You are on page 1of 7


By Laura Geringer Bass


The Girl with More than One Heart can help empower students to tell their own stories and to listen to the feelings of
others with kindness and empathy. Use the following discussion questions and extension activities as a springboard to
discuss with students how a person, when forced to navigate unchartered territory due to a life-altering tragedy, can
be capable of discovering a surprising new path through the storms of unexpected loss and grief.


CHAPTERS 1–3 • How does Briana’s mom react when Briana tries to
• What is the most significant event that occurs in the tell her about the “Dad heart” that is speaking to her?
opening chapters? How do you think this will affect
• How is Briana’s mom handling the death of her
husband? Using details from the text, describe
• How does Briana feel about her father? How does what Tina and Reena see when they come to visit.
she feel about her mother and brother? Use details How would you react if you saw your friend’s mom
from the text to support your answer. like this?

• How does Briana describe the feeling of growing a CHAPTERS 7–9

second heart? Do you think this is a real physical
• How would you describe the friendship between
change or something else? Explain your answer.
Peter and Briana? Use details from the chapters
• In The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting, there to support your thinking.
is a two-headed llama called the pushmi-pullyu.
• What is Briana’s “Dad heart” saying when it speaks
Why do you think Peter referred to Tina and Reena
to her? What do you think this means?
as the pushmi-pullyu? What is your first impression
of Tina and Reena? Use details from the text to • What does Briana mean when she says, “The
explain your answer. Clothespin Angel Mom is in there somewhere.
All I had to do was wake her up.” Refer back in
CHAPTERS 4–6 the text to explain Briana’s statement.
• Why is Briana upset that her mother told people
attending the funeral that she was called Estrellita
by her father?

• 1 •


CHAPTERS 10–12 • Why do you think Peter has such strong feelings
• Why do you think Briana wore her dad’s hat to about making sure Aaron knows they might be
school? moving? What experience from his past might be
influencing his opinion? Use details from the text
• What happened when the class read Briana’s to support your answer.
fractured fairy tale? What did Tina say was the
moral of the story? How did Briana react? How CHAPTERS 19–21
did Daisy respond?
• How does Briana react when she finds Aaron missing
• What do Daisy and Briana have in common? How from his bed? What does she say to her mom? Do
might these common interests and experiences help you think Briana has the right to be acting this way?
them become friends? Would you want a friend Why or why not?
more like Tina or more like Daisy? Explain.
• How does Grandpa Ben view Aaron? How does Didi
• Why did Briana refer to Aaron as Stonestiltskin? view Aaron? Give specific details from the text to
What information do we learn about Aaron? illustrate what Grandpa sees compared to how Didi
views the same situation. Whom do you agree with?
CHAPTERS 13–15 Support your answer with solid reasoning and
references to the text.
• What is Briana’s impression of Didi?
What does Didi seem concerned about? • What are the four easy steps Briana read about
to quit worrying? Describe each step, and then tell
• How does Peter respond when Briana tells him
whether or not you think this process can really
she does not want to talk about what Didi said?
work to help someone stop worrying. Explain your
• How does Grandpa Ben use storytelling to keep thinking.
Aaron entertained?
• How do you think Briana felt when she heard
• What happened when Briana attended the Inwood
Peter was at Sarah M.’s house?
Chatter meeting?
• Why does Briana try so hard to find missing Lego
• Why do you think Tina told Briana about Sarah
pieces? What does she hope to discover?
bringing Peter to Reena’s party? If you could give
• What does she conclude is the message from her Briana advice, what would you tell her to do?
Dad’s heart?
• After Briana asks Peter if it is true that he will be
going to the party with Sarah, Briana feels the need
to escape. What is her plan? What do you think the
• Do you think it is fair of Briana to want her mom to consequences of her actions might be?
go to Aaron’s conference and to leave the house?
Why or why not?

• What was it like for Briana to go to Daisy’s house?

Compare and contrast Daisy’s house with Briana’s.

• How does Daisy view Briana and her relationship

with Aaron? Use evidence from the text to support
your thinking.



