The Spindlers

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Evocative of Alice in Wonderland, this novel from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver is a bewitching story about the reaches of loyalty and the enduring power of hope.

Looking across the breakfast table one morning, twelve-year-old Liza feels dread wash over her. Although her younger brother, Patrick, appears the same, Liza knows that he is actually quite different. She is certain that the spindlers—evil, spiderlike beings—came during the night and stole his soul. And Liza is also certain that she is the only one who can rescue him.

Armed with little more than her wits and a huge talking rat for a guide, Liza descends into the dark and ominous underground to save Patrick's soul. Her quest is far from easy: she must brave tree-snakes, the Court of Stones, and shape-shifting scawgs before facing her greatest challenge in the spindlers' lair, where more than just Patrick's soul is at stake.

Curriculet Details
47 Questions
47 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in fifth grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining the author’s inspiration for writing the text, literary allusions such as video excerpts from Alice in Wonderland, and the structure of a quest or journey tale. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about internal and external conflicts and theme. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of use of sensory imagery, foreshadowing, and symbolism. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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Chapter 1: The Changeling, and the Letters Spelled in Cereal

The author reveals that part of her inspiration for writing the story was that she was experiencing a time in her life where she felt that everyone she was close to and thought she knew was changing. This made her feel alone and sad. So she decided to write a book about a girl who woke up one morning and discovered her brother was different, but she was the only one who knew. A second inspiration for the story is a children's book called Outside Over There. The book begins with a sister and her baby brother. Her baby brother is kidnapped by elves and his sister must find him. Below is the cover of the book.  (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the exchange between Liza and her parents, how would you describe the mood in their house? 
Anna is a very important person in Liza's life. The omniscient narrator tells us that Anna is the person who told Liza about spindlers and other magical creatures, and Liza has a "sudden, wrenching, fierce desire for Anna." Liza trusts Anna and believes she would know what to do about Patrick. Do you think Anna will return to assist her? 
Liza believes it is "easier to see the magic" through the branches of the small fir tree and all the "miracle(s) of life and growth that forever pulsed under the ordinariness." Which two settings is Liza referring to? 
Setting is an important element of the story. The setting is the time and place where the story exists. In a text, there may be multiple settings. As you read, please highlight descriptions of the settings the characters visit. 
Liza can be characterized as guilty for Patrick's kidnapping because she believes their argument distracted Patrick the night before. As a result, Liza feels "a sudden tightness in her throat" because she believes the worst will happen to Patrick's soul. It is this sense of guilt that will lead Liza to believe it is her responsibility to get Patrick's soul back.  
After Liza tickles Patrick, and he does not flinch or respond, Liza describes her reaction as  

Chapter 2: Several Falsehoods and One Broomstick

Which simile is used to characterize the spindlers? 
Liza's parents are not bad people, but they are preoccupied by their lives. It is because of this that Liza does not feel her parents will believe her or help her to get Patrick's soul back.  
The exchange between Liza and her mother is an example of a(n) 
Please view the video to learn more about external and internal conflicts. (This annotation contains a video)
When Liza decides she must go Below to save her brother Patrick's soul, she begins a journey or a quest. According to the text, How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster, a quest is made up of five parts: "(a) a quester, (b) a place to go, (c) a stated reason to go there, (d) challenges and trials en route, and (e) a real reason to go there." So far we know the quester is Liza, she is going to save Patrick's soul, and she is going Below. Now you have to be ready for trials and tribulations and the other reasons for her journey or lessons she will learn throughout her journey. 

Chapter 3: The Basement

The narrator tells us that the basement at night was different. "Everything looked strange and sharp and unfamiliar, and Liza could "detect sounds of scratching and scrabbling" as she walked through the basement. Which adjective best describes the mood in the basement? 
In this scene, Liza creeps into the crawl space. The narrator tells us that the once small space is now grown to accommodate Liza. This is an allusion to Alice in Wonderland. The YouTube video below is the scene where Alice crawls into the rabbit hole and descends into Wonderland. Do you think Liza's journey will be like Alice's journey? (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter 4: The Rat

Description of the rat is an example of  
Liza's encounter with the rat is important. The two characters will be foils of one another throughout most of the story. Foils are two characters that are the opposites of one another. The author creates a pair of foils on purpose so the reader will notice qualities about both characters. Many times, foils are the protagonist and the antagonist, but foils do not have to be opposing forces. An example of foils from literature you may have read are Harry Potter and Voldemort. (This annotation contains an image)
When Liza mentions the spindlers to the rat, "the rat let out a tremendous yelp, jumped forward, and clapped a furry paw over Liza's mouth." Based on the rat's reaction, how would you characterize the spindlers? 
When Liza asks the rat to take her to the spindler's nests and tells the rat she "will do anything," the narrator tells us the rat has a look of "need or greed" in her eyes and agrees. Do you trust the rat?  

