Book Info: Phantoms in the Snow
Publisher: Scholastic Press, February 1, 2011
Age group: 10-17
Jacket illustration: © 2011 Shane Rebenschied
Genre: Historical Fiction
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Discussions and Activities:
Phantoms in the Snow
- Have you ever judged someone without really knowing his or her background? Noah does this when he decides Daniel is disagreeable and callous without realizing Daniel’s experiences as a Jew or the fact that his relatives were being held in a concentration camp in Poland. Do you feel Noah was justified in his anger or did he jump to conclusions too quickly? If you have done the same at some point, did you regret the action as Noah did? What problems did that quick assessment cost you or the person you judged?
- When Sophia talks about her father’s sacrifice, Noah is appalled by her bravado over killing a trainload of Germans. At what point do you think the taking of lives is justified? What makes one war more acceptable than another?
- A letter cost $0.03 to mail in 1942 and took a few weeks to deliver. As a result, Noah doesn’t hear from Reverend Dixon for quite some time. How has mail delivery changed over the years and how might that affect business, government and general correspondence?
- Sophia was directly involved in the war: bombing trains, meeting with informers etc. In America, women took men’s places in the factories and filled in wherever men had left a void. But they were not allowed to be on the front lines of our military. Why do you think Sophia could have such a large role in attacking the Germans while American women were denied that right? What has changed in our military to finally allow women a real role in combat situations?
- The Phantoms were responsible for mapping their way up Riva Ridge. To do this, they had to patrol the mountain at night in the dark and in extremely dangerous conditions. Their accuracy meant the difference between men making the top of the mountain or dying in the process. In total darkness, try mapping your back yard, taking measurements between trees, swing sets, lounge chairs etc. Try drawing what you’re been able to make out in the nighttime. Look at your results in the daylight. How accurate were you?
- Daniel teaches Noah to load his pack and to ski with ninety pounds on his back. How might the heaviness of those packs affect the men’s ability to move quickly? Try this experiment. Run a third of a mile. Then fill a backpack with a few schoolbooks. Weigh the pack and put it on your back. Try running again. What was the difference in your time? Now add more weight. What are the results of running with this additional weight? Create a formula to show how this additional weight adds time to your run. Now calculate how much slower Noah might have been with ninety pounds on his back.
- Skiing equipment has changed over the years – as has the clothing worn. Compare how wool holds up in wet and cold weather versus modern day Gortex. Then try comparing modern day skis and bindings with the skis used by Noah. How does not having to apply wax made skiing more accessible? How have new bindings affected the sport?
- People regularly died from smallpox and other diseases in 1945. Then penicillin was introduced which helped combat many infections. How was penicillin first tested? And how do scientific tests in 1945 differ from those trials run today?
- Soldiers are often affected by a condition called post-traumatic stress. Cam is afflicted with this condition after having a close call with the Germans. Even today’s soldiers who may never be on the front lines but instead conduct warfare through the use of drones are finding themselves susceptible to post-traumatic stress. How do the other soldiers in the story deal with the tension of war?
- Tension is a key component of any good story. What elements and or scenes can you find in PHANTOMS that help keep the tension strong as the story progresses?
- Discuss the characters and their roles in PHANTOMS. How did each character differ from one another and advance the story. Why was each character critical to the story line?
- Discuss what the word “courage” means. In war, courage can come in all kinds of forms. How does each character embody their own form of courage as they face the perils of war?