Reading guide for The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones

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The Emperor of Any Place

by Tim Wynne-Jones

The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones X
The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2015, 336 pages
    Mar 2017, 336 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide will contain spoilers!

  1. Describe Evan as a character, including his life before his father died. How does he cope with his grief and anger? How does he change in the course of the story? Speculate on what you think his future will be like.
  2. Evan's father, Clifford, appears in two flashbacks, but otherwise his character as an adult is revealed through Evan, neighbors, and friends. Discuss Clifford and what he means to those people, especially Evan.
  3. Evan describes the boat in a bottle as a "ship that wasn't going anywhere" and adds fondly, "Just like my dad" (page 12). Later he calls it "making a toy out of what had been an instrument of war" (page 282). What do these ships reveal about Clifford? Discuss why Clifford sent one to Griff, why Griff sent it back, and why Evan buries it with his father's ashes.
  4. Griff and Clifford had a complicated relationship, especially when Clifford was younger. Talk about their views of each other and why they parted ways, taking into account Griff 's revelation near the end about his marriage.
  5. Isamu also comments on his father, who was harsh to him, and grandfather, who taught him about stories. Analyze his relationship with those two men and the effect it had on his sense of himself. Compare the relationships to those of Evan, Clifford, and Griff.
  6. In the prologue to Isamu's book, Derwood calls it "a remarkable love story," referring to Isamu and Hisako (page 28). Discuss whether or not you agree and why. Find places where Isamu speaks to Hisako directly and talk about what it shows about their relationship. What is Hisako like? How does writing to her help Isamu?
  7. When Isamu first encounters the ghost children, he thinks they will protect him from the other ghosts. Discuss who the ghost children are, what they do, and how they affect Isamu, Derwood, Griff, and Evan. How do they give Isamu hope? When Evan experiences being a ghost child on the island, what does he see?
  8. The jikininki are much more frightening than the ghost children. What do they want? How do they try to get it? Describe some of the scenes in which Isamu deals with and talks with the jikininki. Discuss whether or not you think they are evil, citing evidence in the text.
  9. Near the end of the book, Evan sees Griff as wearing a mask, which he also calls armor, that is slowly flaking off. Analyze the meaning of this metaphor and whether you find it effective. How does it tie in with the bunraku puppet show Isamu seems to see?
  10. After he starts to burn the bodies that wash up on the island, Isamu says, "And so I set myself up as the island's undertaker" (page 61). Why does he do it? What role do the dog tags he saves play later? Discuss what these actions show about him. How does the trap for Tengu relate to the burials?
  11. Isamu first sees Tengu — "a monstrous thing, larger than a demon bear" (page 136) — when it attacks Derwood. He believes Derwood has brought it somehow. Describe Tengu and its role in the story for Isamu, Derwood, and Griff. Discuss it as a real creature and as a metaphor. Why does Isamu eventually think Tengu is his "master" (page 231)?
  12. Just before Derwood leaves the island, Isamu thinks, "I have ceased really to think of the war as them and us," (page 204). Talk about Isamu and Derwood's relationship and how it changes between their first encounter and this scene. How do they communicate? How do they work together? Compare and contrast their personalities and backgrounds.
  13. Evan feels like he has washed up on a desert island "where he is surrounded by dead people . . . and one person who should be dead" (page 110). Griff describes himself as having landed on a "hostile island" (page 143). Discuss the importance of islands literally and figuratively throughout the novel.
  14. Why does Griff object to having Isamu's book published, at least while he's alive? Describe his reaction to the graphic novel project and contrast it with Evan's point of view. Do you think Isamu's story would make a good graphic novel? Why or why not?
  15. Griff says about veterans, "Nobody really wants to know about them or the dirty business they're honor-bound to carry out" (page 288). Evan later sees a look on Griff 's face that shows "a lifetime of people who didn't get him — didn't understand" (page 309). Discuss these quotes and what they say about Griff, his views on life, and his relationship to the world.
  16. Even near the end of the book, Evan can't figure out his grandfather. "The man is the most infuriating thing he has ever come across" (page 288). Describe the evolution of their relationship from the time before Griff arrives until the end of the story. How are Griff and Evan similar? How are they different? Speculate on what their future relationship might be like.
  17. Analyze why the author uses a third-person narrative to tell Evan's story and first-person narratives for the book by Isamu and, to a lesser extent, Derwood. Discuss whether you think the structure and voices are effective, and why or why not, pointing to specific examples in the text.
  18. The book's epigraph is an excerpt from Dylan Thomas's poem "A Process in the Weather of the Heart." What is the emotional impact of these lines, and how does it set a tone for the novel? Draw connections between the quote and elements of the story. Consider reading the entire poem and discussing it in the context of The Emperor of Any Place.
  19. Discuss the novel's title, The Emperor of Any Place, and that of Isamu's book, Kokoro-Jima, The Heart-Shaped Island. Why do Evan and his father give their address as 123 Any Place? What is the significance of the word emperor, and when is it used in the story? Talk about why Isamu might have chosen the subtitle he used.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Candlewick Press. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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