THE WISH STEALERS TEACHER GUIDE
Ask students what they would wish for…
Make a classroom wishing well—decorate a large box with every class member’s name on it. Attach two sticks on either side and fold a large piece of sturdy cardboard in half to make the top of the well. On one side write, “My Wishes for the World.” Have students write down their wishes on beautiful, colored paper. Fold each wish and seal shut with a shooting star sticker. On blue or green paper have students write their wishes for the world. Once a week remove one wish out of the well to read to the class. Discuss how they all could help make the wish come true. Visit www.worldwishproject.com for ideas.
Research some ways people around the world make wishes:
- In America some people believe a wish will be granted when you lose an eyelash, a ladybug lands on you, or you see a shooting star.
- In Japan, children make wishes on July 7th the Star Festival, by writing them down on colored paper and attach them to bamboo.
- In South Africa, the Zulus believe if you spot a striped weasel, you should make a wish quickly and it will come true.
- In India children wish on the lapis eye of a peacock feather.
- Ask students what they think a WISH STEALER is?
- Ask students what they think a WISH GIVER is?
Write a story from a penny’s perspective—where has it traveled? Whose pocket has it been in? Has it traveled overseas, been tossed around in a gutter, or made a wish come true?
Griffin loves funny word combinations like jumbo shrimp—how can a tiny shrimp be jumbo? These types of contradictory word combinations are called oxymorons. What are some other oxymorons students can think of?
Griffin says she likes “certain things a certain way.” She likes peanut butter on her brownies, hates wearing turtlenecks, and insists her mom buys cool mint toothpaste. How can what a person likes or dislikes reveal character?
What things do you like a certain way? Can you list three?
Dr. Penshine has a huge collection of inspirational T-shirts. One of her favorite shirts says, “Save the Earth!” Have your class design a collection of T-shirts to wear on Earth Day (April 22). Have students think up sayings to inspire people to treat the Earth well. Purchase white shirts (prewash so they don’t shrink!), put cardboard squares inside them, and lay flat. Let students paint with waterproof paint and glitter paint.
Griffin keeps her secret Mysterium Collection Box under her bed. Inside she keeps: “Two eagle feathers passed down by her great-grandfather before they become illegal to keep, half of a heart from her best-friend-forever necklace she share with Libby Barrett, an old lace valentine her grandma made as a girl, and three smooth, lucky stones.”
What would you keep in your own Mysterium Collection Box if you had one? Why?
Griffin’s grandma gives her three lucky stones: amethyst, tiger eye, and moon stone. Different stones not only have different colors and shapes, but also are believed to have different properties. Research some stones and their qualities (and even stories about their powers) and share with the class. Art project: make a small stone coaster.
Why do you think Griffin accepted Mariah’s “gift”? Do you think you would have accepted the gift or declined it?
Print out a photo of an Indian Head penny. How is it different than a regular penny?
“Penny, penny bring me luck, all day long you’ll have good luck.” Make “lucky penny cards” for people…glue a penny on a folded piece of construction paper. Title the card, “A Lucky penny card for you!” On the inside have each student write a note to the person they want to give this special card to. Make sure the students include why they want to give this person a lucky penny.
Predict: Do you think the penny that Mariah gave Griffin will be lucky or unlucky?
Griffin makes seven wishes. Do you think she made wise wishes? Why or why not?
Research when and why tornados form. What happens when a tornado warning is issued? (The sky does turn a greenish hue, sirens do go off in some towns, and people take cover in their basements.)
Research what you should do when it is lightning outside. Talking on the phone and using running water are very dangerous during a lightning storm.
Griffin pulls out 10 pennies from Mariah’s box. “No homework,” “most beautiful,” “a baby,” “a dad,” “change the world,” “popular,” “success,” “STOP,” “world peace,” and “a puppy.” Have students pick one penny to write a story about. Would you wish for no homework and why? Who wanted a puppy and why? Did the wish “most beautiful” refer to personal beauty or maybe the wish to create the most beautiful painting? Let students go wild with creativity for each” back-story” for these penny wishes.
Do you think it is wrong to steal people’s wishes? Why?
