Listening for Lions

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Historical fiction with a wicked twist.

Listening for Lions is a breathtaking story of tragedy, deception, and triumph against all odds. National Book Award-winning author Gloria Whelan sets this richly historical coming-of-age adventure in British East Africa in the year 1918.

This irresistible novel entangles an orphaned girl in a deceit-filled plot. Young Rachel Sheridan is made to leave her beloved Africa for England, where she must pose as the deceased daughter of a nefarious couple in an effort to gain them an enormous inheritance. Her irrepressible spirit and extraordinary wit turn her from victim to heroine in a surprising and empowering tale of a remarkable young woman.

Curriculet Details
51 Questions
69 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in 6th grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining foreshadowing, predicting and many references to the settings of Africa and England. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about the elements of plot, characterization, and traits of historical fiction. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of characterization, plot, and figurative language. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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Homework #6

The very first sentence of this novel begins with a dark, ominous tone. Words like "crept," "cruel," and "death" are all used to describe the influenza outbreak that took the world by surprise and left its sinister mark. (Influenza is described in more detail in the next annotation.) Hyenas are native to Africa and are fierce predators that travel in packs.  (This annotation contains an image)
Influenza is "the flu," and there is an outbreak, or flu season, each year during the cold months. However, in 1918 through 1920 there was a "pandemic" of the influenza virus. A pandemic is a widespread epidemic. This particular outbreak of the H1N1 virus killed nearly 100 million people, which was almost 5% of the world's population. Although the flu typically affects the very young or very old, this strand killed many otherwise healthy adults. Many people began wearing masks in an effort to stay free of the illness.  (This annotation contains an image)
This is a picture of the Kikuyu people in 1920, around the time this novel is set.  (This annotation contains an image)
This sentence is a simile that compares the African men and women to birds. Already you may have noticed that the writer uses a great deal of figurative language. Figurative language is found in all types of writing. It helps readers understand things, events, and people in unique ways. It's important to be able to recognize the different types of figurative language. Watch this video for a review and see how many you already know. (This annotation contains a video)
Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya, a country in Africa.  (This annotation contains an image)
Growing up in Africa involves many dangers. List three dangerous things the narrator has mentioned so far. 
There are many deadly venomous snakes in Africa: the green and black mambas, puff adders, and garter snakes. Below is a picture of a garter snake. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the writer's main purpose in this paragraph? 
If Kanora, a native African, takes care of the narrator, then she is learning a great deal about the Kikuyu culture. 
Why might the Kikuyu people use the narrator's hair as a charm against evil? 
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? 
Here is a picture of Masai warriors.  (This annotation contains an image)
Leprosy is an infectious disease which can be disfiguring. It often causes skin sores. Although leprosy is not very contagious, people who had it were often shunned and separated into "leper colonies." Below is a man with leprosy.  (This annotation contains an image)
We are getting a lot of background information in this chapter. We know the setting is British, colonized East Africa around 1919. The main character is twelve and her parents are missionaries who run a hospital for native Africans. This part of the plot is called the exposition. Watch the video below for a review of all of the elements of plot.  (This annotation contains a video)
In England, cookies are often called "biscuits." 
Do you remember what happens to the narrator's mother and father? She tells us in the very beginning of the novel. 

Homework #7

The acacia tree is very common in Africa. You can see these trees on the cover of the novel. (This annotation contains an image)
This Bible verse refers to the fourth horsemen of the Apocalypse. Why might the narrator think of this frightening verse now? (This annotation contains an image)
The writer uses a simile here to describe the lions. What are the lions compared to? 
Remember, in the very first sentence of the novel, the writer mentions influenza "creeping up to them" in the night, just like when she first heard the hyenas. 
Here is a picture of a hoopoe bird. (This annotation contains an image)
It should be clear to you by now that Rachel is the protagonist in this novel. But who or what is the antagonist? Has one even emerged yet? Watch this video on protagonists and antagonists. Then think about who or what may be a possible antagonist as you read the novel.  (This annotation contains a video)
What might this mean? 
What does this show about Mr. Pritchard? 
List three things the Pritchards have done that show how snobby and superior they act. 

