Young Adult Novelist
Michelle D. Kwasney
For Teachers and Librarians
My middle-grade novel, Itch,
(Henry Holt, April 2008),
was named to the
2008 Kansas State Reading Circle
and is now available as an audiobook
from Recorded Books (Youth Library Site)
and Audible Kids.
Click on the links below to listen to the
first three chapters:
Chapter One: Unjust
Chapter Two: Melancholy
Chapter Three: Bob Dylan Was Right
Read an excerpt on Amazon.
Download the Itch Study Guide.
Read an author interview about the novel.
Watch the Itch book trailer.
My first novel, Baby Blue,
was a Booksense Pick and a
New York Public Library Best Book for the Teen Age
Scroll down to read Educator Reviews
or to print the
Discussion Starters and Writing Prompts
created for use in the classroom.
Order the Accelerated Reader Quiz List.
What educators say about Baby Blue:
"...Excellent resource for teachers!
Baby Blue is a very realistic and emotional story with a strong message.
It lets all the "Blues" of the world realize that they are not alone. . .
As a teacher, it has helped me to better understand the
plight of children living in an abusive setting.
This book is an excellent resource for teachers!"
"...Sensitive, Realistic, Unforgettable.
As a teacher, I can see how this novel,
with it's sensitive handling of a difficult topic,
could be ideal for the curriculum of most middle schools and high schools . . .
I hope many others will read it."
"...A Deeply Moving Coming of Age Story.
Told from twelve-year-old Blue's perspective very effectively,
'Baby Blue' exposes this young woman's inner struggles,
and entwined relationships in a way that deeply moved me.
Dealing with domestic abuse; physical or mental abuse is real.
Young adults will be able to relate to Blue and her very different sister Star-
and the way they both cope with their family difficulties."
- Janice McArdle, Youth Service Librarian
Discussion Starters and Writing Prompts
1. Baby Blue opens with Blue recounting her father’s drowning. What effect do you
imagine his death has had on her?
2. In chapter one, Mama’s new husband, Lyle, is introduced. What is your first impression
3. After the diner scene, Mama convinces Blue to “try harder” and “give Lyle a chance.”
How does Blue feel about Mama’s request? Why does Blue eventually agree to what
her mother asks?
4. When Mama leaves for Cape Cod with Lyle, Blue “memorizes every detail” of her,
“just in case.” What does Blue fear will happen? Why is she more afraid than usual?
5. While saying good-bye to Mama, Blue mentions burying Jinx’s dead cat, Miller. How
does Blue burying Miller relate to Blue’s feelings about her mother’s troubled relationship
with Lyle? What gives you this impression?
6. After locating Star in Springfield, Blue learns the details about where her sister has been
staying. How does Blue feel, hearing about Star’s new life with Sherry and her son,
Randall? How would you feel if a sister or brother suddenly left home and started a new
life without you?
7. When Mama returns from Cape Cod with her face bruised, Blue is hesitant to hug her.
Why do you think Blue respond this way to her mother? How would you react in the
8. Soon after Star boards the taxi for her return to Springfield, the cab slows and Star
hops out. Why do you think Star changed her mind about leaving?
9. Mama invites Blue and Star to share a picnic at the river. If you were Blue, what would
you think about Mama’s idea?
10. When Lyle returns, Blue and Star listen to Mama and Lyle’s conversation through the
wall between their two rooms. Blue thinks to herself “how easy it is to believe somebody
when you really, really need to.” In your opinion, what does Blue mean by this? Is there
anywhere else in the novel that characters have shown the same strong need to believe
someone, even when it wasn’t wise to do so?
11. What are some of the sounds Blue and Star hear through the wall, aside from dialogue,
that tip them off to the building tension between Mama and Lyle?
12. Blue and Star overhear Mama tell Lyle, “Words get used up. Like people. They lose
their power.” What do you think Mama means by this? Do you think this is a new feeling,
or that she’s felt this way before?
13. When Lyle becomes violent in chapter seventeen, Blue imagines herself with the strength
of a lion. Why do you feel she has a kinship with this particular animal?
14. When does Blue begin to realize she’s not responsible for her father’s death?
15. In chapter nineteen, the “last note” on Blue’s music box plays and she decides to “let it
go.” What do you think Blue means by this?
1. Write the following five names on your paper: Mama, Pa, Lyle, Blue, Star. Under each
name, choose five words that you feel describe that character.
2. Imagine you are asked to choose one of those characters to spend an afternoon with.
Describe where you would go together, what you would do, and what you would likely
discuss. How would your visit end?
3. In chapter four, Blue sees a girl she thinks is her runaway sister, Star. Think back on a
time you saw a person who looked like someone you missed or were separated from.
Write a scene that shows how you felt when you realized the person wasn’t who you
hoped he or she was.
4. Blue describes the black velvet butterfly poster that hangs over her sister’s bed,
inscribed with a single word: FREE. Create an imaginary poster that could hang over
your bed. Draw or describe the details of what it looks like. What single word would
your poster contain?
5. In chapter twelve, Blue tells her sister that the abstract design on Star’s skirt reminds
her of a "big black sea of screaming mouths.” Write about a time you saw an object
that reminded you of something other than what it was. What kind of feeling did this
evoke in you?
6. Imagine you can hear (but can’t see) two people arguing in the next room. What sounds
could you include in your description, other than dialogue, to give hints about the tone of
7. If you were to transform yourself into an animal to connect with a particular strength,
which would you choose? Describe yourself as that animal. How would you move, eat,
breathe, sleep, interact?
8. In chapter nineteen, Blue sees a small girl who reminds her of herself at a younger age.
Imagine catching a sudden, unexpected glimpse of yourself at a young age. What is the
younger you doing? How does the older you respond to the sight?
9. As Blue tests her new oil paints in chapter twenty, she’s struck by the familiar “Pa smell”
of the turpentine. Think of a smell you associate with someone close to you. Describe
the affect that smell has on your senses, your emotions.
10. Blue “talks” with Pa often. Create an imaginary dialogue with someone you are unable
to speak with but would like to.