Reading Group Guide

    By Janet Lee Carey
    When Zoe's father loses his teaching job and his bookstore, the family has to leave California and what Zoe calls the best house. Ending up in a small town in Oregon and living in the family van, Zoe struggles with dramatic change, embarrassment, and keeping the family's plight a secret from everyone.
    Homelessness; Family life; School stories
    • Without naming names, have you ever had someone say something in class that embarrassed you, like Zoe's experience with the pink moon?
    • If you had to leave your home, what would be the one thing you would absolutely have to take? Why?
    • Why will Zoe not tell Aliya about how she is living? What are the parts of Zoe's life that are double?
    • After reading about Zoe's family being homeless, has it made you look at homeless people and families in a different way?
    • Are any of Zoe's plans, such as the lottery tickets and Galaxy Burgers, realistic?
    • What is the secret doorway? How is it different for different people?
    • Check out Helping Families Hopelink at
    • Check out National Coalition for the Homeless at
    • Research what is in your town or community that helps homeless or poor families. Find out what these organizations need, then organize a class project to help one of these agencies.
    • On her website, Carey says that a child must have courage. What are the four requirements of courage according to Carey? Write how they apply to you and what you can do to attain courage.
    • Have the local police or sheriff's department do a bicycle safety program at your school. Have them talk about some of the more dangerous areas in your community for bicycle riders.
    • Go to the library and find information about selkies. What other stories about selkies can you find besides the one Zoe's dad tells?
    • Zoe's dad has Zoe and Juke close their eyes for "movies of the mind." Have volunteers from the class tell a story while the rest close their eyes.
    This reading group guide is for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
    Prepared by Julie Tomlianovich
    © William Allen White Children's Book Award
    Please visit for more information about the awards and to see curriculum guides for other master list titles.

About the Author

Janet Lee Carey
Photograph by Heidi Pettit

Janet Lee Carey

JANET LEE CAREY grew up in Marin County California surrounded by whispering redwoods. Sunlight cut through ocean mist and fingered through the branches. It was in this magical place that she first dreamed of writing books. Her award-winning teen fantasy novels are translated into many languages. Some include: The Dragons of Noor, which won a Teens Read Too Gold Star Award for Excellence, Stealing Death, which received a School Library Journal starred review, Dragon’s Keep, an ALA Best Books for Young Adults, and Wenny Has Wings, a Mark Twain Award recipient and a Sony Feature Film Japan, 2008. Janet lives with her family, dusty book stacks, and imperious cat near Phantom Lake in Washington. Visit Janet online at