A young girl grapples with her grief over a tragic loss with the help of a new perspective from Hebrew school and supportive new friends in this heartfelt and “accessible” (Kirkus Reviews) middle grade novel about learning to look forward.
Twelve-year-old Daisy and Ruby are totally inseparable. They’ve grown up together, and Daisy has always counted on having Ruby there to pave the way, encourage her to try new things, and to see the magic in the world. Then Ruby is killed in a tragic accident while on vacation, and Daisy’s life is shattered.
Now Daisy finds herself having to face the big things in her life—like starting middle school and becoming a big sister—without her best friend. It’s hard when you feel sad all the time. But thanks to new friends, new insights, and supportive family members, Daisy is able to see what life after Ruby can look like. And as she reaches beyond that to help repair the world around her, she is reminded that friendship is eternal, and that magic can be found in the presence of anyone who chooses to embrace it.
Reading Group Guide
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Daisy and Ruby have been best friends for as long as they can remember, and they intend to remain best friends for life. Next year, when they both start middle school, when they get their first cell phones, Ruby will be there when Daisy’s little sister is born and when Daisy becomes a Bat Mitzvah. The two girls are a perfect balance: Ruby sees the magic in everything, and Daisy keeps them grounded. When Ruby is killed in a tragic accident, Daisy finds herself facing all these changes alone. With the help of some new friends and her Aunt Toby, she finds a way to feel okay again.
1. What does the first chapter reveal about Ruby and Daisy as characters? What do the girls have in common? How are their personalities different? What does the author mean when she says, “They took turns being the faller and the catcher in different situations.” (p. 10) How do their personalities balance each other?
2. What do you think Ruby and Daisy saw in the woods?
3. Why doesn’t Daisy want to go camping with her parents? Why do you think her parents want to go camping as a family?
4. Why is Aunt Toby an important person in Daisy’s life? What specific things does she do to help Daisy deal with her grief?
5. Why does Daisy feel guilty after she goes to the beach with Aunt Toby? Why do you think Daisy “hated that she’d had a nice day.” (p. 102)
6. Even though Aunt Toby and Daisy’s mother are twin sisters, they have very different personalities. Describe the differences between the two sisters. How are these sisters alike? How are they different? Do you think their relationship as sisters changed from the time they were Daisy’s age? Why or why not?
7. How does Daisy feel about the prospect of entering adulthood? Why do you think she feels this way?
8. The Hebrew School teacher, Morah Jill, says, “‘Tikkun olam, “repairing the world,” is something we take particularly seriously here at B’nai Shalom. In a way it goes hand in hand with the prayer for peace.’” (p. 107) Why would acts of service go hand in hand with praying for peace? What acts of service do you engage in?
9. Why does Daisy get upset when the students at Hebrew school talk about the prayer for healing, Mi Shebeirach? What does she learn about the new student, Mo, when they are put together as partners? Why do you think she tells him about Ruby? Mo believes in bashert, that he and Daisy were destined to become friends. Do you believe in destiny?
10. Why is the first day of middle school particularly difficult for Daisy?
11. Mo tells Daisy that his therapist says, “‘When you’re sad, sometimes it comes out as angry and gets on other people.’” (p. 131) Why do you think it is sometimes easier to feel angry than it is to feel sad? How will understanding that people who act angry might be feeling sad or hurt impact the way you respond to them?
12. Indirect characterization is the way that an author uses the way a character looks or dresses, talks, acts, thinks—or the way that other characters react to them—to reveal things about that character. Find examples of indirect characterization that reveal things about Avery. Daisy thinks, “Avery wasn’t anything like Ruby, so it felt easier to like her, because it didn’t feel like replacing Ruby.” (p. 140) How is Avery different from Ruby?
13. Read the chapter “High Holiday Reverie” carefully (pp. 158–69). The word reverie means a period of quiet thinking and contemplation. How does observing the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah help Daisy reflect on the changes in her life, both the upcoming birth of her sister and the loss of her best friend? What does she realize during this period of reverie?
14. What is Daisy worried about before her sister is born? What does she realize after Dahlia’s arrival? Why does the birth of her sister help her see “a glimmer of what it might be like to feel okay again.” (p. 191)
15. Even though Daisy considers Avery a friend, she refuses to explain why she gets “ruminative” sometimes when they are together. (p. 208) Why doesn’t Daisy want to tell Avery about Ruby? Do you think she should? Explain your answer.
16. How does Aunt Toby respond when Daisy shows her the tree trunk that she and Ruby walked across to go into the nature preserve and tells her that she has not gone back since Ruby died?Why do you think Aunt Toby’s actions help Daisy feel like she could look for magic in the world again?