Mariah writes, “Like my father told me when I was a young girl—I wasn’t going to amount to much so I should just stop dreaming and wishing and filling my head with silly thoughts.” Is it silly to dream or make wishes?
Who are some famous people in history who dreamed something that seemed silly at the time but now is widely accepted?
Predict: What do you think Griffin will do with the box of wishes?
Griffin’s dad said, “…Dadesville has never experienced such erratic weather in the last 92 years.” What does erratic mean?
What is a coincidence?
What are some of the things you do to get ready for school?
“Lately her mom cried over Hallmark card commercials, a dead goldfish, and every time someone mentioned that the planet Pluto had gotten demoted.” Why did the planet Pluto get demoted?
Predict: what do you think Mariah plans to do next?
Libby loves the famous artist Frieda Kahlo and wants to be a famous artist one day. Do you have any favorite artists? Why?
Examine some of Kahlo’s work (note: some are scary or inappropriate for young children). What do you like about her style? What messages does she convey in a certain piece?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Griffin is very proud of the sneakers she painted herself. What are you proud of?
What do you think the key Mariah gave Griffin opens?
Why do you think the girl with long dark hair took Griffin’s seat?
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds is from a Shakespearean sonnet. Just like the students in Griffin’s class, write what you think this phrase means.
“To the Stars Through Difficulty” is the real state motto for the state of Kansas. How can that motto apply to a new school year?
Do you think it is a coincidence that two of Griffin’s wishes have disappeared?
Predict: Do you think Mariah will take back her box of stolen wishes?
What do you think the Robert Frost quote means, “The best way out is always through”?
Predict: What do you think Griffin will do now?
Griffin’s grandma always tells her, “To have a friend you must be a friend.” Can you explain ways you can be a friend to someone?
Do you think it is Griffin’s fault that the students have to participate in the Science fair?
Would you wish for no homework? Why or why not? Would you rather have no homework, but one giant project like Griffin’s class, or just a little homework every day?
Do you think Griffin should tell her dad about the curse in spite of Mariah’s warning?
Do you think Kristina’s mom said the right thing to her? How else might she have answered Kristina’s request to take ballet lessons? Rewrite the dialogue in the scene as if Kristina’s mom were a WISH GIVER?
Why do you think Samantha is so mean? Could there be a reason?
Take a field trip to a local planetarium and look for the constellations that Griffin loves: the Pleiades, Betelgeuse, Sirius, Pegasus, Orion’s Belt, Ursa Major, Hercules, and Cygnus. Research some of the stories behind the constellations names. Where did the name Orion’s Belt come from? Who was Hercules? Read some of the wonderful myths retold in D’Aularies Book of Greek Myths.
Griffin’s grandma says she had great success every time her garden bloomed in the spring. What do you think success means? Who or what is a success to you?
Do you think Griffin can return the wishes?
Garret says there are some amazing girl rock stars: Janis Joplin, Michelle Shocked, and Tina Weymouth. Plays some of their music for the kids and let them write a journal about what the music inspired or made them think about…Talk about how sound can be a great inspiration for writers…
Do you think it was a good idea that Griffin gave Kristina the “most beautiful” penny? Do you think it will work?
Why is it not kind to invite people to a birthday party in front of those who haven’t been invited? How might this make someone feel?
What topic do you think Garrett and Griffin should choose for their science topic? Why? Do you think they will be good partners together?
What does the quote mean, “Make a wish together and change the world?” What wish could your classroom make that would make a difference in someone’s life? See www.worldwishproject.com
Read some other books on alchemy—like The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott.
Would you want a magic mirror that could see the future? Why or why not?
What ordinary things can you turn into extraordinary things?
The street musician plays a haunting, melancholy song. What does melancholy mean?
Why does the street musician feel like a failure?
Garret said he “bailed” on band practice. Why do you think he and his friends didn’t rehearse?
Why was it a bad idea for Garrett to walk home alone in the dark?
Griffin orders a veggie burger at Friendly Restaurant. She is a vegetarian and wished in the first chapter that all vegetables had cool names like bok choy, alfalfa, and parsnip. Can you rename some vegetables with cooler names? Have a vegetable party in class to celebrate!
