The Great Unexpected discussion guide

Author: Sharon Creech






Publisher: Andersen Press

Suggested Year Group: Year 6


An intricately plotted, compelling and timeless tale from a master storyteller which works well as a text for guided reading or as a whole class read aloud. Naomi and Lizzie are orphan girls living in a small town where nothing much happens until the arrival of a new boy sets off a chain of events which changes their lives forever.


The characters are vividly described and themes of friendship, forgiveness and belonging offer plenty of opportunities for discussion. In particular the way that the various threads within the story are weaved together make this a must read.

Points for Discussion

  • Begin by reading the overheard conversations before the contents page.
  • What do you think is ‘truth’ and what is ‘real’?
  • Come back to this at the end of the novel and discuss in the context of the story.

Naomi says on Page 2, ‘a story is only interesting if I was in the story.’

  • What does this tell you about Naomi?
  • What kind of character might she be?
  • Make notes that you can add to as the story progresses.
  • What are your first impressions of Lizzie when we meet her in Chapter Two?
  • How are Naomi and Lizzie different?
  • What makes them friends?
  • Why is Chapter Three written using a different font to the previous chapters?
  • What questions do you have about Mrs Kavanagh and how might she be linked to Naomi?

Near the end of the novel, Naomi thinks, “Did a delicate cobweb link us all, silky lines trailing through the air?”  (p. 220).

  • How are the characters in 'The Great Unexpected' connected?
  • Did any of these connections surprise you?  Which ones?
  • Were there any hints of these connections given in the story? If so, what were they?

Lizzie and Naomi play a game: “real or not real” (p. 205).

  • What does this mean?
  • When do the girls play it?
  • Why do they have trouble telling the difference?
  • Is it always easy to understand what is real and what isn’t?
  • Are there other instances in the book where it’s hard to tell what is “real”?
  • Who is the target of Sybil’s revenge?
  • How does she orchestrate it?
  • Who helps her?
  • Why does she think it’s necessary?
  • She and Pilpenny often talk of having a murder (p. 140).
  • What does this mean?


Copyright: Just Imagine Story Centre Ltd

All rights reserved.

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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