Reading guide for The Ice Child by Elizabeth McGregor

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The Ice Child

by Elizabeth McGregor

The Ice Child
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  • First Published:
    May 2001, 400 pages
    Sep 2002, 448 pages

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

When Jo Harper falls in love with maverick archaeologist Doug Marshall, she also falls into Doug's obsession: the disappearance of the Franklin Expedition. In 1845, Sir John Franklin and his crew of one hundred and twenty men sailed two ships to the Arctic and were never seen again. Doug has spent his career in search of what happened to them, sacrificing his first marriage and his relationship with his son, John, along the way. But as he and Jo plan their future together, a shocking accident forever changes their lives.

Devastated by the accident, John goes into self-imposed hiding. Jo, feeling abandoned, is confronted by the unthinkable —her young son, Sam, has a life-threatening disease and his only hope of survival lies with John Marshall. Desperate to find John, Jo soon learns that his fate is curiously tied to the Franklin Expedition. Haunted by Franklin and his own past, John has ventured into the ice floes of the Arctic in search of answers to what happened to Franklin's crew and to his own life. Unbeknownst to him, a frantic search is on; not only to save his life, but the life of another he doesn't know is in jeopardy.

Discussion Questions
  1. Are there points of similarity between the three mothers (Jo, Alicia, and the polar bear) featured in The Ice Child?

  2. What points of similarity exist, if any, among the three sons of The Ice Child (John, Sam, and polar bear cub)?

  3. Does John's relationship with his father have any bearing on John's relationship with Catherine? Why or why not?
  4. As citizens of a modern age, do we have (or does the possibility exist for) an exploration that parallels what the Franklin Expedition meant to the people who lived in Victorian times? Does the story of The Ice Child provide one?

  5. What do you think motivates Alicia's change of heart towards Jo and Sam?
  6. Does the character of Catherine Takkiruq and her relationship to John, Jo, and Sam have any bearing to the relationship between the Esquimaux that Crozier encountered?

  7. Working from historical fact, author Elizabeth McGregor has imagined the possible outcome of the Franklin Expedition. From what you have read in The Ice Child, what circumstances prevented the Expedition from a successful outcome?

  8. Many of the characters in The Ice Child are searching for something—a passage, an answer, a reason, a cure. Is every search successful? Noble? Necessary?

For information about other Penguin Readers Guides, please call the Penguin Marketing Department at (800) 778-6425, email at or write to them at: Penguin Books, Marketing Department CC, Readers' Guides, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Onyx. 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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