So I want to confess something – waaaay before my time as a book blogger, I would come across discussion questions in the back of books and want to discuss them SO BAD. I didn’t know anyone that liked reading, so I answered the questions in a word document and saved it on my computer. Lame, I know. And it made me kind of sad that that was the closest I was going to get to discussing books in-depth. You can see how I really, really needed a book blog.
But now my random thoughts can be shared with all the people! This makes me so happy (even if like no one reads this). (Also, I am tempted to post some of those really old documents here on the blog. Might be entertaining at the very least….)
Anyway, since it’s Utah Book Month, I thought I’d post these questions and my answers in case any of you out there want to read Princess Academy this month and discuss. I love discussing! You can just leave a comment or leave a link if you write a post.
THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD
1. Miri’s father tells her that her mother named her “after the flower that conquered rock and climbed to face the sun” (page 14). Do you know why your parents chose your name? Does your name have a special meaning to you and your family? I thought it was cool that her father wanted to name her after the rock which is unchanging, but her mother knew that she would change things in a big way on the mountain. As far as my name, my middle name a family name passed down on my dad’s side.
2. Does Princess Academy remind you of any other novels you have read? If so, which ones and why? If not, what makes it unique? It reminded me a little of A Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale. It had the same magical yet serious tone and a beautiful setting with a very mild sort of magic. I thought the thing that was most unique was the magic of quarry-speech. I don’t think I’ve ever seen magic like that before. And it was fun to think of going to school to become a princess. I actually learned a little about diplomacy!
3. The people of Mount Eskel use a kind of telepathy to communicate with one another in the quarry. Miri learns that the “quarry-speech” works by sharing memories through the rock of the mountain itself an can be used to communicate many things besides warnings or instructions in the quarry. Have you ever imagined a secret way to communicate with your friends and family? How might it work? Well my favorite when I was a kid (and okay a teenager, too) was by far Pig Latin. Can you say ig-pay atin-lay anyone??
4. Miri makes a dramatic difference in the life of her village by sharing what she has learned at the academy about commerce. Have you ever had an idea that you thought might make a difference? Describe one change you would like to make in your community that could have a positive influence on people’s lives. Is it totally cliché that I want a county-wide library system and more kids to read? And love reading? The world is yours when you have a love for reading. You can literally learn anything. It’s how I learned photoshop. True story.
5. At a critical moment in the mountain girls’ training at the academy, they must all pass an oral test in order to attend the ball with the prince. At one moment, Miri notices Gerti struggling to answer a question. Convinced it would be unfair for the girls to be banned from the dance if they can’t pass the test, Miri finds a way to help Gerti get the answer through quarry-speech. Do you think Miri did the right thing or not? Why? Ha that’s a tough one because she did essentially help her friend cheat. Kind of. Gerti wouldn’t have been able to be helped at all if she didn’t know it somewhere in her brain. But from my own experiences, it’s better to help your friends study than to give them answers. Makes everyone better off in the long run.
6. Miri treasures the carved linder hawk that Peder gave her when they were small. In a fateful twist, it helps her escape from the bandit Dan, though she loses it as it falls down the mountain. What do you think the hawk means to Miri, and to Peder? What do you think is the symbolic significance of the hawk? It represented to me seeing things from a different perspective. Both Miri and Peder saw things differently than their village. They didn’t agree with the “we do this because it’s always been done this way.” Peder saw the linder stone as a way to make art. And Miri saw the village as a place that could be well-off instead of poor. And Miri literally used a piece of art as a weapon which is also a different perspective.
7. Many of the characters in Princess Academy learn to look past the masks that people wear. Which of the characters wear a mask that hides their true feelings, and what is their motivation for doing so? Britta’s is the most obvious, but I think Katar wore one too. I think she wore a mask of not caring but I think deep down she had a lot of dreams and things she wanted to do that she wouldn’t share with anyone.
8. Shannon Hale spends a great deal of time describing the natural world that surrounds Miri, and she vividly expresses how Miri feels about the mountains, flowers, snow, and rock that make up her world. Take a moment to think about your favorite place. How does it look and smell? How do you feel when you are in this place? I’m going to give the lamest answer ever here, but the way Shannon describes where Miri lives totally sounds like Utah. And my favorite place would be in the mountains in Utah.
9. At the end of the novel we learn that Tutor Olana was intentionally cruel and even lied to the girls in order to motivate them to learn. Do you think this was a wise choice on her part? What might have been different in the story had she been friendly and encouraging? Don’t all adults do this when the feel like they are out of control? I think this was motivated mostly out of fear like “Holy crap if these mountain girls don’t learn I am so out of a job forever.” The story would have been boring if she had been friendly. And I’m less inclined to think they would have worked so hard in so short a time. Fear can be a powerful motivator….at first. It can also backfire on you when they get sick of it as Olana finds out.
10. Were you surprised when you learned about Britta’s secret? How did you feel about Prince Steffan’s final choice? Heck yes I was. High five to Shannon Hale on that one. Very well done :) I felt like the Prince’s choice made for a nice happily ever after. Though a true mountain girl would have brought some new perspective to the palace.