What Happened To Serenity? by PJ Sarah Collins (Red Deer, 2011)
Sample Study Questions for your Classroom
a) What is a sod roof?
b) Why do you think Katherine has to hide the colour in her room?
c) Group / Interactive: Have a group conversation without using questions. Have one group member choose an imagined event and write this on a piece of paper, then act sad, excited, happy, or nervous, in response to the event. Have the other group members try to guess the event without using questions. (Stuck? Read Katherine’s conversation with her mother starting on page 13).
a) Group / Interactive: You will be an adult by 2021. What changes, choices, and challenges will you have in your life then? How do you imagine your community, country, or world will be different in ten years?
b) What hopes and dreams do you hold for your adult life? What could block that?
c) What subject in your schooling (past or present) most resembles Katherine’s dread subject Dictation?
d) Read page 24, half way down the page. Katherine thinks, “I don’t have a right to this information. Maybe I’m intruding and being rude, like Mom tells me. But couldn’t asking be a way of caring?” How could you care for a friend who is sad or grieving?
e) On page 25, Katherine reflects on Community boundaries. What are the boundaries of your community? Where is the place(s) that you would stop walking in your community (because you no longer felt safe)?
a) On page 32, Katherine reflects on newer, lighter gadgets and the connection with environmental waste. Do you agree? Explain.
b) On page 33, Mom hopes the underground artisans might someday be able to display their work. Why does Dad think Father won’t allow this idea? Why might Father see this as dangerous for the Community?
c) Read pages 35-38. Describe what you might see, smell, or feel sitting next to Father.
a) Group / Interactive: On page 45, Katherine reflects on love. Discuss what is more powerful: love that grows from friendship or infatuation that grows into love?
b) List the chores that Katherine participates in around her farm. Compare and contrast your responsibilities with Katherine’s. What chores do you do that she couldn’t? (For example, load a dishwasher, mow the lawn.)
c) Why does Katherine feel she must hide her purple book? How has she decided to do it?
d) Why do you think Father is the only old person in the Community?
a) Read page 55. What are the attributes that Brother Michael thinks makes up a perfect Community? Sort this list into categories (or make up your own): possible / impossible to achieve / don’t know.
b) Group / Interactive: What evidence do you have of misinformation that Katherine has been fed in the Fact Drills or in books?
c) What does colour represent to the Community? To Father?
a) On page 75, Sister Margaret says, “History shows us when a society has more than its basic needs, their focus changes from community to an individual, free market economy.” Do you agree?
b) Read page 78. Why did Father choose to introduce the Manifesto after the Uncles and Aunts disappeared?
c) On page 76, some of Father’s people are grumbling about wanting a gathering place (what we might call a coffee shop). What is more effective: revolutions that start in gathering places or in the secret underground?
d) Group / Interactive: The moon moves (page 78). What length of time do you guess that Katherine waited outside the Main Community Building?
e) Group / Interactive: How is music or the Arts connected to revolution or social change? (Stuck? Briefly research Bono’s work in Africa and brainstorm from there.)
a) Group / Interactive: Dictionary quotes from this chapter were from the Thorndike Barnhart Comprehensive Desk Dictionary (1955). Check out the newest definitions (Wikipedia or…) for the words that interest Katherine (page 88 – 90). How have the definitions changed in 60 years?
a) On page 90, Katherine contemplates how to heal her burn, based on information she discovered in a pre-Nursing course at school. What are the positives and negatives of Katherine’s school subjects? What gaps are missing? What courses would she find unnecessary if she lived in our world?
b) Group / Interactive: Read page 101, middle of the page. Estimate what percentage of waste in your home is kept out of the dump because of recycling or composting. Do you have evidence that anything is thrown away in Katherine’s world?
c) On page 105, Mom describes the after-effects of the Revolution. What happened to the world in the late seventies, according to Father?
d) Group / Interactive: Read 108. If you had to build a new modern-day town from scratch, what essential services would your settlement need to survive?