Chapter 5: The Troglod Market

Based on the description of the items the rat purchased at the market and the troglods homes, what can you conclude about the troglods? 
The author was also inspired by some artwork her sister gave her as a gift. The artist is Arthur Rackham. He is known for his drawings of fairies, sprites, gnomes, and other creatures. The picture below is by Rackham. Each drawing is accompanied by a quote. This drawing's quote is "the bad ones among the fairies happen to be out." (This annotation contains an image)
When Liza realizes that Anna was right about gnomes liking the cold, what other realization does she have? 

Chapter 6: The Lumer-Lumpen

There are two important ideas that need to be noted here: 1. Think about what Liza assumes about the rat because she is a rat. What comes to mind when you think of a rat? What if you called someone a rat? What does that mean? 2. The rat makes an excellent point about the way that humans judge creatures, situations, and other people: by appearances. 
The rat tells Liza that human eyes are useless in the dark because "you see only what you expect to see, and nothing more." What does the rat mean? 
Based on their appearance, Liza believes that the lumber-lumpen seem "inert," but the rat quickly informs her that they are not only sensitive but geniuses. Once again, Liza is mistaken because she judges based on what she sees. This is an emerging theme in the text. As you read, be sure to highlight other examples of Liza and others judging by appearances. Does this cause conflict? What does Liza learn about appearances? View the video below to review what a theme is.  (This annotation contains a video)
When the rat informs Liza of the spindlers' plans to feast on the souls in order to become powerful and take over the Below, Liza has a realization: that is why Anna was terrified when Liza asked about the spindlers. You can conclude or infer that Anna  

Chapter 7: The Palace Gate

Mirabella has a desire to be more civilized and to be treated better than your average rat. She gives herself a name, wears a ridiculous outfit, wig, and makeup, and walks on her hind legs. Why do you think she doesn't want to be like a rat? 
Mirabella's questions about Above and mothers accomplishes two things: Liza realizes how her relationship with her own mother has changed, and Mirabella reveals she doesn't have a "real mother" and has never been hugged. Do you think that this bonds and changes the relationship between Mirabella and Liza? How and why? 

Chapter 8: The Dance of the Nids

Mirabella warns Liza a second time that you "never know who's on what side and which is playing for who." This is an example of  
Remember: Liza is on a journey or a quest. She is the quester, she in in Below, and she is determined to find Patrick's soul. The fourth element of a quest is the trials and tribulations the quester must overcome. By taking the short cut through the palace, Liza is almost entranced by the music and the party inside the palace. This is the beginning of her first real obstacle to find Patrick's soul. 
The narrator tells us that Liza "had an irrepressible urge to get closer, to join the celebration." Then, against Mirabella's protests, Liza opens the window and is seen. Based on the text, what does the word irrepressible mean? 
The nids offer no explanation why they think Liza smells badly or why they would want to immediately bring Liza and Mirabella to the Court of Stones. But the scuffle does reveal how the relationship between Mirabella and Liza is developing. Mirabella attempts to save Liza, and Liza tries to grab her hand without caring that she is grabbing a rat's claw or fur.  
Chapters 1-8 

Chapter 9: The Court of Stones

When Liza is captured "fear snaked like a cold, damp finger down her back." This is an example of  
Throughout the text, the setting is described in great detail. Carefully read the imagery used to describe the setting. The setting helps to set the mood of the scene as well as give the reader clues about the characters and action that appear in the scene. In the Court of Stones, the creatures sit in amphitheater to watch the trial, and many creatures gather to see and hear the outcome of the trial. Just beyond the amphitheater, Liza notices a river which "swirled with strange colors." This may be the where the next part of her journey takes place or plays an important role in the next part of her journey. 
What is the tone of Judge Gobbington's response to Liza's question?  
Liza is the protagonist of the story. She is on a journey or a quest to save her brother's soul. The spindlers are the antagonists in the story because they are the opposing force in the story. It is clear from the reaction of each creature she meets that the spindlers are extremely dangerous foes. Do you think Liza can defeat them alone? 
How would you characterize Liza when she hears the word "guilty" declared by the judge? 

