1. Why is the book called Mending Horses? Who or what is mended in the course of the story?
  2. The story is told from several points of view. How does the author use word choices and language to create a distinctive voice for each point-of-view character?
  3. How the characters are perceived by others and who they really are is often very different. For example, Daniel is perceived as a thief and a liar because of his Irish accent. Discuss how the characters struggle against the limitations imposed on them by others’ perceptions of who they are or should be and what they should do.
  4. Discuss the role of rumors and misunderstandings in creating difficulties and dangerous situations for the characters in the story.
  5. Why doesn’t Jonathan tell Sophie the truth about Billy? Who would be a more suitable parent for Billy—Jonathan or Sophie? Why?
  6. Why does Daniel object to Billy’s disguise? What makes him reconsider his opinion?
  7. Many of the characters hide their true identities for various reasons. For example, Fred Chamberlain pretends to be an East Indian prince when he performs in the show. Choose a character and discuss how and why that character hides who he or she is.
  8. By the end of the story, each character has learned something important about him or herself. Choose a character and discuss the lessons she or he has learned and how the character has changed by the end of the story.
  9. Daniel and Billy both make important choices at the end of the story. Do you think they’ve made the right decisions? Why or why not? Discuss what the consequences of their decisions might be. How might their futures be different if they’d chosen differently?
  10. What do you think might happen to the characters after the end of the story? What problems might they encounter in the future?

If your group wants to prepare some 19th-century dishes for your meeting, you can find some recipes on the Old Sturbridge Village website.

Or go to “Feeding America: the Historic American Cookbook Project” for a variety of 19th-century cookbooks.

To find out more about New England in the 1830s, go to the Old Sturbridge Village Web site.

For a HUGE collection of resources on 19th-century America, go to Teacher Oz’s page

For more information on 19th-century circuses, go to the Circus Historical Society’s website.

If you’d like a playlist of background music for your meeting, check out the following singers who specialize in Celtic and American folk music:

  • Aine Minogue and Druidstone
  • Alasdair White
  • Altan
  • Anuna
  • The Battlefield Band 
  • The Bothy Band
  • Brendan Hendry
  • Capercaillie
  • Cherish the Ladies
  • The Chieftains
  • Clannad
  • The Henry Girls
  • Bill Jones
  • Loreena McKennitt
  • Mary Black
  • Sally Dworsky
  • Susan McKeown
  • Heidi Talbot
  • Carol Thompson, Celtic harpist
  • Jay Ungar and Molly Mason
  • Zoe Darrow and the Fiddleheads

Published by Holiday House, 2014; paperback distributed by Penguin Random House
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0823429486
Paperback ISBN: 978-0823440047
E-book ISBN: 978-0823431564
Amazon Kindle: ASIN: ‎B00ID50MPC