Homework #8

Earlier, Rachel tells us that the lions comfort her because she feels they are protecting her. This must be important because the title of the novel is Listening for Lions. What, then, is she feeling if the lions are silent? 
What do Rachel and the Pritchards' daughter have in common? 
Well, this is a terrifying image. Does this foreshadow that Mrs. Pritchard may have ill intent toward Rachel? Foreshadowing is when the writer hints or suggests something that will either happen or be important later on in the story.  
Why do you think the Pritchards are being so nice to Rachel? Do you think they want something from her? Watch this video on making predictions. Then make a prediction about what the Pritchards may have in store for Rachel.  (This annotation contains a video)
What does the difference in the way Kanoro is treated by Mrs. Pritchard show us? 
Do you think Mr. Pritchard is being sincere? Explain your answer using details from the text. 
Sometimes a character's body gestures can say a great deal. What might this action by Mr. Pritchard mean? 
What are the Pritchards lying about? Explain what you think they are up to. 

Homework #9

What can you infer about Victoria's grandfather from this paragraph? 
What are the Pritchards really after from the older Mr. Pritchard? 
This is a frightening image. What type of figurative language is present in this sentence? 
This is a picture of a desert rose. Notice how the writer creates fear of the Pritchards. In just the last two pages, they have been compared to spiders, sharp-beaked herons, and now poisonous flowers. (This annotation contains an image)
A leopard is a fierce predator in Africa.  (This annotation contains an image)
Why has Rachel decided to go to England? 
Quiz #1 

Homework #11

The writer is further developing Mrs. Pritchard as a woman who feels she is superior to others. Writers reveal character traits in many ways: through actions, speech, thoughts, and the thoughts of other characters. Watch the following video on characterization and be aware throughout the novel when a character is being further developed.  (This annotation contains a video)
So Rachel will travel across the Indian Ocean to reach Europe. (This annotation contains an image)
This sentence is an example of a character's thoughts characterizing another character. Rachel considers Mrs. Pritchard as a 
You've probably already realized that this novel is historical fiction. One common element of historical fiction is that the reader learns a lot about the history of a time and place while reading the story. Watch the video below for other elements of historical fiction. Can you think of other novels that you have read that would fall into this genre?  (This annotation contains a video)
This is a dhow. (This annotation contains an image)
To show how annoying Miss Limplinger is to Rachel, the writer uses what type of figurative language here? 
This comparison is very negative of Miss Limplinger. What detail in this sentence is most negative? 
We have to wonder what Mr. Pritchard did to be disowned by his father. 
Below are the pyramids of Egypt.  (This annotation contains an image)
Here is a picture of Mt Vesuvius, the infamous volcano whose eruption buried forever the ancient city of Pompeii. (This annotation contains an image)
This type of hat was typical of the 1920's.  (This annotation contains an image)
This paragraph gives us a great deal of information. We've suddenly learned the following: 1. Valerie has been writing her grandfather letters, apparently asking for money. 2. Mr. Pritchard embarrassed the family with his drinking and gambling, which perhaps is why he has been disowned. 3. Mr. Pritchard gets a monthly allowance from his father. 4. The lawyer for the elderly Mr. Pritchard is well aware that his son and wife are out to get his money. 5. All of Mr. Pritchard's estate will be donated to the Royal Bird Society. 
Malaria is an infectious virus carried by mosquitoes. Living in Africa would mean that Rachel is very familiar with this disease. It causes high fevers. When you have a fever, your body is trying to warm itself to fight bacteria which may cause you to shiver. 

