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Created by Phil Bildner, author of “Shoeless Joe and Black Betsy”
Aunt Patty seems to be a particular kind of person in the beginning of the story, what kind of person does she seem to you to be? By the end of the story she has had a change of heart. What do you feel brought that about?
What secret was Willa Jo keeping? Would you have felt the same way? Would you have told this secret to anyone?
At one point in the story, Aunt Patty was keeping a secret too, and it had to do with june bugs. What was the secret, and what does it tell us about how much Aunt Patty cared for the girls?
Willa Jo didn’t like having her shoes taken from her. Why do you think that was?
In what way does Uncle Hob act as a bridge where Willa Jo and Aunt Patty can meet in the middle?
In what way does Little Sister’s silence serve the story?
If you had walked by Aunt Patty’s house and saw Willa Jo and Little Sister up on the roof, what would you have thought of that?
In some stories, when children find an environment uninhabitable, as Willa Jo found Aunt Patty’s home to be, they run away. In what way was Willa Jo’s choice a braver or wiser one?
In many good stories, there are new ideas. A character says or does something you would not have said or done yourself. What were some of the new ideas you encountered in Getting Near to Baby?
So much of the story happened with Willa Jo and Little Sister up on the roof. What site did Willa Jo and Little Sister visit that was the exact opposite of being on the roof? Can you see how this balances the story?
Other elements in the story balance Aunt Patty’s overbearing personality. There is one adult character that is super-sweet and loving, and one adult character that is plainly mean-spirited. Who are those characters?
Some who don’t know her well might call Willa Jo a stubborn unreasonable girl. Some might think she tried to get even with Aunt Patty, tried to embarrass her by staying up on the roof. In what ways do Liz Fingers and Cynthia Wainwright balance Willa Jo’s personality so that we might see her as a well-meaning girl? What events demonstrate her to be a reasonable girl?
In what way is it a good thing that Willa Jo is stubborn? What is another word for stubborn that is more positive?
1) There is no sequel to Getting Near to Baby. But we might write our own:
It is six months later. Willa Jo and Little Sister are back at home with Noreen. Aunt Patty wants them to come for a visit. Pretend you are either Aunt Patty or Noreen.
a) Write Aunt Patty’s letter. Invite them back and tell them some interesting news as well. A personal letter should include the date, the salutation, the body of the letter, the complimentary close, and your signature.
b) Or be Noreen and accept the invitation, and tell her how everyone is doing. Tell what Willa Jo or Little Sister or Uncle Hob will most look forward to in this visit.
2) Choose any character from Getting Near to Baby. Pick three (3) personality traits or attributes this character demonstrates and write about them. Support your opinion with specific references or quotes from the text.
This essay should have an introduction and conclusion, and three (3) body paragraphs, a total of five (5) paragraphs.
(It’s often very effective to ask your students to make at least one connection to other literature they’ve read this year. Ask them to compare one of Willa Jo’s, Little Sister’s, Aunt Patty’s or Noreen’s personality traits to the traits of another character they have encountered in this year’s reading.)
3) There were many lessons and themes that ran through Getting Near to Baby. Choose three (3) of these and write about them. How were these themes developed? Support your answer with references and quotes from the text.