This coming of age story by Karen Cushman makes an excellent lesson for discussing important topics.
The Ballad of Lucy Whipple is a coming of age story about Lucy, a young girl whose parents uproot her from a comfortable home in New England and take her to a rough California mining settlement during the days of the Gold Rush.
Developmental Challenges Faced by Lucy
- risk taking
- becoming independent
- dealing with death
- relationships with people of diversity
Finding your niche in the world involves more than a locations; sometimes it means creating a place to use your interests and talents.
Tolerance for differences in people allows for friendship and growth.
Strength and courage are often fostered by adversity.
Ask students to discuss their own experiences in moving from one location to another. What were the positive and negative experiences? How do they feel about the moves now, as they look back on those experiences?
Menu of Questions
- What were the hardest things for Lucy about moving to California? What were the best things?
- Why did Lucy have such a hard time accepting the family's move? Tell how Lucy's experiences are similar to or different from your moving experiences.
- What strategies did Lucy use to deal with her anger, unhappiness, and loneliness? Which ones worked best? Why? What did you do to help with your feelings when you moved?
- Why was Lucy always comparing everything to her past in Massachusetts? Why did the past always look better? How did Lucy find a place for herself? How did she change? How did she feel?
- Have you ever felt that what was in the past was better than what might be in the future? Tell about your feelings. How did you handle the situation? What happened? How have you changed? How do you feel now?
- On page 123, Lucy says, "Lizzie would skin the critters right there, put the fur and edible parts in her hunting sack, and re-bait the traps with the test. How different I thought, from Bernard Freeman, who would not eat bacon even when he was hungry, and how odd of me to admire them both." What is Lucy questioning about herself? How is it that she can admire these two people who are so different from each other and so different from her? How do Lucy's friendships with Bernard and Lizzie help her to find her "heart's desire"?
One of Lucy's outlets for frustration, anger, and loneliness about her life in California was the letters she wrote to her grandparents back in Massachusetts. Some of these letters she never sent; these letters were similar to a journal that a person keeps of their thoughts and feelings about their experiences. Think about a hard experience you have faced OR something difficult you are facing now. Write a journal entry telling your thoughts and feelings about this challenge. How does it make you feel? What would you like to do about it?