Homework #12

Below may be what the Pritchard estate looks like.  (This annotation contains an image)
This is an allusion to the biblical story of Jacob's Ladder told in the Book of Genesis. Jacob, the son of Isaac, was running away from his twin brother, Esau who had threatened to kill him. That night Jacob has a dream of angels climbing a ladder that ascends into heaven. This allusion may suggest that Rachel is entering a safe, loving place at the house of Mr. Pritchard.  (This annotation contains an image)
Watch this video of the thrush Mr. Pritchard is hoping to see again before he dies. It is also known as the "hermit thrush" and it has an especially beautiful song. Listen....  (This annotation contains a video)
A flycatcher is another type of bird. It seems already that Rachel and Mr. Pritchard have a common interest. Does this foreshadow a close relationship between them?  (This annotation contains an image)
We never met the real Valerie, but we have picked up things about her from other characters. List two differences between Rachel and Valerie that you've picked up so far. 
What qualities does Mr. Pritchard expect from Valerie based on his questions and his reaction to her responses? 
Do you have any predictions about Arthur? 
The Southern Cross is one of the most recognizable constellations in the Southern Hemisphere. Below you can see how its points make a cross.  (This annotation contains an image)

Homework #13

We often learn about characters from their actions and from what other characters say about them. What do you learn about Mr. Pritchard from Ellie here? 
What have you noticed about Mr. Pritchard's health since "Valerie's" arrival? 
What do you notice about this 3rd bird on the list? 
Wellingtons are a type of rain boot.  (This annotation contains an image)
One of the emerging themes in this novel may be "deception vs. truth." 
Below is a picture of a nightjar. Have you ever heard of a nightjar or mousebird? Clearly, you can understand why Mr. Pritchard intends to leave his money to the Royal Society of Birds.  (This annotation contains an image)
Notice how the writer shows the passing of time, nearly a month, in one paragraph. Explain what you can infer has developed between Rachel and Mr. Pritchard during this time. 
How do you predict this statement will affect Rachel? 
This gives us more important information. Not only did Mr. Pritchard, the son, gamble and drink to such excess that it shamed the family, but it also distressed his mother so much that it caused her death. 
Make a prediction about how the relationship between Rachel and Mr. Pritchard will be at the end of this novel. Do you think Rachel will eventually be sent to an orphanage? Explain your prediction. 

Homework #14

Did you know that hedgehogs are NOT related to porcupines, even though they have many similar features? Also, there are no native hedgehogs in America. (This annotation contains an image)
Have you ever heard of the "killer bees" of Africa? Watch this video!  (This annotation contains a video)
List three details that reveal that Mr. Pritchard truly cares about the welfare of his tenants. 
Have you noticed on the cover of the novel is a small hoopoe?  (This annotation contains an image)
Do you think Mr. Pritchard knows that "Valerie" is really Rachel? Explain your answer and be sure to give details from the novel to support your opinion. 
The hermit thrush typically has an eye ring (a white ring around its eye).  (This annotation contains an image)
As shown here, Grandfather admires "Valerie" for what trait? 

Homework #15

Explain why the word choice in this sentence fits what is going on in the story. 
Do you think Mr. Grumbloch suspects something?  
This isn't the first time the writer mentions that Burker "groans" with any physical exertion. Could this somehow be important later? Critical readers notice details that come up again and again.  
List two things the Pritchards would change if they took over Stagsway. 
This is a reference to the Bible describing a time when all the world shall live in peace. 
A long driveway lined in trees is a visual image that further characterizes Stagsway as a grand estate.  (This annotation contains an image)
Here's a picture of London in 1919. (This annotation contains an image)
What does Rachel intend to do? 

Homework #16

These sentences have two examples of the same type of figurative language used to describe the lawyers' offices. What are they? 
In England, lawyers are called barristers. 
If this novel were told with a third person omniscient narrator, how would this scene be different for us? 
What do you think Mr. Grumbloch means when he says, "I believe we can do something about that"? 
Frieda evidently loves nature and colors and art. Below is just one interpretation of a wood nymph, but she would be adorned with accents of nature and light, flowing clothing.  (This annotation contains an image)
Quiz #2 

