- How do the characters deal with the deaths of their family and friends?
- What is the purpose of the spirit world to the Choctaw people?
- The bond of a community enduring a common tragedy is seen throughout the story, what are some examples of a bond developing between seemingly unrelated characters in the novel?
- What is your opinion on the author’s choice to sprinkle in words or phrases from the Choctaw language? What might be the purpose of integrating traditional language into the novel?
- What do you make of the graphic depictions of violence and death? Is it too much for a story aimed at a young audience? Or is it necessary in order to express the true horrors of the Trail of Tears?
- Do you feel that the supernatural elements of the story take away from the impact of the message being conveyed, or do they add important elements? Discuss.
- This book can be really lighthearted at times. Do you think that there is room for levity in stories set in dark moments of history?
- A special characteristic of this novel is that it is a book about Native American characters, and it was written by an actual Native American. In the past, there have been other native-centric books written by people of other ethnicities. Do you believe it is right for a person to tell the story of a group of people that they have no ties to, or should people be able to write whatever they choose?
- How do the characters of this story compare to Native American characters in other stories that you have read?
- Isaac risks his life to rescue Naomi from the soldiers and all of the adults in his tribe trust him to be able to complete the mission. Do you think it was irresponsible of the adults to have Isaac take on this task?
- When Isaac’s feet were frozen to the ground, he was told by the ghosts that it was his time to join them, but he was able to get himself free and carry on. What do you think gave him the strength to avoid death?
- What did you think of Isaac’s death? Did the manner in which he died catch you off guard?
- In the end, Joseph, in his panther form, saves the leader of the soldiers from a wolf. That soldier had been the primary antagonist, why would Joseph help someone who had caused the deaths of so many members of his tribe?
- Is the dog, Jumper, actually able to speak? Or is that just part of Isaac’s imagination?
- What is the importance of the Bonepickers to the Choctaw people?
- What is “Treaty Talk,” and why does it upset Isaac’s family when they learn of it?
- What is the Trail of Tears and what is its significance in American history?
- A big moment of the story is smallpox blankets infecting members of the town, though this had only been recorded as happening once in history. Do you think it is okay for an author to take liberties with the details of a story that has its base in historical facts?
- Do you think that the soldiers purposely gave infected blankets to the villagers or do you see it as an accident?
The book has extra questions at the end that could also be used to fuel a discussion.
Connor Keefe 2020