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A Reader's Guide

Water Shaper

Water Shaper is a compelling fantasy adventure about an outcast princess searching for acceptance and a rebellious storyteller who longs to tell forbidden tales. This reader's guide provokes discussion of the novel's primary themes: coming-of-age, prejudice, basic women's rights, stories and censorship, love and relationships.

About the Book

Like her long dead mother, Princess Margot loves water, which makes her an outcast in her father's landlocked kingdom. When Margot meets a traveling king, handsome Orrin, he tells her of his peaceful land by the sea. Margot flees with him, hoping to find a new home.

But Orrin's kingdom may not be quite what it seems. In it awaits Bird, a sullen storyteller who resents Orrin's laws. In his quest to bring safety and order to his land, Orrin has banned all stories of outlaw heroes — the tales of pirates and thieves Bird so loves to tell. As Bird searches for those who'll listen to forbidden tales, Margot arrives in the kingdom, thrilled by the sea. She begins to find a mysterious power within her, an inexplicable knowledge of currents and strange sea lights. When Orrin grows jealous of her power and tries to assert control over it, she forms a friendship with Bird. Together they run toward a land they thought existed only in stories, toward the startling discovery of Margot's true identity.

About the Author

Laura Williams McCaffrey is an elementary school librarian and the author of the novel Alia Waking (2003), a fantasy for middle-grade readers. Born and raised in Vermont, McCaffrey lived for four years in New York City, where she attended Barnard College. She now lives in East Montpelier, Vermont, with her musician husband, their two daughters, and their adopted strays — a dog and a cat.

Questions for Discussion

1. Margot feels she's an outsider in Pristanne and in Asrai. What does she do or think that sets her apart? In Mawr, she feels special. Why? How is being special the same as or different from being an outsider?

2. Until the end of the book, Margot is looking for a place where she'll belong, a home. How is each place she travels to different from the home she imagines she'll find? At the novel's end, the narrator says, "She was different, landless, placeless . . . She shaped water. She had a book shaped of water. That was her land and her place" (p. 210). How has her concept of home changed during the novel?

3. People bullied Margot and Orrin when they were younger. Did they deserve it? Why or why not? How have their responses and attitudes toward bullying changed as they've grown older? How have their responses and attitudes remained the same?

4. Who in the story has prejudices, and what do they believe? How do their beliefs effect how they treat others? In Pristanne and Asrai, people have prejudices about Margot, but she still has confidence in herself. Why? Does she have any prejudices, even though other people's prejudices have hurt her? If so, what are they?

5. On page 18, Belinde tells Margot, "A woman can get what she wants, always." Then, on page 19, she says that women must make men "feel clever . . . to win them over." What does she mean? Is she correct? Why or why not? How do other female characters get what they want? How are their actions similar to or different from Belinde's?

6. How do men use magic in this story? How do women use magic? Do the cultures depicted have different rules for women, men, and magic? Are some cultures fairer than others? If so, how has fairness improved the characters' lives? Has it ever had the opposite effect?

7. Is Orrin's land better or worse because he's forbidden certain tales? On page 106, he says, "Why miss hearing of thieves and murderers when you can walk free at night?" At first Margot agrees with him, but later she thinks she'll miss some of the forbidden stories. Why might she be wrong to miss them? Why might she be right?

8. Bird misses telling forbidden stories "more than anything" (p. 123). What stories does Bird miss telling and why? Why does he think telling them is important?

9. At the story's climax, Orrin wants to get the book back from Margot, but he also wants her back. Why? What is it about her that he doesn't want to lose? Does he love her? Why or why not?

10. Does Margot like Bird for the same reasons she liked Orrin, or for different ones? Have her thoughts about relationships changed? If so, how? How have they stayed the same? How are her attitudes about love and relationships better or worse at the end of the story than they were at the beginning?

Praise for Water Shaper

"With political undertones, as well as riveting personal drama, this fantasy will leave many readers looking for a sequel." — Booklist (starred review)

"The evocative settings, intricate plot and resourceful heroine make for an engrossing read." — Kirkus Reviews

"Readers will . . . be caught up as Margot comes to terms with her magical powers and her mother's unfortunate secret." — Publishers Weekly

To Learn More

For further information about Water Shaper or to learn more about Laura Williams McCaffrey, please visit www.laurawilliamsmccaffrey.com.

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