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Moving to a new town or state would be difficult for anyone, but it’s especially difficult for Alice, who not only has to deal with the trauma of moving across the country, but also her albinism and the blindness that comes with it. In such a difficult time, Alice would normally turn to her best friend Eliza, her brother James, or her parents. But Eliza is all the way back in Seattle, James is also struggling to cope with the move, her dad is trying to adjust to a new job in a new place, and her mom is suffering from depression. Alice is virtually on her own to learn the ways of her new home—the town of Sinkville, nicknamed “Stinkville” because of the paper mill located there. Alice finds her new home-away-from-home in the local library, where she also meets a new friend, Kerica. When Alice’s parents begin discussing moving Alice to a school for the blind in the fall instead of public school, Alice decides to establish her independence. Not only does she begin to get around town on her own, but she also enters the Sinkville Success Stories essay contest, which will require her to write about a town she still knows little about. In the end, the essay contest proves to be a way in which Alice can learn more about her new home and the people in it, while also reconnecting with the family she seemed to have lost somewhere along the way from Seattle to ‘Stinkville’.
1. Why did Alice’s family move to Sinkville? How has the move affected Alice and her family?
2. How did “Stinkville” get its nickname?
3. What is Alice’s disability? How does she feel about it?
4. In Chapter 1, Alice says that, when they first meet her, people get an expression on their face “like they just ate some bad cheese but are holding it in their mouths instead of spitting it out.” Why do you think people respond to her this way?
5. Is Tooter really Alice’s Seeing Eye dog? Why does she take him with her everywhere she goes, even if he’s not actually helping her?
6. When Alice first meets Sandi, Tooter pulls on his leash and growls at her. Why do you think he does this? What is Sandi’s first impression on Alice?
7. In Chapter 3, during “Taco Tuesday”, Alice becomes angry and throws her plate across the room. Why do you think she did this? Why is she so angry?
8. James tells Alice and his parents that he visits the lake most days, but Alice suspects there is more going on. What makes Alice suspicious of her brother?
9. How does Alice’s video call with her friend in Seattle, Eliza, go? What does Eliza tell her about her family’s old home? How do you think this affects Alice’s dream of moving back to Seattle?
10. Kerica and Sandi both mention to Alice that Sandi is at the library for tutoring sessions with Kerica’s mom. What kind of tutoring do you think Sandi might be there for? Do you think this affects how she acts toward the other girls? Why?
11. When Alice and her mom visit the library together, Alice learns that her parents are planning to send her to a specialized school for blind children. How does she react to this news? Why? How do you think you would react if you were in her place?
12. Why do you think Alice decides to participate in the Sinkville Success Stories contest?
13. How do you think the fight between Alice and her mom at the library affects her mom’s depression?
14. How had Alice’s dependence on Eliza’s help affected both girls’ relationships with other students back in Seattle?
15. How does Alice’s cane help her navigate through Sinkville? Why do you think she decided to start using it again?
16. At one point, Alice says she felt like she was “posing as a blind person, holding a cane and a dog’s leash.” Why do you think she feels this way?
17. How does her friendship with Mr. Hamlin change Alice’s opinion on living in Sinkville?
18. Who do you think has the greater challenge: Alice with her albinism or Sandi with dyslexia? How does dyslexia make learning more difficult for Sandi?
19. Gretel and Kerica tell Alice stories about what life was like in Sinkville during the civil
rights movement. What kinds of challenges did the town face during that time?
20. Why do you think Alice decided to help Sandi type her essay for the contest? Would you
have done the same thing?
21. After Alice visits the Addison School for the Blind with her parents, she changes her
mind about attending. What made her change her mind?
Beth Vrabel is the award-winning author of A Blind Guide to Stinkville, A Blind Guide to Normal, and the Pack of Dorks series. She can't clap to the beat or be trusted around Nutella, but indulges in both often, much to the dismay of her family. She lives in the Dallas, Texas area.