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Book Club Kits: The Penguin who Knew Too Much

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

While digging a hole to make a pond for his borrowed penguins, Meg's father digs up a body. And when rumors begin to spread that the corpse might be the owner of the bankrupt local zoo that is normally the penguins' home, anxious volunteers begin taking advantage of Dad's generous offer to take in the animals they've been fostering. As the llamas, sloths, and hyenas begin to arrive, Meg fears that by the time the police solve the crime, she and her fiance, Michael, will have a zoo in their back yard. A unnerving prospect at any time, but particularly now, when Meg fears it will derail her and Michael's plan to escape their families and elope. So Meg does some sleuthing of her own.

Read an excerpt from the novel.

Discussion Questions

  • For the person who chose this book: What made you want to read it? What made you suggest it to the group for discussion? Did it live up to your expectations? Why or why not?

  • How is the book structured? Does the author use any narrative devices like flashbacks or multiple voices in telling the story? How did this affect your reading of the story and your appreciation of the book? Do you think the author did a good job with it?

  • Talk about the author's use of language/writing style. Have each member read his or her favorite passage out loud.  How does this particular passage relate to the story as a whole? Does it reveal anything specific about any of the characters or illuminate certain aspects of the story?

  • Discuss the mystery aspect of the plotline. How effective is the author's use of plot twists and red herrings? Were you able to predict certain things before they happened, or did the author keep you guessing until the end of the story? Did you find that the novel held everyone's interest throughout the story, or were there times when it failed to totally engross members of the group?

  • How important is the setting to the story? If applicable, discuss the time period in which the book is set. Does the author provide enough background information for you to understand the events in the story?

  • What is the most important part of a mystery or thriller to each member of the group-characterization, action, dialogue, or setting? How does this book rate in each of these areas?

  • Is this book part of a series? If so, did your group read the series in order? How has reading the books in order—or not reading them in order—affected your group's enjoyment of the book? How does this book stack up against others in the series?

  • Is the author equally invested in both character and plot? Or did the author put more effort into developing the story than in creating compelling and believable characters? Were the motivations of the characters believable, or did their actions feel like a means to further the plot?

  • Agatha Christie wrote in her autobiography about her dislike of mysteries having a romantic subplot. Do you agree or disagree with her views? Did this book have an element of romance? If so, do you feel the love aspect enhanced or detracted from the story?

  • Would you recommend this work to a non mystery/thriller fan simply on the basis of its literary merit? Would you endorse it purely because of the skillful writing and the well-developed characters? Or do you think the work would strictly appeal to fans of the mystery/thriller genre.

  • Is your group familiar with the author's previous works? If so, did this book live up to or exceed your expectations of the author?

  • What did you like or dislike about the book that hasn't been discussed already? Were you glad you read this book? Would you recommend it to a friend? Do you want to read more work by this author?