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Discussion Module

The Wish List
by
Eoin Colfer

Publishing Information: Miramax Books/Hyperion Books for Children: New York, 2003
ISBN: 00439442269
Pages
: 252 p.
Ages: 10 & Up

Summary:
Meg Finn has led a miserable life. First, her mum died, saddling her with a useless, nasty stepfather. Then, angry and alone, Meg found herself committing acts of petty crime with dim-witted hood Belch Brennan. Finally, just as she was about to go straight to honor her sainted mum's memory, Belch went and got them both killed as they attempted to rob crabby old Lowrie McCall. And if that wasn't bad enough, now St. Peter and Beelzebub can't decide which way Meg is supposed to go. She is one in a million: a soul perfectly balanced between good and evil. Now Meg's got to go back and somehow tip the scales UP--the further, the better! To earn her wings, Meg's been assigned to help the last person she tried to hurt (Lowrie McCall) who has a wish list of wrong choices that he wants to make right. But Beelzebub can't stand the thought of a bad soul going good. So he sends back the soul of powerfully stupid Belch, (who went straight down without stopping) to muck things up for Meg and Lowrie. But Meg's got smarts on her side and more than just a few tricks up her insubstantial sleeve...

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Death
Good and Evil
Heaven
Hell
Life After Death
Redemption
Terminal Illness

Reviews:
BookList, October 1, 2003, p. 330
School Library Journal, December 2003, p. 148

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. What were the characters of St. Peter, Satan, and Beelzebub like? Would you say this is satirical? Why or why not?
  2. What happened to Belch Brennan and his dog Raptor? Did the two personalities merge or were they really alike all the same? Why? Cite examples from the book to support your answer.
  3. Why did Meg have to return to earth? Do you think she should have been able to do this?
  4. What happened when Meg’s spirit entered Lowrie’s body? 
  5. What were their feelings towards each other at the start of their odyssey? How did they change?  Was it quick or subtle?  Give examples.
  6. Why would accomplishing the things on Lowrie’s wish list help him? How would it help Meg?
  7. How did the author show that people need to be responsible for their own behaviors?
  8. What were two important regrets that Meg had? How did she redeem herself? What was the most significant act she did that earned her a place in Heaven?
  9. Lowrie McCall made a wonderful statement about regrets. "The elderly usually don't have regrets for what we did, but rather for things we did not do. The only people who fear death are those with regrets." What do you think that means?
  10. Do you have any regrets that you wish you could change? What would you do differently?
  11. Discuss how perceptions about people can be wrong and oftentimes hurtful. How are classmates treated? And why?
  12. Meg thought of Lowrie one way, as just an old coot, until she got to know him. Then she changed her opinion. Do you have or know of someone who has a perception of someone, good or bad, without really knowing that person? Is there always more to a person than just the outside (looks, clothing, demeanor)? What would happen if you gave someone a chance to be other than what you thought? Who would benefit? 
  13. Did Lowrie deserve to be victimized? What about the people in your school who are bullied and victimized? Meg was able to make amends. How could that be done to the people in your school? 

Activities: 

  • Discuss satire and word play.  Have students find the puns and word plays as they read.  List and discuss.  Discuss the satirical aspects of the book.
  • Discuss school bullying and victimization in a school setting. Make sure to include time to discuss solution or how to make amendslike Meg did. 

Related Websites:
Author's Website (http://www.eoincolfer.com/)

http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=811   exploring satire with The Simpsons.  Includes interactive character profiles from the Simpsons official website

http://www.sfu.ca/oldlidc/research/kaufman/UsingHumour.doc   Using humor in teaching

http://www.history.org/history/teaching/enewsletter/volume3/october04/teachstrategy.cfm    Using political cartoons in the classroom.

Read-a-Likes:
Alice's Advewntures in Wonderland by Lewis Caroll, 1865
Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, 2003
Faerie Wars by Herbie Brennan, 2004
Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, 2003
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathon Swift, 1726
Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding, 2004 (2006 RITBA Nominee)
10 Things to Do Before I Die by Daniel Ehrenhaft, 2004

Other Books by the Author:
Artemis Fowl, 2001 (2002 RITBA Nominee)
Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, 2002
Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code, 2003
The Artemis Fowl Files, 2004
The Legend of Spud Murphy, 2004
The Supernaturalist, 2004
Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception, 2005

About the Author:
Name: Eoin (pronouced Owen) Colfer
Nationality: Irish
Age: 36
Biography: Eoin was born in Wexford, a picturesque coastal town in the southeast corner of Ireland. He qualified as a primary teacher in 1986 and taught in a local primary school by day while continuing to write at night. In 1991 he married his childhood sweetheart, Jackie. At present they have two sons: Finn, 6, and baby Sean.

He spent four years working in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Italy and used his experiences abroad to write his first children's novel, 'Benny and Omar' about a young Irish boy, his Tunisian best friend and their madcap adventures in north Africa. This was published in October 1998 and a sequel, 'Benny and Babe' followed in June 1999. 'The Wish List', a bizarre tale of life, death and an unexpected hereafter, was next in 2000 and won a Bisto Merit Award in 2001.

After this Eoin wanted to write an Irish story appealing to a wider audience and began writing what would become the bestselling Artemis Fowl series. The first Artemis Fowl was published in 2001 and the fourth full-length novel should be out early next year. Miramax Films have now bought the rights for Artemis Fowl and are currently putting it all together.

Eoin's most recent book is called 'The Supernaturalist', a futuristic sci-fi adventure, and is available NOW!

Likes: The sea, going to the cinema, stand-up comedy, Heavy Metal (AC/DC and The Darkness), Apple Mac computers, Ireland.

Dislikes: Garlic and onions, queues, arguing, accounting, ironing

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