Chapter 10: The Nocturni

Nocturnal means done or occurring at night or pertaining to the night. The nocturni are creatures that appear to be shadows, are small, and resemble a cross between hummingbirds and butterflies. The chart below is of nocturnal animals. These animals are awake and foraging during the night, and they often frighten people because of their nightly activities. Based on the description of the nocturni, do you think they too are working and awake at night? What do you think they do? (This annotation contains an image)
One of the themes in the text is prejudice. Prejudice is defined as any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable. Liza enters Below with many preconceived ideas about how things should be, and after meeting Mirabella and discovering other creatures such as the lumpen, she is starting to learn that her beliefs are not reality. When Mirabella tells her about the nocturni and their jobs as "dream-bringers," she is shocked and awed. It then occurs to her that everyone, including her parents, dream. List three examples of Liza's prejudices and how they are disproven.  
Liza discovers that it is if she and her nocturna are one. The nocturna's wings and Liza's heartbeat beat as one, they communicate without speaking, and they are bound together for life. Reread the passage about the noctura's name. Why does the narrator use imagery to describe the noctura's name and not simply write it out? What does this reveal about the nocturni? 
Liza feels "reassured" by the nocturni's presence. How do the nocturne make Liza feel? 

Chapter 11: The Live Forest

Liza is drawn to the water because it is unlike anything she has ever seen. The water is filled with "voices, and high laughter, and the ringing of bells, and a woman... singing in a rich, warm voice that made her think of honey, and other golden things." Is the narrator using figurative language to describe the river, or is the river literally making those sounds?  
What do the stories Liza tells symbolize? 
At the edge of the forest, there are two signs: "The Live Forest" and "Enter at Your Own Risk." Liza and Mirabella see two paths: one well worn and well-lit and the other path is "just a bare space beaten into the dust between the dead-looking trees." This is an allusion to Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken." In the last stanza of the poem, the speaker says, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." Why would taking the less traveled road make a difference? Liza decides to take the less traveled path because the nocturni advise her to. Will it make a difference in saving Patrick's soul? (This annotation contains a link)
Liza is beginning to genuinely care about Mirabella. She is no longer just an annoying guide to the spindlers' nests. There is a bond of loyalty forming between them. As you continue to read, highlight examples of their growing bond. 
As Liza runs and avoids the tree snake attack, all the following characterize Liza except 
Please highlight and annotate this attack as part of the trials and tribulations Liza, the quester, must overcome. It is her loyalty to her brother that helps her overcome this life or death situation. 

Chapter 12: The Seeds of Hope

Liza believes that "it was strange how once you see a rat wearing clothes, it became slightly disgusting to imagine the animal naked." This is an example of  
Mirabella once again reminds Liza to "stop judging a book by its cover." When Liza inspects the seeds of hope, she sees how bright they are, but still has doubts. Mirabella tells her that the word "impossible" is "a human word and a very ugly one at that." At some point, Liza is going to need to believe that there is more to the world than what she thinks she knows.  
Mirabella tells Liza that the seeds of hope are small but "powerful enough to knock your socks off," and the seeds "can grow in the solidest dirt and the rockiest roads." What can you infer about hope based on Mirabella's description? 

Chapter 13: The Queen’s Spies, and the Way Across the Chasm

The moribats are like the flying monkeys in the movie version of Wizard of Oz. They are the lookout for the queen and strike fear into the creatures of Oz and in this case, Below. Similar to the nocturna, the moribats' cry is described using images rather than onomatopoeia. Why do you think the narrator choose to describe their cries this way? Below is a flying monkey from the television show Once Upon a Time. (This annotation contains an image)
As Liza and Mirabella reach the apex of the mountain, both the bushes of hope stop growing and the lumpen are few and glow faintly. What can you infer about the area near the spindlers' nests? 
Based on what you know about rats, do you think that Mirabella is telling the truth to the mole? Look back through your annotations of the previous chapters. Is there evidence that Mirabella cannot be trusted? 
In the exchange between the mole and Liza, Liza complains that the mole's riddle is not fair. It reminds her of Above: there were expectations and rules, and you were punished if you didn't know and follow them. The mole replies, "There is no such thing as fair. There is only the way things are." Do you think this is true? Or do you believe that there is a "right" and a "wrong"? As Liza continues on her journey, she will continue to question the "fairness" of others' actions.  
What effect do the seeds of hope have on the mole?  