“Hurly-burly” means lots of confusion. What are some other words you can find that also mean lots of confusion?
Pennies for the Planet is a real charity. Go to www.penniesfortheplanet.org and see how you can get involved.
Mark Twain said, “True courage is not the lack of fear, but facing fear.” What do you think that means? Can you recall a time when you were filled with courage?
Griffin and Libby are going to the art store to pick out paints for their art lesson with Grandma Penshine. One of the paints has a French name, “Triste Blue.” “Triste” is an old French word for sad. Are there French words we use in our vocabulary every day that you can think of? Chez? Chic? Bon Appétit!
Griffin and Libby are going to Granma Penshine’s to learn about Venetian painters. Show students some of Titian and Giorgione’s great paintings.
The group of insensitive girls splatter paint all over Griffin’s prized sneakers. Griffin wishes horrible things on Samantha party. What would you do if someone ruined your favorite pair of sneakers?
Do you think Griffin succeeds in casting a wish of “powerful trouble” ?
Grandma Penshine calls flowers, “A sunrise in a vase!” Bring in a bouquet of beautiful flowers in a vase. Have students paint what they see or what their “sunrise” inspires…
Why are Griffin’s eyes turning yellow?
Griffin asks her grandma if she has ever wished horrible things on people when she got “boiling mad.” Grandma Penshine replies, “I can’t say that I haven’t wanted to when I got boiling mad, but no, I never did. Wishing horrible things, doing horrible things, saying horrible things—it all twists into your face, making it droop with cruel words and then pinching it up tight. Treat yourself with respect and ignore people who don’t treat you with dignity.” Do you think this is good advice?
Have you ever met a WISH STEALER in your life? If so what happened? Why do you think someone might not encourage your wishes?
Grandma Penshine says, “Wishes are a bit like snowflakes: powerful and fragile at the same time. They can melt at any minute but are magnificent just the same. They are filled with nature’s most fierce and wild power. That’s what’s in a wish, a fierce and wild power.” Using white construction paper, write your wishes on the paper and turn them into beautiful snowflakes. Display them around the classroom or hang your “snowflake wishes” from the ceiling.
What do you think the quote means, “Nothing happens unless first a dream.”
Read Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech or play it on a CD. Let the students listen to it. Talk about how many top athletes visualize their performance or a game before playing.
Griffin says so much in her life needs changing—including herself. What does Griffin need to work on in herself?
Samantha taunts Griffin and says she is going to bomb on her science project. Griffin walks away. What are some ways kids can deal with bullies? Why do people bully others? What could be going on in a bully’s life to make them treat others this way? What are some strategies to deal with bullies in school?
What is a numismatist?
A numismatist loves coins and collects them. What are other names of collectors—what are they called? What are your hidden hobbies? Have a coin collector come into a classroom and share some old coins and talk about their origin.
Is Mr. Blackwell a WISH STEALER? How? What could he have said to Garrett and Griffin instead? Rewrite the dialogue in the scene to show how a WISH GIVER might act instead.
Predict: who do you think the boy with the goofy grin in the back of the room is?
Mark Twain: “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
Activity: Have students pick one of Mark Twain’s quotes and explain why they like it and what it means to them.
Basil Valentine and Nicholas Flamel were some of the most famous ancient alchemists. True alchemists believed that the real gold was spiritual gold, deep inside them. True alchemy was less about turning lead into the precious metal gold, and more about being the most kind, evolved person one could possibly become.
Inside the box that Mr. Schmidt delivers to Griffin are four things. A Topeka inn register guest book, a large blood red garnet ring, a skein of old gray yarn, and the black obsidian disc from Mr. Schmidt’s shop. Why do you think Mariah gave these strange gifts to Griffin? Why do you think Mariah collected this odd assortment of objects and what did she use them for?
Have students pick one of the four objects to write a creepy mystery story about what the ancient yarn, the blood-red ring, the old cracked leather guest book, and black obsidian polished were used for…
When Dr. Penshine overhears Griffin shouting “Puppy” she asks why she is shouting this? Griffin answers, “I just had an idea about a puppy for a project. That’s all.”
