Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Which of the characters in this book do you identify with most? Why? Which characters would you want to spend more time with?
2. A character from one story often reappears in another, as do objects such as the red-striped music box. How do the reappearances of characters and things affect your emotional response and add to the layers of meaning in both the original story and the stories in which the repetition appears?
3. Do you think the author is presenting an optimistic, pessimistic, or realistic view of the world? What specifi c parts of the stories lead you to feel as you do? For example, how do you interpret the last line of the book?
4. In the title story, Stella says “Mrs. Somebody Somebody was exactly who I wanted to be. The way some kids grow up knowing they want to be mayor, want to have their name in the book of history, I wanted to wear a white dress and a ring that said I was taken care of ” (page 17). Why do you think Stella cares so much about marriage? What do you think of the shape her life took?
5. Why do you think Charlie stays with Delia? How would you say he changes over the course of the book?
6. If Stella Lewis had ever had the chance to meet Augustus Wetherbee, do you think she would have liked him?
7. What do you think Augustus Wetherbee wants in “Glass Box”?
8. Who would you say is putting doll shoes in and around Kaylene’s car, and why?
9. Children in this book fi nd themselves in diffi cult situations. Franklin wakes to a dinner party in “Smoke.” Kaylene tries to keep track of Dawn’s money in “Another Way to Make Cleopatra Cry.” Izabel Tiago has trouble with a rooster in “Cantogallo,” and Helen makes a phone call in “Copper Leaves Waving.” Do you consider any of these children heroic?
10. What do you make of the language Kaylene uses to tell her story in “Another Way to Make Cleopatra Cry”? Is she simply a bratty kid with a lip on her?
11. Are the immigrants in “Cantogallo” different from those in “Mrs. Somebody Somebody”? How?
12. Though the stories are independent, there are several themes that link them all. What do you think those themes are?
13. Do you think these stories could have taken place anywhere other than Lowell? Other than the Northeast as a whole? Why?