Operation Oleander Discussion Guide (paperback version) (2.1MB)
A resource for teachers and librarians.
The Other Side of Blue
1. From the first paragraph, Curaçao is described in colorful terms, and Cyan often relates to others through use of color. For example, she describes Kammi as pink. Yet Cyan’s worldview often seems black and white. How does Cyan’s relationship to color change over time?
2. Why do you think Cyan steals her mother’s paint tubes?
3. What role does food play in this novel?
4. At one point Cyan says her mother believes that Cyan isn’t an artist but a crafts person. Is there a distinction between arts and crafts? If so, how does Cyan reconcile the difference?
5. Three mothers are portrayed in the book—Martia, Mrs. Bindas, and Cyan’s mother. For better or worse, how does each woman fulfill that role in your view? From Cyan’s viewpoint?
6. What is Cyan’s relationship with Mayur?
7. The cave is a literary device that has been used in other novels and movies, such as Passage to India and Star Wars. What do you think does the cave symbolizes for Cyan?
8. Do you think Cyan’s views of her father change over the course of the novel? If so, how?
9. Why does Cyan ultimately not tell her mother about the secret note? Is her decision selfish?
10. Why do you think the author chose to end the book as she did?
1. The housekeeper Martia comforts Cyan with kokada and other local specialties. Using Caribbean cookbooks or the Internet to learn more about cuisine from the Netherland Antilles. Try making kokada or other typical dishes from Curaçao.
2. Using a map of Curaçao, pinpoint sites mentioned in the book—Willemstad, Christoffel National Park, St. Anna Bay.
3. Cyan, her mother, and Kammi all express themselves through artistic means. What is your favorite artistic medium? If you sketch or paint, practice landscape en plein aire. If you prefer jewelry making, try finding sea glass or beads that capture the colors of the sea. If you prefer another means of expression—from writing to knitting—try to incorporate color in a new way that illuminates your feelings.
Curaçao Gallery from The Other Side of Blue
Excerpts from reviews. . .
“[I]n her memorable first-person voice, filled with the minute observations of a young artist, Cyan sketches out with believable detail the beautiful setting, the unspoken family tension, and her fragile recovery of hope after loss.” Gillian Engberg, Booklist 10/15/2009
“There’s a smoothness and clarity here that recall Zibby Oneal or Frances O’Roark Dowell, and fans of those writers as well as readers drawn by family dramas with a bit of mystery will relish a sojourn on the island with Cyan." Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, November 2009.
Brie Shannon and I traveled to Curaçao to photograph some of the locations mentioned in The Other Side of Blue. (Thank you, Brie, for the great photos!) We hope these photographs give you a glimpse of the beauty of this wonderful island.