Under the banner of New Classics Study Guides, Phyllis Wheeler selected some well-written novels and a biography written for Christian students in middle school through high school level, and she asked each book’s author to create a study guide for their book. (She includes her own book, The Long Shadow, with its study guide.) The free New Classics Study Guides vary in design to reflect each book’s content as well as the author’s preferences as to what to include, although all of them have some Christian content. I’ll describe three of them to give you an idea of what they are like.
The study guide for The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix is by far the briefest at only eight pages. The book itself is a heavily illustrated graphic novel that tells the story of Bonhoeffer’s moral dilemma about whether to get involved in trying to eliminate Adolf Hitler. I recommend having students wait until at least seventh or eighth grade to read it since it requires maturity to consider if killing Hitler was an acceptable thing for a Christian pastor to do. That aside, this excellent book will be enjoyed by teens and adults as well. The study guide includes an overview plus descriptions of the main characters, settings, and themes. One page has 13 “Guided Reading Ideas” that are primarily discussion questions such as “Do you believe there can be such a thing as a ‘good war,’ as Frank and Dietrich discuss on pages 36–37?” The guide includes an unusual vocabulary activity where students write or illustrate their own definitions of terms such as community patriotism, duty, and pacifism before reading the book. After reading, they consider whether they would change any of their definitions or illustrations. Some suggestions for “Classroom Extension Activities” also offer great ideas, such as the Newspaper Scavenger Hunt where students read current news articles and create a portfolio of articles related to issues, themes, and events in the book.
Wheeler’s book, The Long Shadow, addresses the issue of racism using time travel to take 14-year-old Richie back to the 1920s to try to prevent the lynching of a black man. The 63-page study guide for this book is set up with activities for eight weeks. The activities include questions (written ones for comprehension and analysis plus some for discussion), vocabulary work, faith-related questions (some of which require students to read from the Bible), and information and questions on related historical events, geography, and science topics. An answer key is included.
Allen Brokken’s Light of Mine is the first in a series of five books in the fantasy series, Towers of Light. The first book centers around three children whose parents have gone missing. Everyone in their town is caught up in a larger battle between good and evil for which the children are equipped with magical pets and weapons. A raggedly dressed old man and a new bishop arrive, but are they there to help or might one of them be a deceiver? The 34-page study guide is set up for four weeks. This study highlights the story’s connection to biblical truths, and it has students memorize a verse each week. Students have comprehension questions to answer each day. An answer key is included.
Other books with free study guides thus far are An Unexpected Adventure by Kandi J. Wyatt, Thick as Thieves by Susan K. Marlow, Hunger Winter by Rob Currie, and Isabel’s Secret by Jan May. All study guides are delivered as PDF files.
Because the study guides and the books vary so greatly, it will be important for parents to check what’s in each study guide before assigning it so that it fits appropriately into your curriculum.