The Cabinet of Earths

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The Cabinet of Earths, Anne Nesbet’s debut novel for tweens, blends fantasy, science, and horror into an irresistible story in the vein of the classic His Dark Materials series.
Twelve-year-old Maya is miserable when she has to move from California to Paris. Not speaking French at a school full of snobby French girls is bad enough, but Maya believes there is something sinister going on in her new city. A purple-eyed man follows Maya and her younger brother, James. Statues seem to have Maya’s face. And an eerie cabinet filled with mysterious colored bottles calls to her.
When James becomes the target of dark forces, Maya decides she must answer the call of the Cabinet of Earths, despite the danger.

Curriculet Details
27 Questions
32 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in 5th grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining figurative language, the genre of mystery, and various aspects related to the setting of Paris, France. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about personification, character development, imagery, and situational irony. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of theme, point of view, and analyzing the text to support inferences. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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Chapter 1 - A Tangled Family

Earlier on this page, the narrator stated that the grandmother's "eyes were like two dull stones." Now the grandmother's words are being compared to the coldness of the metal bars of a cot. These comparisons are called similes. Similes help the reader picture the details in the story. Watch this short video to learn more about similes. (This annotation contains a video)
What can we infer happened when Henri-Pierre's grandmother poured the earth from her own bottle? 

Chapter 2 - The Salamander House

We can tell that Maya is not happy with her family's move, and dislikes seeing her own unhappy face in the mirror. In this case, the author uses a type of figurative language called personification to make it sound as if the mirror has attacked her. Watch this short video to learn more about how authors use personification. (This annotation contains a video)
Did you know that when you are reading in Curriculet there is a simple tool you can use that will help you define any unknown word? Click and hold on the word "concierge." Select "define" in the pop-up box, and you will be able to know right away what a "concierge" is! Use this tool whenever you come to a word you do not know. 
How does Maya's love for her mother affect how she describes the family's decision to move to Paris? 
This is what the Eiffel Tower looks like up close. Can you imagine if your school was right next to it? (This annotation contains an image)
What do you think makes Maya compare the mysterious man to a magnet? Cite details from the text to support your response. 

Chapter 3 - Our Famous Cousin Louise

The author is really pulling us into the story with some mysterious details and characters! Watch this short video about strategies we should be looking for that will help us collect clues to better understand this very mysterious story. (This annotation contains a video)
What is one main difference between James and his sister, Maya? 
Here is an interesting clue! Why do you think it might be important that Cousin Louise was smiling in the old photo of her being rescued after a church fell on her? 
Which of the following quotes is an example of personification? 

Chapter 4 - The Baby Who Sang in the Ruins

Does this remind you of the characters we met in the first chapter of the book? Remember Henri-Pierre stating that his grandmother was always being mistaken for his mother because she looked so young? He also described his uncle as "beautiful." We should wonder if there is a connection here! 
What details, related to the setting, does the author include that create a mysterious mood? 

Chapter 5 - The Cabinet of Earths

Did you notice that the title of this chapter is the same as the title of the novel? This chapter is probably going to be very important to the plot of this story. Pay attention to the chapter titles as you read to get more clues about what will happen! 
Set designers will often make miniature versions of the dramatic sets they are designing in order to plan for the real versions. This might be what one of the man's sets would look like. (This annotation contains an image)
The old man speaks of "the tragic tale of the Fourcroys" and the "curse." Then he begins to talk about how the Fourcroys killed the scientist, Lavoisier. Given what we know from the first chapter in the book, what do you think he is talking about? 
How does this highlighted sentence fit with the man's earlier statement, "I think it knows; it is time for a change"? 
Through conversations and actions we have learned a little about the old man who is Maya's cousin. As you think about the visit Maya just had, what traits make her old cousin a likable character? 

Chapter 6 - The Evil Tower

Which quote from the text supports the idea that Maya and her mother share the character trait of curiosity? 
The author provides details on this page about Maya's feelings for her brother. She feels guilty for whining about how easily he is fitting into the French culture. This scene helps us understand more about Maya's character. Watch this video about how characters develop, and as we continue reading see if you notice changes in Maya. (This annotation contains a video)
The highlighted sentence helps us understand that Maya was feeling ____________. 
Can you imagine walking down six hundred steps? Watch this short video a tourist made walking down the same steps Maya, Valko, and James are taking to get out of the Eiffel Tower.  (This annotation contains a video)
Let's Review Chapters 1-6 

Chapter 7 - The Purple-Eyed Fourcroy

Authors often use unique details to build suspense and mystery into a story. Think about how a man with purple eyes makes this story even more interesting, and makes us as readers even more curious! (This annotation contains an image)
What similarities exist between Henri de Fourcroy's home and the home of the older man Maya and Cousin Louise visited? 
The author has given us some clues along the way that their cousin-uncle may not really be talking about the long lives of buildings. What do you think he is talking about when he says this? 

