Barbara Green

Odd School Ties: Study Guide
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If you are using this book for a project, these questions may be useful.  As you may know, the point of the series is to use biblical plots—here the book of Jonah—for contemporary mystery-writing.  If you read carefully, you will have been given new points to ponder about the biblical book of Jonah.  And if I have done my job well, you will have had a solidly built story to read.

 

If you only need a few questions, try this first set.

 

Part One:

 

The crucial questions about the missing Jonah center around motivation.  For a short time, the matter seemed to be where he was, but soon enough, Brendan’s challenge is to figure out why the lawyer is acting as he does.  What do you think about that issue as you watch these two characters?

 

Do you think Brendan is going about the problem-solving in the best way, or would you advise him to try something different?  Explain.  As you are getting scraps of information, what do you most want to know, and why?

 

Part Two:

 

The issue here is to listen to Jonah explain where he was.  What do you make of his story?  Where would you press for more or different information?

 

What do you make of the frequent appearance of the woman and the dog?  Is there a connection you sense, or not?  What clues are you reading?

 

Part Three:

 

The shenanigans of Sam McChesney are becoming clearer and are likely quite relevant to the story Brendan is trying to piece together.  What do you know of Sam by the end of this part of the book?  What do you still seem to need to know?

 

Do you have the sense that this story is as much about character and motive as it is about details of plot?  Think about how that might be so, and why it would be important.

 

Part Four:

 

How is Brendan able to converge his information and move closer to what he is trying to explain?

 

As you watch the pieces of the story fall together, explain how it seems to depend on relationships among people, how the various players activate each other.  Which characters do you like best, and why?

If you want more study questions to manage as you read, try these:

 

Part One

 

1.  What are your first thoughts about the missing man as you hear him discussed, and what do you make of the woman who watches the meeting?

 

2.  How does her advisor help Kate Potter with the matter that is distracting and worrying her?

 

3.  As you watch a roomful of people meeting, do you learn anything more about Brendan that may be useful to you as you come to know him?  Explain.

 

4.  What strikes you as the most remarkable thing about the story Brendan relates to Charles about Jonah’s reappearance?

 

5. Have you seen the sort of puppet dolls that appear in this chapter?  Do you agree that they are at least potentially offensive to some?  Explain.

 

6.  Comment on the detective technique displayed by Brendan and Charles.  Can you think of anything that they appear to have forgotten?

 

7.-8.  Part of reading a series where characters reappear in successive books is to listen for backstories.  What do you learn about Brendan and Charles as you are coming to know them here?

 

9.  Review for yourself which of the characters we have met is in control of what information, and note as well who lacks what the others may know?  With whom are you, reading, positioned?

 

Part Two:

 

10.-11.  Brendan has been caught off-guard and must now make a plan.  Help him by deciding and advising him what he needs and how best to do it.  See if you can improve on the plan he makes here!

 

12.-13.  What do you still want to know that Brendan did not accomplish in his meeting with Jonah?  Does Charles have an angle to contribute that Brendan missed?

 

14.  Sarah is another character you will meet in other books.  What have you learned of her here, and how did you acquire the information?

 

15.  What is the most crucial piece of information Kate helps Brendan learn from the Potters?

 

16.  Do you sense that Jonah is trying to sidetrack Brendan and win his trust, or do you take Jonah at face value?

 

17.   Account for Brendan’s anger at what he learns from Tom Nagler in terms of both the story developing and the characterization of Brendan.

 

18.  If you have watched the film Driving Miss Daisy, see if you can figure out how it becomes a sort of clue to the plot you are in the midst of coping with.

 

Part Three:

 

19.  There are a lot of details to track here.  See if you can make a list of what is emerging as relevant as you hear Charles’ information for Brendan.

 

20.  Do you agree with Brendan that the identity of the mysterious woman is key?  Why or why not?  What do you want to know?

 

21.  You learn some crucial new information about Sam McChesney here.   What is it, and how does it seem to fit in?

 

22.  You may scarcely recall when it was not possible simply “to Google” but required considerable more skill and access to search engines.  But in any case, what does Brendan learn?  What do you learn about him, watching him take a day at St. Bernard’s?

 

23.  Back to motivation: How is it key here?

 

24.  As Brendan reorganizes the diverse pieces of information he has, make your own list as well.  How do your thoughts match up with his?

 

25.  What is the value of keeping a journal, do you think?

 

26.  Do you have the impression that the mysterious woman wants to be seen, is actually making herself known to Brendan when he might otherwise miss her?

 

Part Four:

 

27.  You probably sense that the name of the woman is important.  Can you make any sense of it, if you say it for its sound impression rather than taking it letter by letter?  What about the dog’s name: does that help you?

 

28.  What do you learn about Jonah from Brendan’s Internet trawl, as well as about Sam?

 

29.  Can you reread your clue about Miss Daisy and Hoke better than before?  Think “relationship,” in terms of why people, even if unlikely allies, help each other.

 

30.  What doe you expect will happen when the main characters in the story converge at St. Bernard’s?  What is the worst that can happen?  The best?

 

31.  Do you approve of Brendan’s strategy with Jonah, or not?  Why?

 

32.  What do you learn new at the monastery brunch table, and how does it help you?

 

33.  What’s left to unscramble?

 

34.  What does Jonah tell you that you haven’t known before?

 

35.  What does Ella finally fill in.  Do you have a better sense, now, of who she is in the story?  Explain.