Should Griffin have told her mom the whole truth?
Why do you think Dr. Penshine named her three telescopes, “Galileo, Sir Isaac, and Copernicus” ?
Have your students research who these three scientists were and what they contributed to the world.
Griffin comments that her mom knows all 88 constellations in the sky. Have your student research a few constellations and how they got their names. Many constellations derive their names from Greek myths. Have your student read a few short myths from the book, D’Aularies Book of Greek Myths.
Griffin learned that a burin is used to engrave on copper. With an art teacher, have students design images on a thin sheet of copper—or have them design their own coins or family crest on colored paper.
The nursery rhyme “Starlight, starbight, first star I see tonight, wish I may wish I might have the wish I wish tonight,” has been popular since the late 1800’s. Bring in a photo of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, and have students create a new nursery rhyme, or draw a picture of wishing stars, and shooting stars. Play the Don Mclean song “Vincent” for inspiration.
Garrett calls Griffin a “Wish Stealer” and refuses to work with her at the library. Is this fair? Why or why not?
Griffin’s mom says, “It seems like a duck is just gliding along like magic. But do you know that underwater it’s kicking and paddling, moving its little webbed feet so fast, working hard to move through that water.” What things in your life or in someone else’s life look easy on the surface–but underneath a lot of “kicking and paddling” is going on?
Dr. Penshine says, “There are always a couple ways to solve a problem.”
What does she mean by that? How do you like to solve problems? What are some ways you would recommend solving a problem?
Work with students about problem solving techniques.
In the newspaper article from the Nome Nugget it reads, “Looks like this former LANDLUBBER from Topeka, Kansas, has really learned to fish in the rough waters of Alaska.” What does the word “Landlubber” mean?
The large town clock drowns out the street musicians Tchaikovsky violin concerto. Play this for your class or the Paganini Etudes. Have students write in a journal what it made them think about or imagine.
Introduce how the five senses often provides inspiration for writers.
SIGHT: Bring in an odd assortment of funny or interesting photos or magazine advertisements with no words and have students write a journal entry.
TOUCH: Have students come up to the front of the class a reach inside a paper bag without looking. Inside the bags, place some frozen grapes, or bumpy autumn gourds and have students write about what they felt and what ideas popped in their head from “Touch.”
Griffin gives the street musician a “success” penny. The musician says, “To make a living doing what I love would be the greatest success to me.”
What is your definition of success? Cut out some pictures of people who you think are successful and write a paragraph about why you have chosen them.
A quote at the end of the chapter is by Eleanor Roosevelt. She said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Have students read a short book about her life and the contributions she made to the world.
Griffin said, “If her mom found out she was sending letters to strangers, she’d really get in trouble.” Introduce a lesson on safety and safe uses of technology. Have a policeman or policewoman come into the class and give a lecture on safety tips with strangers.
Griffin wonders if she is destined to become just like Mariah—a Wish Stealer.
Predict: Do you think that will happen? Why or why not?
Why do you think people become Wish Stealers in life?
David Hunt says to Griffin, “If I don’t finish my stupid science project, I’m going to fail because of your no homework idea.” Is it fair to blame Griffin?
In Griffin’s science class each student is assigned a famous scientist to do an oral report on. As a science enrichment activity, have each student chose a scientist to do an oral report on as well. Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, etc…
When Marie Curie discovered radium she said it had “spontaneous luminosity.” Research some ways that radium is used today.
Griffin finds a note on her locker that reads, “NOT INVITED.” How does that make her feel? Introduce a lesson on feelings and emotions. Invite a school counselor to come in and talk with students about ways to deal with difficult feelings.
Griffin hears beautiful harp music coming from the music center. Play harp music for the kids or have a harpist visit the class and give a demonstration.
Aurora, the harpist, has aquamarine eyes. What color is aquamarine?
Her guitar teacher leaves the door “ajar.” What does this word mean?
“The aroma of hot chicken soup tantalized Griffin as she trudged through the front door.” What does aroma, tantalized, and trudged mean? Find similes for all three words too.
