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Family Summer Seminar: How Adventure Shapes Identity



We talked about how adventure shapes character as we first discussed Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe by Vera Williams and then Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry. If you missed our great conversation, you can start one of your own with your family! I generated these discussion questions...and I don't mind sharing them! (If you're a teacher, give me a footnote, alright?;)


Three Days on a River in a Red Canoe by Vera Williams


1. How does the story open? (Buying the canoe). I wonder what effect buying the canoe—spending his/her own money on it—had on the child. They were excited about the free items too.

2. How do they plan their trip? (Map, lists, shopping) Do you enjoy maps? Do you know how to read a map?

3. What kind of things did they buy at the store?

4. What do the mom and aunt do while the kids unload the car? Have you ever had mosquitos take “too many bites out of” you?

5. What is it like the morning they begin the canoe trip?

6. See the pages that say Our First Morning on the River? (Read it over with them.) Which part of their morning would you like to enjoy, if you were with them?

7. There is a part-funny, part-scary section. The children have fallen asleep. It’s good Mom and Rosie didn’t fall asleep. Waterfall. It was on the map. (Would looking at a map be enough for you to be aware of a waterfall?)

8. What are some of the things the children learn to do? Shower, cooking crawfish, making fruit stew, washing dishes in the sink, scouring powder, tying knots. Which of these would you like to learn?

9. How does the author invite you to learn these things?

10. Have you ever put up a tent by yourself? If not, do you think you’re old enough to learn?

11. For breakfast, they ate crackers and raisins and cocoa. Do you find it difficult to eat something unusual for breakfast? I wonder if eating funny food is part of adventures? I wonder about bad weather and adventures: would you be grouchy if it poured rain on your canoe trip?

12. How many of you have caught a fish? What is it like to catch a fish?

13. They have a beautiful evening without one mosquito. Then, what happens in the night?

14. How does the river change after the storm?

15. What does Sam learn at the bridge near town?

16. What are some of the hard parts about this story, this canoe trip? (heat, fog, wind, rain, bug bites, tired arms, cooking outside, cleaning up outside, being wet)

17. What are some of the good parts? (being together, wind, sun, rainbow, stillness, doing hard things that are new, tired arms from being old enough to paddle, cooking outside, being in the middle of so much beauty, animals, stars.)

18. How are the wonderful things related to the hard things? (rain/rainbow, wind/stillness, heat/nap/waterfall)

19. "An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered." G.K. Chesterton. Is it hard to face a challenge if you're wet, hungry, or tired? How do we become braver about little things? How do we become braver about inconveniences? Will this help me to see inconvenience as an opportunity for adventure?

20. What does it mean that the child can “still hear the sound of the river running over the rocks”?


Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry

  1. The life of Mafatu’s people is deeply related to the sea. What are some of the ways their life depends on the sea?

  2. Why then, is Mafatu afraid of the sea? In what way is this reasonable?

  3. Is the shame directed toward Mafatu reasonable? What are his culture’s expectations of men? (Mafatu cannot advance into maturity. His fear makes him a recipient only of the protection of community. They need him to also be capable of being a provider of security to his people.)

  4. Mufatu’s name means “stout-hearted.” Is Mufatu able to live up to his identity?

  5. How does Mafatu strike back against the shame that surrounds him? (He decides to take bold action. He’s been “put in a box” and has agreed to his box. To change others perception of him he needs to change his perception of himself through bold action.

  6. Moana vs. Maui. Do you think Maui softens the power of Moana?

  7. What happens to Mafatu as soon as he leaves his home island? How does Mafatu begin to change? How does this terrible beginning move Mafatu toward courage? What starts to make him courageous? (The need to survive makes him take action, which then builds strength and confidence.)

  8. What happens when the cannibals arrive? What is one reason cannibals consume other humans? (to exploit their weaknesses and absorb their powers). This was preeeetty ferociously scary. What did you think?! He’d already come through so many trials! What do you think is symbolic about the cannibals wanting to capture (and eat) Mafatu?

  9. How does Mafatu escape?

  10. What does the tribe, what does Mafatu’s father see, when Mafatu returns?

  11. In another story, a picture book called The Treasure by Uri Schulevitz, it concludes: “Sometimes one must journey far to discover what is near.” How does Mafatu’s father learn this? How does Mafatu discover this? How has Mufatu become “himself”?

  12. Would you like to have an adventure like Mafatu’s? Do you ever push back against your fears? Does your family or tribe ever confirm you in your fears?

  13. Life has put you into your very own hands. Our actions shape our character, shape who we are. Wordsworth writes, “The child is the father of the man.” Use Mafatu to explain this quote.



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