Chapter 14: The Groaning Table

Based on what you know so far about the setting and how close Liza and Mirabella are to the spenders' nests, does laughter belong there? It doesn't make sense to Liza either, and as a reader, you should be wary to trust anything that seems too good to be true here. 
The three sisters sing and laugh to encourage Mirabella and Liza to sit and eat. Which fairy tale does this scene resemble? 
As Liza and Mirabella sit down to eat, they change. Liza realizes that she is feeling worse as they eat, and Mirabella behaves uncivilized and more animalistic as she eats. Something is effecting them, but they are not fully aware. In literature, characters sitting to eat together is an indicator that something important will happen or will be revealed. When people sit down for a meal in literature, ask yourself, "Are they getting along? Are they enemies? Is this meal served for a reason (ex: a celebration)? In this case, ask yourself why would these women be feeding Liza and Mirabella? Think about the setting, mood, and foreshadowing.  
In the previous chapter, Mirabella tells Liza to be grateful that the moribats are not scawgs. She warns Liza that scawgs can resemble anything, but they can never hide their tails, and they smell awful because they feast on dead flesh. This introduction of the scawgs is an example of  

Chapter 15: The River of Knowledge

Liza experiences many emotions on her journey. When she is captured by the scawgs, she is almost defeated because she cannot think of an immediate escape. This is in contrast to when Liza and Mirabella were captured by the nids and put on trial at the beginning of her quest. She was determined to fight for her freedom. Do you think she will continue to fight? 
The black-haired scawg stood at the front of the boat "cackling happily, like a child at the front of a roller coaster." This is an example of which literary device? 
Once again Liza cries, "That's not fair..." when the scawgs reason, "You feasted at our you must be the feast."  
Based on Liza's actions to save Mirabella as well as herself, which statement is true? 
The River of Knowledge is dangerous to all creatures except the nocturni. Think of examples of knowledge being dangerous? Can you know too much? 

Chapter 16: The Reward

The River of Knowledge is literally full of  
When Mirabella saves Liza, Liza is so grateful that she believes she sees Mirabella as a true friend. Mirabella, wet and naked, appears absolutely beautiful to Liza because Liza sees a loyal friend. Unfortunately it is also the moment when the reader and Liza realize Mirabella betrayed Liza. In a story this is called the climax or turning point. Simply defined, the climax is the point in the story where everything will change. All of the conflicts that developed in the rising action will now be resolved in the falling action. The diagram below will help you visualize the plot chart.  (This annotation contains an image)
When Liza realizes what has happened and she is betrayed by Mirabella, she turns to Mirabella and says, "I wanted to be your friend. I thought we were friends. Do you understand that?" Mirabella does not or cannot respond. Why? Use textual evidence to support your answer and one external reference (a book, short story, movie, television show) to help illustrate your answer. 
Chapters 9-16 

Chapter 17: The Queen of the Spindlers

At this point in Liza's journey she has been tested physically, mentally, and emotionally. After Mirabella's betrayal and Liza's capture, all hope seems lost. Upon entering the cavern of the spindlers, Liza is cowering with fear and is unsure of her fate. How do you think Liza will save herself and Patrick's soul? 
Liza is angered when the queen says, "The rat brought you here," and responds, "The rat tricked me." What does the queen mean when she replies, "A rat is a rat, and will always be a rat, and nothing but." 
The exchange between the queen and Liza is very important. First, the queen and Liza discuss belief and also prejudice. Remember prejudice is a theme in the story. Prejudice means to have a preconceived idea about something. The queen tells Liza that she should have known better than to trust a rat based on a common preconceived idea about rats. Second, the queen and Liza discuss fairness; this is a second theme in the story. Once again, Liza is told by a creature from Below that fairness is not based on right or wrong, but on "what you are prepared to take, and what you are prepared to give." This does not make sense to Liza, but she will do anything to retrieve Patrick's soul. Lastly, the queen and Liza discuss how Liza can win back Patrick's soul. Liza must trust the queen, even though she knows she shouldn't. Liza has already been betrayed once. Betrayal is a third theme in the story. In this case, Liza has come to expect betrayal, but once again she doesn't have any other option but to trust the queen will let her have Patrick's soul if she wins. 
Just before Liza begins her challenge from the queen to retrieve Patrick's soul, she feels the "weight" of the spindlers' "endless hunger." "She could feel it pulling at her like an underwater current from all sides." What does this simile mean? 