e) Class Debate: What is a more successful arrangement: free choice or arranged marriage? Research your position and attempt to argue your opinion with facts.
f) Group / Interactive: The poem on page 115 was used in a YouTube video by Brandon J. McKay. Based on what you know of the book so far, think of an alternative trailer idea (>30 seconds)?
a) Read page 118. If you were a principal or teacher in your school, what would you do to stop bullying?
b) Who do you infer bullied Katherine’s parents in the Big House when they were kids?
c) Group / Interactive: Cowbirds are described on page 123. Discuss other creatures in nature with unique survival adaptations.
d) Read 125 / 126. Guess and predict: What happened to Serenity?
a) Why does Katherine strongly suspect that her Dad wrote the note, the one from the Prologue?
a) Pick someone in your life to describe in detail, as Katherine does on page 136 – 137.
b) Katherine is looking for a runway, somewhere near her Dad’s farm. Where else could a covert flying space exist in her community? In yours?
c) Group / Interactive: Draw Katherine’s path following directions on page 141 – 143.
a) How is Katherine resuscitated?
b) What lie does Katherine tell Father?
c) Read page 148. What values are important to Katherine? Do you see her the same way Father does? What values are important to Dad?
d) Group / Interactive: Read page 151-154. Katherine’s parents have no idea of her thoughts, dreams, or hopes. Imagine you are someday a parent. What would healthy communication in your future family look and sound like?
a) What evidence do you have in this chapter that Katherine’s family is struggling?
b) Read the poem on page 161. Answer Katherine’s questions, drawing from your own experience of the unuttered.
a) Read page 164. What aspects of your community (town/ province/ country/ world) do you protest inwardly, though others around you seem to accept it as normal?
b) Read page 168-169. Over the decades, Father has adjusted the manifesto to suit various government agendas: social engineering, perfection, Communism, genetics, ecology, and sustainability. As you reflect on Father’s Community, find evidence of each ideology imbedded in Katherine’s daily life.
c) Read page 170. How did Father attempt to control Dad when he was a rebellious youth?
d) Group / Interactive: Read page 171. What basic values do you think a political party of Ecological Socialists might have? Why or why not would you vote for this party? Try to convince other group members to agree with you.
e) Group / Interactive: Where in Saskatchewan could a remote community like Katherine’s exist? You will have to reread parts of the book for clues: isolated near a lake, all soil types, huge variety in crops (including peat), with zonal temperatures that match the book. (Email me your class’ best guess and I’ll tell you where I centred my research).
f) On page 171-172, Father and Margaret discuss allowing the Arts and individual ownership. What did they decide? What will happen to the rebels during Snow Break?
a) Have you ever been on a helicopter? (My first trip was when I rewrote this scene). Write how Katherine might describe an airplane take-off or landing.
b) Group / Interactive: Pretend you are Katherine. Describe one aspect of our lives that Katherine would find bizarre. Use words she would use to describe it for your group. For example, if she would describe a woman shaving her legs, she might say “a sharp knife-like tool scraped on the skin for vanity.” Can you stump your group with the best description?
a) Group / Interactive: When I imagined 2021, I incorporated my hopes that alternative, sustainable fuels would be commonplace. Research what new energy sources you see as most hopeful for our future.
a) Why does Paul freak out in this chapter?
a) Describe Asha, Paul, or Marina.
b) Read 203-207. Do you believe Katherine tried hard enough to find Serenity at CHS? What could she have done differently to evoke an alternative ending?
c) Group / Interactive: Read 208. Are freedom and choice illusions? Debate.
d) Group / Interactive: Read 208-210. What are the positives and negatives of Katherine’s Community? Stuck? Read page 220 then come up with your own negatives.
e) Read from 213 to the end. What ways does Father try to manipulate Katherine, in order to save the Community’s media situation? How would Katherine’s decision to stay in the Community affect or rescue his ‘experiment?’