in the skin of a lion novel questions and creating a readers companion guide 1

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PART 1 :

Answer these three questions about ‘In the skin of a lion’ novel:

1 – Write about the title of the novel. What epic text does this reference? What power does the skin of a lion give? Why do you think Ondaatje chose this title? (Note that in his CBC interview, he speaks about the title.)
**Note: A complete answer would identify the epic text, and the power that the skin of a lion gives, and the answer would identify where it comes into the novel and therefore why Ondaatje has chosen it as the title.

2- This novel discusses many ideas, one being that the City of Toronto’s most recognizable landmarks were built on the backs of voiceless, faceless immigrants. Explain how this novel gives a face and voice to those men and women.
**Note: A complete answer will identify the landmarks discussed in the novel, their impact on the city then and now, the off-the-record history of the events that surrounded the construction of those landmarks, and the disparity in history’s acknowledgement of the men who built it versus the men who designed it.

3- A motif in English literature is a recurrent image, idea, or theme. An author may use an object, a color, or an emotion as a motif to enhance the story he is trying to tell. For example, Ondaatje uses moths, explosions, labour, light, and water as recurring motifs. What do they mean? Choose one of these recurring motifs and analyze how it is used in the novel.
**Note: A complete answer would identify the motif, quote a few places where it is used in the text, and explain how it enriches the narrative – does it add to the overall theme or mood of the novel?

5 items to include in the readers guide

1- A vocabulary activity for the reader:
You are going to create a vocabulary activity as part of your Reader’s Guide to your novel. To begin with go through the novel and find 15-20 words or phrases that are specific to the particular time and place in which the novel happens. It could be slang or jargon, or even words from another language. For example, in In the Skin of a Lion there is a focus on language bringing people together. Once Patrick discovers gooshter, the Macedonian word for iguana, the people that work in the fruit stalls finally understand him and his requests for its odd food (clover and vetch). They get to know him better and he is invited into the community. You want to think about categories the words and phrases fall into and how they impact your understanding of the novel. Do you need to know all of these terms in order to understand the text, or does the context give way to the meaning? What would be the most effective way for your reader to understand the vocabulary in the novel? How can you guide them into understanding the impact of language in the novel?

  1. Create a word or phrase list from the novel.
  2. Define the word or phrase in the context of the novel.
  3. Create a crossword puzzle of clues and the correct version of the crossword puzzle. Alternatively, you may instead create a list of definitions (without the words) and ask the reader to match the word or phrase to its definition.

2- A new cover design for the book
Sketch it or use your own photograph of a person, place, or object to create it.
Your alternative book cover must have:

  • Evidence of the setting (time and place)
  • A visual clue to the characters
  • The real title of the novel
  • The real author’s correctly spelled name
    (If you have sketched it, take a scan or photo of the sketch and put it on a separate document).

3- A short list of non-fiction articles
Search the archives of newspapers online to find newspaper articles created during the same time period as your novel. Consider the city where or nearest to where your novel is set. Search on newspapers from the 1930s for that city. Analyze what you find online and choose three articles to include as part of your Reader’s Guide. Be selective of the texts you choose. This is not just about finding articles from newspapers in the 1930s. Use your critical thinking skills to evaluate the articles you find. How do they relate to the novel? How would they help the reader have a stronger understanding of the text? Save the URL of each article and the key words that you used to find the article.

4- A short list of concurrent fiction
Do the same as the step 3 but find 3 concurrent fiction articles instead.

5- A letter to the reader/evaluator
Compose a letter to the evaluator of your Reader’s Guide. In the letter, include one short paragraph that provides answers to each of the following questions.Provide details that explain the vocabulary activity you have created for readers of the novel. How does your activity assist readers with comprehending complex or unfamiliar language in the novel?

  1. How does your cover design create interest and insight into the novel?
  2. Make a text-to-text connection for the non-fiction texts you have chosen to include in your guide. In other words, why did you choose your four examples?
  3. How can fiction be used as a primary source? How can it be helpful in understanding the society at the time?
  4. Which of the five activities in this lesson did you find the most challenging to complete? Why?
  5. Which item in your Reader’s Guide do you think will be most helpful for readers of the novel? Explain.

    ** No plagiarism **

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