Chapter 18: The Choice

During the falling action, the conflicts in the story will be resolved. A resolution to a conflict does not always mean that there will be a happy ending. Liza will be tested physically, mentally, and emotionally again by the queen. This first room seems to be designed to test Liza physically, but things are not always as they see. 
Liza is trying to use ___________ rather than physical strength to overcome the first obstacle. 
Throughout the story, Liza finds peace of mind and focus when she thinks about her brother and Anna.  
The narrator builds ____________ through the use of sensory imagery. 

Chapter 19: The Hall of Mirrors

Mirrors in literature, as in life, are tricky: sometimes they reflect the truth and sometimes, like a funhouse mirror, they reflect a distorted image. The person peering into the mirror must be careful about what he or she chooses to see. 
How will Liza be able to tell which Patrick is the real Patrick? Reread the first chapter to help you answer this question. How did Liza know that Patrick's soul had been taken then? 
Liza knows which one is the real Patrick because he is the only one that cares about her well-being. This gives Liza a sense of hope and confidence. Her loyalty to her brother and his concern for her assists her to overcome the challenge. 

Chapter 20: The Final Test

Liza notices one significant difference in Anna's appearance: her eyes. What does this indicate to the reader? 
Once again in the story Liza is invited to sit down and have a meal with this family. Where have we read this before? What was the outcome? Don't forget the influence that the last mirage had on Liza: she almost forgot about the importance of her journey. 
All of the following entice Liza to sit down except 

Chapter 21: The Web

Liza is in awe of the Web of Souls, but she is also terrified by the sight of the web. In some ways, it is like the "poor unfortunate souls" in Disney's The Little Mermaid.  (This annotation contains an image)
Liza knew Patrick's soul without thinking. Why does the narrator not try to offer an explanation about this? 
It was established earlier in the text that Liza and her nocturni can communicate without speaking. Why does Liza scream "I can't leave him!" 
Mirabella returns to help Liza and to save her. This illustrates an important theme in the text: redemption. Any creature, even a rat, can redeem herself if her heart is true, and she believes in what she is doing. 
The effort to save the souls from the spindlers becomes a mission for all of the following creatures except 
Based on how Mirabella, the rats, Liza, the nocturni, and even the lumpen work to save the souls and the spindler and moribats work to destroy them, it is obvious that the souls are extremely precious and unique.  
When Mirabella comes back to help Liza, then helps to get her and the nocturni out of the spindlers' nests, and finally steps between Liza and the queen, she can be characterized as  
The queen calls Liza an "idiot" and tells her nothing in Above or Below is fair. Is the queen correct? What has Liza learned about what "fair" means? 

Chapter 22: The Return

Liza doesn't remember the end of her journey clearly, but she does remember her nocturna saying "It's okay, Liza. Go ahead and sleep. We'll take you up the river." In the end, Liza finally _________ some of the creatures from Below. 
For a moment, Liza doubts that her journey actually occurred. She was only gone one night, she could not find her father's glasses or Patrick's baseball, and she didn't remember how she got back into her bed. It is not until she finds the seeds of hope that she confirms it was all real.  
When Liza enters the kitchen and tells her other about nocturna and Patrick's reunion with his soul, her mother is about to cry tears of ___________, but when Liza hands her the seeds of hope and tells her "they grow everywhere" and "they're for you," she cries tears of ___________. 
When Liza returns from her journey, she achieved her stated purpose: to save Patrick's soul. But on a journey or quest, the quester takes the journey for a stated purpose and then another purpose becomes clear as well. Think about all of the things Liza has learned about herself and her family by going on her journey. 

Chapter 23: A Bit of Magic

What does the narrator mean when he describes Liza's feeling for Patrick as "as deep and layered and swirly as the River of Knowledge"? Be sure to use textual evidence to support your answer. (Hint: reread the passages about the River of Knowledge. How did it feel to be submerged in the River?) 
In the margin or on a separate piece of paper, write down all the lessons Liza learned from her journey. How do these lessons illustrate the themes in the text? 
Chapters 17-23