Falling for Henry - Teachers’ Guide

Falling for Henry

A Teachers’ Guide prepared by the author:
Saskatoon-based educator Beverley A. Brenna


This discussion and activity guide is geared for grades six and up.

Book Summary

Falling for Henry is a young adult time-slip novel which relies on historical fiction to tell the story of fifteen-year-old Kate Allen who escapes the trials of her own teen existence in central London by traveling back to the 1507 court of Henry VII at Greenwich Palace. Once there, she masquerades as Katherine of Aragon, the young woman who will become the first wife of the young and charismatic prince once he is crowned King Henry VIII. At first seeing their courtship as an answer to her 21st century troubles, Kate’s changing heart provides a strong rhythm for this close look at relationships.

One of the sub-themes of the novel involves wolves of 16th century England who, close to extermination, have found a way to tunnel from one time to another—creating the passageway through which Kate travels backward to Tudor Times, just as the wolves plunge forward into present day London. A related environmental theme offers the life force Kate has been missing, and as she discovers ways to put her different pasts behind her, she also finds ways to come to terms with the present. Thought-provoking reading for ages eleven and up.

Pre-reading Small-Group Discussion or Writing Topics
  1. What kinds of conflicts might occur between an older sibling raising a younger sibling? Which of these are the same as might occur in a household led by a parent? Which of these are different?
  2. Falling for Henry begins with the introduction of Kate’s difficulties with small spaces. Read chapter one to explore this tension and then discuss the following questions with a partner:
    1. What do you know about Kate?
    2. What causes Kate’s anxiety in this situation? How is she planning to deal with it?
    3. What personal connections can you make to anything in this section?
  3. What other fantasy books have you read? How are they structured? Read chapter two to see how this book introduces the fantasy element. Discuss this with a partner following reading.
  4. What other historical fiction books have you read? How might writing historical fiction be challenging for an author?
  5. Research the life of Henry VIII and work with a small group to create a timeline of his life.

Much of the study is designed as class discussion, either in partners, small groups, or as a larger group. Students should complete the following for their portfolios:

  1. A character web of Kate.
  2. A webbing of secondary characters in the novel (Prince Henry; William; Willow; Dona Elvira). This could be designed as a web of concentric circles, with Kate’s name in the middle, and the characters and their connections to her included on the outside rings.
  3. A reader response journal, with entries following each reading, or a collection of sticky notes added to the students’ copies of the text creating “commonplace” books (Sumara, 1995).* The journal or sticky notes should contain the students’ thoughts, feelings, connections, and questions as they read.

    *Sumara, Dennis J. (1995). Response to Reading as a Focal Practice. English Quarterly, 28 (1).

  4. Bring something to class that symbolizes Kate or Henry, and add it to the class bulletin board. Be able to identify your addition, and its purpose, and add this to the key at the side of the board, along with your name.
  5. Examine the novel for stereotypes. Consider whether societal stereotypes about people with special needs appear in the book. Discuss with a small group.
  6. Discuss and critique the scientific concepts that appear in the book.
  7. Make choices for assignments from the following menu:
    • Compile images related to the story into visual art which depicts the characters of Kate or Henry; be prepared to share and discuss in class.
    • Is Kate’s character consistent with research on post traumatic stress disorder? Create jot notes to explore this question.
    • How does the author include historical detail within the fictional plot? In your journal, collect historical facts you find interesting.
    • Kate develops some strategies to use when she feels claustrophobic. What are they? Write her a letter evaluating these strategies and offering more ideas.
    • Explore your personal connections to this story through a series of poems.
    • Dramatize a scene from the story that you think contains good dramatic tension. Perform this in a small group for the class.
    • Compare this book to others you have read on thematically similar subjects. You may use either chart or essay format.
    • Write a song from any of the perspectives of characters from the novel. Be prepared to share with the class.
    • Make a map of the Greenwich Palace area according to the information in the book. The author designed the setting based on Hampton Court palace instead of Greenwich. Why do you think this might have occurred? Try and find out the author’s actual reason.
    • Select a character or object from the story and develop a dramatic “hotseating” of this character or object with the class.
    • Work with a small group to create a tableau, with voice-in-the-head speech, of a tension-filled scene from the story.
    • Re-write a scene from a particular character’s or object’s perspective (i.e. “I am the pearl ring…”).
    • Create a pantoum poem about wolves.
    • Make a list of questions you’d like to ask the author.
    • Develop other ideas for art activities, writing activities, or drama activities based on the book
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