Reading Guide Questions
Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
About the Book
Ida B savors life and creates her own pleasure -- playing in the brook,
climbing trees, planning her days and nights, inventing time-saving devices, and
walking her floppy eared dog Rufus, who slobbers to high heaven. What she
doesn't understand is why her mama develops cancer, or why her daddy reluctantly
decides to sell some of their land, or why she has to go to public school
instead of being home-schooled. Ida B doesn't like the changes, and before she
is finally able to accept what she can't change, she has to learn some of life's
most difficult lessons.
- On two occasions Ida B says to her daddy, "I think the earth takes
care of us" (pages 32, 244). What does Ida B mean by this statement?
- One of Ida B's beliefs is that "good plans are the best way to
maximize fun, avoid disaster, and possibly, save the world" (page 38).
What situations in the book illustrate that she acts on this belief? Does
her planning achieve the goals she expects? Why or why not?
- After attending public school kindergarten for one day, Ida B tells her
mama that kindergarten has "Too many rules and not enough time for
fun" (page 50). And she describes school as "that particular Place
of Slow but Sure Body-Cramping, Mind-Numbing, Fun-Killing Torture"
(page 58). How does Ida B's attitude toward school make it difficult for her
to be herself when she goes back to public school four years later?
- Ida B is convinced that the trees, the brook, and the stars listen to her
and respond to her questionsand even call to her when she doesn't visit
them. How does her belief about nature affect her actions? How does it
sustain her during difficult times?
- When Ida B's mama develops cancer, trouble and sadness infect Ida B's
house and life. How do those changes affect Ida B? What does she do to
adjust to the changes?
- When Ida B's daddy sells off part of their land and forces her to go back
to public school, Ida B quits talking to her parents and shuts herself up.
Why does she respond with such uncharacteristic hostility? Is she justified
in her actions?
- Growing frustrated with her attitude, Ida B's daddy yells at her several
times, which is out of character for him. Why does he react this way? Is he
- Accepting the fact that she must obey her father, Ida B makes a vow to
herself and (secretly) to him. She thinks, "All right, Daddy . . . I'll
do what you say. I'll go back to Ernest B. Lawson Elementary School. But I
won't like it. I won't like the people who buy the land, and I won't like my
teacher, or the kids in my class, or the ride on the bus. And I won't like
you or Mama, either" (page 88). Does Ida B keep her vow? Who is hurt
most by this vow? Why?
- Ida B's teacher, Ms. Washington, wisely doesn't push Ida B to make friends
or join the games at recess. How does she finally break through to Ida B's
- Ida B helps Ronnie learn his multiplication tables and they "sort
of" become friends, even though she won't talk to him in public if they
aren't working on math. Does her relationship with Ronnie help open the door
to other friendships?
- Ida B is relentless in her determination to run the new people off her
land. What does she try to do to scare them off? Is she successful? Why or
- What specific event shows Ida B that she needs to make a change in her
attitude and behavior? Are her "how to" plans successful? Why or
- What do you think Ida B means when she says "Apologizing is like
spring-cleaning" (page 222)?
- After Ida B makes her rounds and apologizes to all those she had hurt by
being mean, her attitude changes. Do Ida B's actions change as a result of
her softer heart?
- Ida B finally understands that the "land and the mountain and the
trees and the stars . . . weren't mine at all, and never would be. But in
some ways they'd always belong to me, and I couldn't imagine not belonging
to them" (page 245). How would you explain what Ida B means by that?
Page numbers refer to the hardcover edition and may different in the
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of HarperTrophy.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.