Revolution. Be prepared to compare her story to the information Zhongqin shares. (This annotation contains a link)
How does Hu Rongfen's story compare with the information shared by Zhongqin? List two similarities. 
What evidence does Zhongqin use to back up her theory of why Teacher Zhu doesn't want Zhongmei to succeed? 
Here we can see how important it is to Zhongmei to live up to the expectations of her family and community. 
The highlighted phrase is an idea central to Zhongmei's story. What evidence of Zhongmei daring to struggle in order to succeed have you seen so far? 

Chapter 21 - A Piece of String

Remember, this is the place where Zhongmei showed them a dance and they gave her noodles. 
Why does Zhongmei probably want to get woken up early every day? 
Notice how Zhongmei replies with the saying by Chairman Mao. 
The events in this paragraph show Zhongmei's 

Chapter 22 - Lucky

The phrase "heart was bleeding for it" is an expression called an "idiom." An idiom is a phrase where the meaning of the individual words don't mean the same thing as the expression as a whole. For example, you may have heard the idiom "It's raining cats and dogs." Animals are not actually falling from the sky; it is just raining hard. The idiom "her heart bleeds for it" means that a person feels sympathetic and sad for something, which in Zhongmei's case is the kitten. 
List three things that Zhongmei does to care for the kitten. 
Notice how not all of the first year girls are willing to gang up on Zhongmei. 
Notice that with this one twirl, Zhongmei is telling her own story of coming to the Academy. 
How do Zhongmei and Jinhua differ as dancers? 

Chapter 23 - Disaster

What detail does not show Comrade Tsang's anger? 
Note how unexpected it is for a cat named Lucky to meet its demise by being thrown out a window. This is an example of situational irony. Watch the video below to learn more. (This annotation contains a video)
What is Zhongmei's "most terrible thought"? 

Chapter 24 - The Banquet at Hongmen

Do you think this changes Zhongmei's perception of Comrade Tsang? 
What signal shows the opera audience that Xiang Yu is the bad guy? 

Chapter 25 - Caught!

Why do you think Jinhua's attitude towards Zhongmei has changed? 
What does the highlighted phrase mean in this context? 
Do you think Zhongmei's plan will work? 
Why is Jia upset with Zhongmei? 
How does her conflict with Teacher Zhu actually benefit Zhongmei? 
What could have happened to Vice Director Jia? 
What are two things Zhongmei does in this chapter to illustrate the idea "dare to struggle, dare to win"? 

Chapter 26 - The Progress Prize

Watch members of the Shanghai Ballet perform parts of this famous piece. (This annotation contains a video)
This is a key development in Zhongmei's career at the Dance Academy. As you continue reading, consider how her life changes from this point on. 
Below is a picture of one of the apsara drawings in the Yulin Caves near Dunhuang. (This annotation contains an image)
What central idea is illustrated by Zhongmei continuing to practice the turn? 
How does Teacher Peng differ from Teacher Zhu? 
Remember that when Zhongmei first appeared in Teacher Peng's class, Peng said she had no time to give Zhongmei extra lessons. 
What makes Zhongmei happy? 

Chapter 27 - Triumph

Why wouldn't Zhongmei want to forgive Jinhua? 
What changes does Zhongmei see in herself as she looks in the mirror? 
The video below is Zhongmei herself dancing. The first dance in the medley is the Dunhuang solo. Note how much practice it must have taken to work with those long ribbons. (This annotation contains a video)
The highlighted paragraph shows that in the conflict between Zhongmei and those who doubted her 


Zhongmei actually started her own dance company in the U.S. At the link below, you can see an older website with information about her company and pictures of her dancing. (This annotation contains a link)
List three challenges Zhongmei faces as her schooling continues. 
Who helped Zhongmei persevere and not give up? 
Follow the link below and read the first five paragraphs of Li Cunxin's story, which focuses on his youth. Then answer the following question. (This annotation contains a link)
Though Li Cunxin was training to dance a decade before Li Zhongmei, they do share similar experiences. List two similarities between Li Cunxin's dance training and Li Zhongmei's. 
Part Three