The Snow Merchant discussion guide

Author: Sam Gayton


Publisher: Andersen Press

Suggested year group: year 6


A warning of danger in a letter left by her absent mother has forbidden Lettie Peppercorn to ever set foot on Albion so she lives a lonely life as the underage landlady of the White Horse, an inn built on stilts. Her father is rarely home, drinking and gambling away any takings. Nothing incredible has ever happened to Lettie until one winter’s night when the mysterious Snow Merchant arrives and she sets off on a journey that will change her world forever.

Rationale for selection

 Sam Gayton’s writing transports the reader into another world with clever imagery and unusual characters. The novel is tightly plotted and with themes of alchemy and change running throughout there is much to discuss. It is well suited to being read aloud but could also be used for guided reading.  

Points for Discussion

Read the recipe for snow at the beginning of the story.

  • Is it how you expect a recipe to be?
  • What do you think it means?
  • Can you make sense of it?

Discuss the chapter titles.

  • Can you make any predictions about the story based on these?

In Chapter One we meet twelve year old Lettie.

  • What kind of life does Lettie lead?
  • Is it what you would expect for a twelve year old?
  • How is it different to your life?
  • Are there children anywhere in the world who are expected to work?
  • What kind of place is Albion?
  • Does it remind you of anywhere you have visited, seen in a film or read about?
  • When do you think this story takes place?
  • What evidence can you find to support this?

The Snow Merchant claims to be an alchemist.

  • What does this mean? (Look at the quote on page 102 and discuss why Sam Gayton has used it)
  • What kind of man is he?
  • Does your opinion change as the story goes on?

In Chapter Seven we find out about how Lettie’s parents met and were married. Teresa tells Henry, “I’m not going to be a wife; I’m going to be an alchemist.”

  • What do you think and feel about this statement?

At the end of Part One Blustav promises to tell Lettie everything about her mother.

  • Should she trust him?
  • Do you think he will keep his word?
  • What do you think has happened to Teresa?

On page 260 Lettie shouts, “WHY CAN’T THINGS STAY THE SAME?”

  • What do you think?
  • Do you ever feel like this?
  • Would Lettie really have wanted things to stay the same as they were at the start of the story?

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These notes may be printed freely for use in classrooms but may not be reproduced in any other format without the permission of the author.

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