Griffin is comforted with a bowl of chicken soup. If appropriate, eat lunch together and serve chicken soup. Add some star-shaped noodles and read a chapter aloud.
Dr. Penshine tells Griffin that Draco is lit up that night. Draw a picture of Draco. Do a “constellation art project” on black construction paper with q-tips connecting the star formations.
Garrett and Griffin want to start at fundraiser to help raise money to help our environment. Are there charities that you could become involved with? Visit the website: www.worldwishproject.com and see what other students are doing around the world to make wishes come true for others.
At the end of the chapter a quote reads, “True beauty is a light from within.” Write what you think this quote means.
The students in the library research interesting science projects. Ask students what science projects they would want to know more about. Assign each student a project or chose one as a class to investigate.
Dr. Penshine cooks a turkey with a wishbone to celebrate Garrett’s successful drum audition. Make some wishbones out of plaster or construction paper and hang them from the ceiling with wishes attached.
Garret made a wish on the wishbone, but he wouldn’t tell anybody what he wished for. What do you think he wished for and why?
Read the myth of Cassiopeia to the class. Then have the students write a new version where Andromeda saves herself without Perseus’s help.
What does the phrase mean, “Shoot for the moon” mean? What do you want to shoot for the moon about?
Grandma Penshine says “We can’t dishearten other artists…” What does dishearten mean?
Grandma Penshine planned to teach Griffin and Libby about the Venetian painter Giorgione from the fifteenth century. Bring in photos of some of Giorgione’s most famous works. Incorporate an art lesson about light and color.
Grandma Penshine says, “Personally I think I know Giorgione’s secret. I think he took someone of those beautiful clouds he painted and stuffed them right inside his ears. Then he couldn’t listen to all the doubters who told him his stuff was too strange.”
Draw a picture of someone who has stuffed his or her ears with clouds. Write in cartoon bubbles all around him or her the negative or “WISH STELAER” phrases that he or she has heard. Underneath the negative phrases, have students write a positive phrase that is encouraging instead.
Sticking out of her grandmother’s bureau is a skein of yarn that looks just like the one Mariah gave to Griffin. Why did you think Grandma Penshine has the exact same yarn?
“STOP,” “Popular,” “World Peace,” and the unlabeled penny were left for Griffin to return. Who do you think made these wishes and why? What do you think the “STOP” penny is about? “Popular”? And what is the unlabeled penny about? Write a short story about each penny.
Grandma Penshine tells Griffin a story about how she once “jingled bells at the crows” to help keep it alive. Read her answer to Griffin aloud and talk about times when it is a good idea/or not a good idea to help others. Is it a good thing to give homeless people on the streets money? How else can we help them?
Mrs. Davis says, “There’s no place like Nome.” Find a map and locate Nome, Alaska. Bring in photos of Nome, Alaska, to show where Garrett’s dad lives.
At the end of a chapter a quote by Samuel Johnson reads, “To keep your secret is wisdom; but to expect others to keep it is folly.” Do you think Mrs. Davis will keep Griffin’s secret? Why or why not?
Garrett is so angry at Griffin for writing to his dad. “Garrett was an erupting volcano.” Clearly Garrett is a boy, not a volcano. This is a metaphor. Have the students do a lesson on metaphors and make up some of their own. Use Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones book and her lesson on metaphors and similes. (That lesson is appropriate for children, while some other lessons in the book are only for adults.)
The popular penny. Griffin asks her dad if he would ever wish to be popular. He says, “I’m sure a lot of people would like to be popular. It can make things easier or more pleasant, but popularity changes, grows, or can even get silly. The more honest and kind you are, the more the right kind of popularity comes to you.”
The quote at the end of the chapter reads, “Popularity? It’s glory’s small change.” –Victor Hugo.
Have students write about what popularity means to them.
Samantha and her friend are being very cruel to Griffin. But Griffin reminds herself of something her grandmother said to her. “Treat yourself with respect and ignore people who don’t treat you with dignity.”
What are ways you can treat yourself with respect?
What are some ways you can treat others with dignity?
