Me & Emma

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I've had this book on my shelf for a few years. At the time I bought it, to stuff my own Christmas stocking (in order to encourage the fantasy for my young son) it was a much talked about book, maybe even an Oprah's book pick.

On a scale of 1 - 5

Sex: 2

Religion: 1

Gruesome: 3

Suspense: 2

Morality: 1

Sex - There are hints of sexual molestation by a step-father. It is handled very tactfully. As presented through the eyes of a sibling who is not experiencing it first hand, she really doesn't know what goes on behind the closed door. But any adult reader who watches the evening news will understand what is happening.

Religion - There is no church attendance. There are many times the children should cry out to God but it doesn't even cross their minds.

Gruesome - You can't have a book of this nature and not have some gruesome parts. It's not Stephen King gruesome, but children eat dog food and get beat. It's certainly not pleasantness.

Suspense - From early on the reader is given a good sense of how the book will end up. And it does - but not in the way that you'd think. So when the twist is inserted there are several pages of suspense as you try and figure out where all the players are, who did what, and how it is all going to fall out.

Morality - I can't in good conscience give a book such as this anything higher than a 1. Anytime adults allow children to be beaten and abused there is a gross lack of morals. Whatever their reasons were for turning a blind eye, or not taking a stronger stand, it is never enough of an excuse. There are always options. There is always an opportunity to make it better for the child, even if the adult has to continue to suffer.

That being said, the lack of morals and the abundance of gut-wrenching topics, should not prevent you from reading this book. It is very worthy of being read, and rewards you with a fun and intriguing surprise at the end.

Initially I had a hard time getting a fix on what grade the girls are in. I thought Emma was in Kindergarten but the school has lockers and they change classes. Then Carrie talks about her handwriting sometimes looking as bad as Emma's. On page 12 we are told Carrie is 8 and Emma is 6. Carrie later mentions it is the end of her third grade year.

Discussion Questions

Quote at the beginning: Nothing is sinful to us outside of ourselves, Whatever appears, whatever does not appear, we are beautiful or sinful in ourselves only. (O Mother - O Sisters dear! If we are lost, no victor else has destroy'd us, It is by ourselves we go down to eternal night.)" - Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, 1900

Question: Did your consideration of this quote change as you read the book?

Question: What did you expect to be in The Box? What do you think was in it?

Question: At the end of Chapter 6, why do you think Miss Mary and Mr. White don't make more of a stand in defense of the girls?

Question: Do you think Mr. Wilson should've taught Carrie to shoot?

Question: How did you feel when Gammy left the girls behind?

Question: When Orla Mae gave Carrie the cornbread, did you think she was a good friend or did you suspect a trick?

Question: Did the ending surprise you? Once you understood what the reality was, what were some things that became suddenly clear?

Question: Why do you think Emma was never in the classroom with Carrie?

Question: Did finding out Carrie's dad was a cheater change anything?

Question: How do you think life turns out for the remaining characters?

Question: Given the circumstances, do you think it really was the best way to handle Carrie and Emma?

Theme Ideas

Serve: Orangeade (p. 19). According to Carrie's observation, use a frosty mug (or frosty glass jar with a lid) and put in fresh squeezed orange juice, sugar and soda water. Put on the lid and shake. Or try an exact recipe from

Serve: Carrie's favorite - Biscuits and Gravy

Serve: Hot Dogs, Peanuts and Coke like the girls ate at the Cafe before seeing The Box.

Serve: Sugar Sticks - Carrie's favorite are red, Emma's favorite are purple

Serve: Picnic Day - fried chicken and potato salad on a red checkered cloth

Serve: Toast (because that's where they are from), perhaps with some Peanut Butter spread or Bread & Honey

Serve: Something that looks like Dog Food

Serve: Cornbread

Serve: Planters nuts