17. What causes Daisy to lash out and tell Avery that she hates her and to betray Mo’s trust? How does she make amends with her friends? Why do they forgive her?
18. After Daisy reconciles with Avery, she realizes that she doesn’t remember ever telling Ruby that she loved her, and she tells her friends that she loves them and appreciates them. Do you think it is important to tell people that you care about them? Do you say ‘I love you’ to the people you care about? Is it hard or easy for you?
19. When they go into the nature preserve together, how do Avery and Mo show Daisy that they understand how important Ruby was to her?
20. An epigraph is a short, quoted passage at the beginning of a book that introduces one of the text’s themes. Now that you have finished reading Repairing the World, return to the book’s epigraph, a poem by Mary Oliver. Explain how this poem relates to one of the themes of the book. How do you feel about magic?
1. Nature preserves are areas where nature is protected and development is restricted. There are large areas like national and state parks that are protected from development, but there are also smaller preserves like the one in Repairing the World. Choose a nature preserve that you want to learn more about, and create a travel guide for the preserve that explains its history, the important animal and plant species that it protects, and what you can see and do there. If you have a local park or other nature preserve, you might want to create a travel guide that includes a video or photos of you visiting the location. Be sure to include ideas for how your classmates can help protect the environment in the surrounding area.
2. Mental health professionals have identified five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. These are the feelings that people who are grieving experience, although they do not always experience them in order and may experience each feeling multiple times. Write an analytical essay in which you present evidence that shows how Daisy experiences some of these stages, and explain what helps her move to acceptance.
3. Aunt Toby says that she believes that teaching yoga is “‘what I was put on the planet to do.’” (p. 87) Write a reflective essay about your talent or interest. What do you believe you were put on the planet to do? How could you use that talent or interest to make the world a better place?
4. When Daisy watches the ice skater fall and then get up and try again, she remembers a scene from the Captain Marvel movie. and realizes that being “only human can mean being strong, being able to get up again, being resilient.” (p. 88) Think back to a time when you demonstrated resilience by being strong or not giving up. Write a personal narrative about your experience.
5. Daisy’s parents are members of a synagogue that practices Reconstructionist Judaism. Like other religions, there are different branches of Judaism. Research the four largest branches of Judaism in America: Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist. What do these branches of Judaism have in common? How are they different? In Judaism, what religious holidays are observed? What is the importance of a Bat or Bar Mitzvah?
6. Daisy and Mo both complete a tikkun olam project, which is a way of doing something to help repair the world. Think of a cause that matters to you and, working with a partner or group, develop a project or an act of service that you can do that involves a tangible action that will help make the world a better place. Document your project or act of service and report back to the class about your experience.
7. Repairing the World contains multiple descriptions of nature. Examine the way Linda Epstein uses words that appeal to the senses (imagery) and other specific details to describe the nature preserve (pp. 11–16, 228–33) and the beach (pp. 88–99). Write a descriptive paragraph or essay describing your favorite place in nature. Include specific details and imagery to help your reader picture the location. You may want to include a drawing, painting, or photo collage with your descriptive writing.
8. Aunt Toby practices mindfulness through yoga and meditation, including rituals and prayers that help her “‘consciously generate sacred time and space.’” (p. 168) Research different ways to practice mindfulness. If your family practices a religion, you may want to incorporate spiritual practices specific to your faith, or you can look for breathing and meditation exercises like yoga or Tai Chi. Try practicing mindfulness for a week, and keep a record of how it impacts your physical and mental well-being.
9. After Daisy helps the little girl find her way out of the nature preserve, Daisy realizes that “there are lots of ways to feel lost” and that “walking your way out of a maze of grief is different from finding your way out of the woods.” (p. 235) What helps you when you are angry, worried, grieving, or afraid? Create a map that shows someone how to navigate their way out of an emotion like fear, anxiety, anger, or grief. Include steps that a person could take to help find their way back to neutral when their emotions are overwhelming.
10. A story about a character coming of age is called a bildungsroman. This type of story typically has four stages:
- a young character experiences a loss;
- they go on a physical or emotional journey;
- they experience conflict and growth because of that loss;
- and, finally, they reach a place of new maturity.
Compare the four stages of a bildungsroman in Repairing the World with another coming-of-age story that you have read or seen. How are the stories similar? How are they different?
Guide prepared by Amy Jurksis, English Department Chair at Oxbridge Academy in Florida.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Linda Epstein lives in Woodstock, New York. She writes fiction for children and teens, and poetry for grown-ups. She has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from The New School and is also a literary agent at Emerald City Literary Agency. She definitely believes in fairies.
"With incredible specificity and heart, Epstein carries Daisy through her grief, demystifying the experience of tragedy for her middle-grade audience. . . . An accessible look at grief, spirituality, and growth."