Homework #18

We did not know before that Mr. Pritchard (the son) had a brother who died. Will this be important? 
Do you believe there are times when it is okay to be deceptive and not tell the truth? 
It seems as if Rachel will be facing a new conflict, another obstacle that she must overcome. Which part of plot includes the series of complications that the protagonist must face? 
All of these titles are literary classics. Although, without the study of math, science, or languages, Rachel has had a very unconventional education. 
In this sentence the writer uses figurative language to show how overwhelmed Rachel is with math and Latin. What type of figurative language is used here? 
What sport does this sentence seem to be describing? 
This is a picture of a lapwing. You're learning a lot about birds by reading this novel. One of the many benefits of reading is that it builds our foundation of knowledge about the world. The more you read, the more knowledge you gain.  (This annotation contains an image)
Use the Define feature on these two French words. Explain in your own words what the girls are saying about Rachel. 
Explain how you know Miss Ethelward really likes Rachel and is sticking up for her. Be sure to refer to specific details in the text. 
Read this poem "Symphony at Dawn" by Joseph Kozlowski and then answer the following question. What trait of birds does this poem appeal to?Slowly waking to cacophony, The pre-concert Tuning of a symphony. Then silent pause, pre-syncopation, To build what's now Our anticipation. Sir Cardinal takes the opening bar. Calling his wife, Who responds from afar.  Repeating notes like a fine-tuned string,  He corresponds To a fine violin.Robin's come, she’s trilling Ola, Adding much, With her viola.   Mourning Doves are more like cellos, A supporting cast Of charming fellows.   Blue Jays' more a musical riddle, Do they play brass, Or more bass fiddle?     The shiny section starts en masse, As Grackles screech Like a hinge of brass. Starlings add discordant notes, As a little flock Above us floats.   Hermit Thrush acts the hobo, With perfect pitch, On his solo oboe.   It's often nice to add a singer, And Wood Thrush alto, Is a real humdinger.   Nothing like a finale drummer, And "Woody" throbs Like a frenzied plumber. 
Explain how this statement by Rachel reflects the time period of 1919. 

Homework #19

Do you have a prediction about this bird and the plot of this novel? 
What physical trait of this pony may have reminded Rachel of Valerie? 
It seems that Rachel has another conflict facing her. Which of the following describes that conflict? 
The Taming of the Shrew is a famous comedy by Shakespeare in which a headstrong girl becomes a wife.  (This annotation contains an image)
Now that Grandfather has accepted Rachel's desire to become a doctor and return to Africa and the Hylocichla guttata pritchardi has been officially recognized, it seems all conflicts in this story have been resolved. What do you call this point in the plot of a story? 

Homework #20

Today, in America, a student would not start medical school until around age 22, after four years of college. 
What war is Miss Brose referring to? 
Here is a picture of a college women's rowing team today.  (This annotation contains an image)
Why is the sound of the lions important to Rachel? 
Virginia Woolf was a famous British writer who often wrote about women finding their independence.  (This annotation contains an image)
What is Dr. Raspton implying here about women who go into the medical career? 
What type of figurative language is present here, comparing Dr. Raspton to a hawk who spots his prey in Rachel? 

Homework #21

It seems Rachel's mind is filled with challenges she has yet to face. There have been many different conflicts in this novel. Overcoming conflicts is the essence of every story. Watch this video on the different types of conflict. Think of the types that this novel contains.  (This annotation contains a video)
Does this remind you of something?  (This annotation contains an image)
At the end of this novel there is a glossary of Swahili words. 
The sound of lions at night is brought up frequently in this novel and we understand why the writer chose the title Listening for Lions. Think of another good title for this novel and explain why you chose it. Keep in mind both the story and the lessons we have learned from the novel. 
Below is a picture of a Kikuyu chief.  (This annotation contains an image)
Rachel realizes she has been away so long and forgotten the tribal ways of the Kikuyu people. She has shown disrespect to the chief by not visiting him first and asking his permission for his men to work. 
Jomo Kenyatta will later become the leader of a free and independent Kenya. Remember, historical fiction includes many true historical events and people.  (This annotation contains an image)
Quiz #3