Chapter 8 - Worrying

The author includes clues that help us, as readers, get a first impression of Cecile and "the Dolphin." How do you feel about these two characters so far, and what details from the text helped you to develop this opinion of them? 
This is another great example of a simile. Think back to the earlier video you watched about similes and metaphors. Why would the author compare Maya to a rabbit, and how might Cecile be like a fox? 
Why is "Worrying" an appropriate title for this chapter? 

Chapter 9 - Hot Chocolate and Anbar

As Mr. Fourcroy describes, in Greek mythology "ambrosia" is a special food eaten by the gods because they are immortal (live forever). The picture below is a drawing of the gods serving up their ambrosia. Think about the clues that have been given in this story so far about living forever. What does the "anbar" have to do with this ability? (This annotation contains an image)
What can we infer from the details Cousin Louise just shared with Maya? 
Here is another good example of personification. Think back to the video you watched earlier about how authors make non-human objects seem to have human qualities. How does personifying the little cabinet help continue the mood of mystery in the story? 

Chapter 10 - Shimmer

Without changing the meaning of the sentence, which word could Maya have used to describe herself besides "dolt"? 
What do you think? Is it a good idea for Maya to attend the "Dolphin" party? Are you hoping she will go to see if we can gather more clues about the mystery? Their "sniffing behavior" when Maya still had the anbar in her pocket should make us very curious about them! 
Below is a picture of the Palace of the Invalides. Can you image going to a party here? (This annotation contains an image)
The Dolphin has provided Maya (and us) with some amazing details related to the mystery. Summarize in a few sentences what we have learned from their conversation at the party. 

Chapter 11 - What Cabinet-Keepers Keep

As we visit the old Mr. Fourcroy again, we recognize some of the same character traits we saw in him when Maya first went to his house. He is called a "static character." Watch this short video to learn about static and dynamic characters, and then think about Maya. Which type character is she? (This annotation contains a video)
Which quote from the text best helps us infer that Maya is still homesick for America? 
Which person do you think Maya is thinking about helping become immortal? What do you think of this idea? Is immortality a good thing? 
How does this new revelation fit, like a missing puzzle piece, in the overall structure of the story? 

Chapter 12 - An Unlucky Family

The whole idea of immortality has interested humans throughout history. Read this fascinating article about how researchers are currently studying immortality in jellyfish! (This annotation contains a link)
Why is this statement by Maya's mother so important to the plot of the story? 
There are many ancient Roman ruins among the beautiful buildings in Paris. Below is a picture of some of the remains of the Roman baths that still exist there. (This annotation contains an image)
Let's Review Chapters 7 through 12 

Chapter 13 - An Island for Lavirottes

The painting Maya and her mother are looking at is an actual painting housed in the Louvre called "The Madonna of Chancellor Rolin". Look carefully and see if you can see the island Maya is talking about.  (This annotation contains an image)
How does Cousin Louise's earlier reaction to tasting the anbar honey relate to Maya's thought highlighted here? 

Chapter 14 - Time!

What does Maya now believe has happened to her brother? 
We are getting ready to read a section of the story filled with fantastic imagery. Watch this short video about imagery, and then as you read the next few pages concentrate on the picture the author paints in your mind. (This annotation contains a video)
Which phrase best describes the interaction we just read between Maya and the Cabinet of Earths? 
Symbolism is when an object is used to represent an idea or special meaning. What do you think the piece of glass from the cabinet will represent for Maya as she wears it as a necklace? 

Chapter 15 - Every Single Drop

Maya is comparing the anbar dripping into the cylinder to maple sap that is used to make maple syrup. The picture below shows what she is describing as she remembers the trip to the New England woods. (This annotation contains an image)
What can we infer from Maya's actions? 
It is ironic that although we expect Maya to save James, by tugging on her arm, James has actually saved Maya. This is called situational irony. Watch this short video to learn more. (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter 16 - In the Alchemical Theater

How does the younger Fourcroy's response to his own uncle (acting like he doesn't know him) fit perfectly with his character? 
This is such a powerful image at a very tense time in the book. Do you think using the simile of a snake to describe Fourcroy is effective? (This annotation contains an image)
Before we read any further, what do you predict Cousin Louise is going to say to Maya? Provide reasons related to the story to support your prediction. 
Maya calls sadness, affection, and love the "most human sorts of things." What do you think of this statement? Are there any other words you'd add to Maya's list? 
According to Cousin Louise's point of view when she is speaking about taking the final bottle of earths from Maya, why didn't she let Maya throw it at Fourcroy? 

Chapter 17 - Three Grains of Earth

We can tell from this paragraph that, although she has destroyed the Cabinet of Earths, and no immortals exist anymore, Maya had still held onto the small hope that she could save her mother with the hourglass. Have you ever had to give up hope for something? How did you feel? 
You can tell Maya feels ____________. 
Before we finish this great mystery, you'll be interested to know the Salamander House actually exists in Paris! Here is a picture of the front door, and make sure you look carefully, the salamander is there! (This annotation contains an image)
Let's Review the Final Chapters