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Orchards Book Group Discussion Guide (323 KB)

Ten discussion questions for Orchards

Orchards, a novel in verse by Holly Thompson

After a classmate dies by suicide, Kana Goldberg—a half-Japanese, half-Jewish American—wonders who is responsible. She and her cliquey friends said some thoughtless things to the girl. Hoping that Kana will reflect on her behavior, her parents pack her off to her mother’s ancestral home in Japan for the summer. There Kana spends hours under the hot sun tending to her family’s mikan orange groves.

Kana’s mixed heritage makes it hard to fit in at first, especially under the critical eye of her traditional grandmother, who has never accepted Kana’s father. But as the summer unfolds, Kana gets to know her relatives, Japan, and village culture, and she begins to process the pain and guilt she feels about the tragedy back home. Then news about a friend sends her world spinning out of orbit all over again.

Holly Thompson’s dazzling novel in verse gives voice to the complex emotions of a girl whose anger, confusion, and regret transform into newfound compassion and a sense of purpose.

Published by Delacorte/Random House February 2011

2012 APALA Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature

A YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults title

A Bank Street 2012 Best Children's Books of the Year title

SCBWI 2012 Crystal Kite Winner

2012-2013 Isinglass Teen Read Award nominee

A 2011 Librarians' Choice: Poetry title

Shortlisted for a Red Dot Book Award 2011-2012

Shortlisted for a Sakura Medal Award 2012

*STARRED REVIEW* "The narrative is rich in authentic cultural detail and is complemented by attractive woodcut illustrations of Japanese imagery to evoke the story’s setting. Thompson has crafted an exquisite, thought-provoking story of grief and healing that will resonate with teen readers and give them much to discuss." --School Library Journal

"A fast-paced page-turner that explores the rippling effects of suicide." --Kirkus Reviews

"Eloquently captures a teenager's anger, guilt, and sorrow after a classmate takes her own life.... Understated yet potent verse." --Publishers Weekly

"Readers will want to talk about the big issues, especially the guilt of doing nothing." --Booklist

"Thompson expertly depicts the dualism in Kana.... Teens who enjoy learning about other cultures will relish Thompson's ability to evoke the sights, smells, an tastes of Japan, while poetry fans will enjoy the novel's unique format." --VOYA

"The impact of bullying, cruelty, and harsh words that cut deep are deftly woven into an eloquent novel that captures the essence of a teen surviving and coping with many forms of grief, loss, anger, hope, fear, blame, love, and regret. The verse lends itself to a quick, but powerful read; the novel is packed with events that keep readers turning the pages. Orchards is a novel that one wants to return to again after the last word. The contemporary issues that conflate teen relationships have universal significance for all teenagers, regardless of race or ethnicity." Worlds of Words

"Thompson’s sparse pages speak volumes, from Kana’s complicit guilt, to her forced-to-be-wise-attempts to understand (“as though / we’re dressed up / in oversized adult clothing”), to her astute, gorgeous response to help her friends and classmates to heal … and live. Thompson confronts every-parent’s-nightmare-come-true with breathtaking clarity; Orchards is both a wake-up call and a haunting elegy. It’s not easy to read, but it’s undoubtedly a must-read." --BookDragon

"A true achievement. Stunning storytelling wrapped in remarkable poetry. Beautiful." --Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank and Fallout

"The free verse format makes for a quick read that will pull in young readers and hopefully make some of them think about how they act and react with their classmates . . . . A must read for middle schoolers and those who work with them." --Sue Bradford Edwards


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