A Mystery or Two
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Ted Hammond loves a good mystery, and in the spring of his fifth-grade year, he's working on a big one. How can his school in the little town of Plattsford stay open next year if there are going to be only five students? Out here on the Great Plains in western Nebraska, everyone understands that if you lose the school, you lose the town.
But the mystery that has Ted's full attention at the moment is about that face, the face he sees in the upper window of the Andersons' house as he rides past on his paper route. The Andersons moved away two years ago, and their old farmhouse is empty, boarded up tight. At least it's supposed to be.
A shrinking school in a dying town. A face in the window of an empty house. At first these facts don't seem to be related. But...
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Reading Group Guide
What do the opening pages of the novel tell readers about Ted's daily routine, his town, and his feelings about both? What is different about the morning on which the story begins?
Describe the Red Prairie Learning Center. How is it similar to, or different from, your school? Would you like to go to school in Plattsford? Why or why not?
How does Ted's love of mysteries affect his investigation of the face in the farmhouse window? Was he correct in going to the farmhouse alone?
How have April and her family come to be hiding in the farmhouse? Do you think April is making a good choice to hide there? Explain your answer.
How does being a Boy Scout affect Ted's actions? Given the situation, can Ted act honestly toward everyone -- April, his family, Ruby Cantrell at the E&A Market, Mrs. Mitchell -- at the same time? Have you ever found that keeping a secret for one person required you to behave dishonestly toward another? How did this make you feel? How did you solve your dilemma?
How has Mrs. Mitchell made her small schoolhouse situation work? What are he concerns for the Red Prairie Learning Center's future? How does Mrs. Mitchell's home life affect her concerns? Compare Mrs. Mitchell's situation to Mr. Hammond's outlook for his farm. What similarities or differences do you note?
Why does Ted tell his secret to Mrs. Mitchell? How does she feel about keeping Ted's confidence? What does she do? How does Ted fe see more