Griffin says that Samantha is a bully. How do bullies treat others? Bring in a school psychologist to give a lecture on bullies and strategies to stop this behavior.
Why did Samantha’s mom say, “I’m so embarrassed.” How do you think this made Samantha feel?
Why do you think Garrett’s dad decided to come to see Garrett perform at Science night? Can adults make mistakes? Should Garrett forgive his dad?
At the end of the chapter the quote reads, “If you don’t risk anything you risk everything.” What does that quote mean to you? Do you think Griffin will be able to play the music in the band or will she mess up?
Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” What are some ways you and your students can change the world? Visit www.worldwishproject.com
In the story, The Kansas Tribune newspaper calls the school and wanted to do a huge front-page article about how young students can help our planet. Have your students write a letter or an editorial to the local newspaper about how they want to make changes.
The quote at the end of this chapter reads, “No dreamer is ever too small; no dream is ever too big.” What are some dreams of the younger students in your school that older students can help come true?
Start a big brother/big sister day and pair up students for a day, a week, a month etc. Create scaffolding learning where the older kids mentor the younger kids.
In this chapter Griffin and Garrett visit the pound and rescue two puppies. Invite a representative from the Humane Society to come in and talk about rescuing animals, animal control, and maybe even bring in some animals to share with the kids.
Garrett and Griffin visit a nursing home and bring Florence a puppy as a present.
Take a school visit to a local nursing home and have the students drop off cards or artwork to give to the elderly residents.
Many students may have younger brothers or sisters. Have them write about the experience of becoming an older sibling. How did it make them feel? What is the best and worst part about it? Have them write a letter of life advice to a younger sibling and mail it to him or her.
The quote at the end of the chapter reads, “A good parent is the greatest treasure.” Write your parents or guardians a note and tell them what you most appreciate about them.
Why do you think Grandma Penshine called Griffin a “Wish Giver” ?
Predict: What do you think will happen to Grandma Penshine?
Griffin finds four things in her grandmother’s box: a blue sapphire ring, a skein of old yarn, a large flat white stone, and one super shiny Indian Head penny.
In this chapter it is revealed what the “STOP” penny was all about. Did the answer surprise you? What did you originally think the STOP penny was all about?
Grandma Penshine says, “I only believe in love, handwork, and a little bit of magic.” Ask students what three things they believe in. Make a collage or poster that represents their beliefs.
In this chapter Grandma Penshine reveals that her ring and Mariah’s were once part of the same ring, an antique from England. Write a story from the ring’s perspective. How did it journey from England to Kansas? Did it like being split in two? What was it like to be worn on Mariah’s hand? What was it like to be worn on Grandma Penshine’s hand?
Write a story about the magic yarn. Did it work for somebody? Did somebody cut it and have a short life?
Bring in an orchid and have the students write an essay how such a beautiful flower blooms best in jagged rock and bark. Can they use this as a metaphor to show how ugly things can be used to create extraordinary beauty?
Granma Penshine says the best wish of all is “A long healthy life full of love. If you’ve got that you’ve got everything.” Do you agree with Granma Penshine? Is that the best wish of all?
Why did you think Mrs. Gideon gave Griffin the Sonnet XCIV? “They that have the power to hurt and will do none…and temptation slow…they are lords and owners of their faces.” Did Griffin have the power to hurt others?
In Griffin’s speech she says, “…it is important to do little things that add up to big things, like planting a tree every year, not littering, or taking the time to campaign against something you believe is hurting our environment.” What little things can you do that add up to big things to help protect the environment? Can you carry your own water bottle that you refill, carry your own bag for groceries?
E pluribus unum out of many one…trace the letters with tracing paper and a pencil on a penny…create a giant penny for you classroom door—write “e pluribus unum” on it. Have each student bring in photos of him or herself as they form a community that comes together to change the world!
The final penny Griffin throws into the fountain reads, “world peace.” It arced in the sky, sparkling like the most brilliant beacon…ask your students how they can be a beacon for world peace…
The book ends with a quote from Gandhi that reads, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Ask your students what that means and how they can be the CHANGE they wish to see in the world.