CHAPTERS 25–27 • What happens when Briana tells Peter she has
• What story does Grandpa Ben tell Briana? What more than one heart? Do you think this will change
story does Briana seem to want to tell Grandpa? things between them? Why or why not?
Do you think he would understand Briana’s story of
• Why does Briana’s mom give her the silent
a girl with more than one heart? Why or why not?
treatment? Do you think Briana was right to say
• What happens when Briana’s mom can’t get in what she said? Use details from the story to support
touch with her? How does Briana react to her your answer.
mother’s questions and opinions about Briana’s
• When it is time to move, Briana takes Aaron to
friends? Where does Briana go next? Why do
Grandpa Ben’s. What do they do there? She heard
you think she chose to do this instead of going
her Dad heart say, “Say goodbye.” What do you
over to Peter’s?
think this means?
• How did Daisy choose to represent Briana’s father
in the painting? What does this show about her CHAPTERS 35–38
understanding of Briana? • When Briana sees her new room, she is furious that
her Dad box is not there. Using evidence from the
CHAPTERS 28–30 text, explain what is in this box and why it is so
• When Briana arrives home late, her mother tells important to Briana.
her she is grounded. Describe this conversation • What misunderstanding does Briana have? How
and explain why it may be a turning point in their does this lead her to an important conversation with
relationship. her mom? What do they discuss?
• What happens during the Parent’s Day • The story ends with the words, “And the steady beat
presentation? Why is Briana embarrassed of my single heart kept time.” What do you think
when her mother enters? In what way does one this means? What happened to Briana’s Dad heart?
of Briana’s wishes come true? Do you think she is
really happy that Grandpa Ben has now seen • What do you think will happen next in Briana’s
Aaron at his worst? Explain. story? What are some possible changes that may
occur in her life as a result of the way she has
• How does Sarah M. react to Aaron’s tantrum? changed?
How does Peter react? What do you think this
might mean?

• On the walk back home, Peter says, “Sometimes
I feel like I am living in the City of the Dead with
my mom.” What does he mean by this?

• Why is it significant that Briana threw away her

mother’s slippers? What does it represent for



English Language Arts •G

 ive students the opportunity to share their everyday
miracles and discuss whether any of them saw the
Reaction Journal same miracles or if they were all completely different.
• Briana learns about herself and grows throughout
the book. A reaction journal will help readers track
her growth as well as their own thinking about her • The Girl with More than One Heart is a story
process from chapter to chapter. For each chapter interwoven with stories. Briana’s cherished memories
read, encourage students to record their thoughts, and small moments help readers more fully
including any questions or opinions they may have. understand her and the life she had before her father’s
To make this more interactive, the reaction journal passing. Help students see the importance of their
could be shared with a partner (two readers record own stories with this timeline memoir activity.
their thinking in one journal) or a digital solution, •B
 egin by asking students to try to recall their earliest
such as a blog, could be used. memory. They should think about what happened,
Everyday Miracles who was there, and how they felt. Ask them to jot
down a few ideas about that memory. Then, ask them
• I n the first chapter, Briana explains that her mom is to sit quietly for a few minutes and just try to recall
very good at seeing “everyday miracles” such as the
moments when they were happy, sad, or angry.
shadow patterns made by pigeons and mist rising
from the Hudson River. Explore this idea through •N
 ext, have them write these down as well. They
writing. Begin by discussing the everyday miracles might be memories of big events, such as vacations or
referred to in The Girl with More than One Heart. birthdays, but encourage students to think about the
Ask students to brainstorm a few ideas of their own little moments too. Ask them to fill their page with
(to ensure they understand the concept), and then ideas or, if they get stuck, have them sketch some of
offer students the opportunity to quietly look for their memories.
real-world examples with a silent walking field trip.
• Then, share a few examples of the way Laura Geringer
• The walking trip may be around the school grounds, Bass, the author of The Girl with More than One
in the community, or even just sitting quietly on the Heart, writes memories from Briana’s perspective.
playground. Students should be coached ahead of Ask students to notice how she narrows the focus and
time to be absolutely silent as they observe and record gives very vivid descriptions of the actions and the use
“everyday miracles.” Give students a clipboard with of figurative language to help readers visualize.
paper (or a small notebook) and ask them to record
their observations. • Finally, ask students to spend time writing about the
memories they brainstormed, using the examples in
 pon returning to the classroom, ask students to The Girl with More than One Heart as a guide for both
choose one of their observations to write about. approximate length and as a mentor text for craft.
Encourage students to experiment with different After expanding upon their writing over time, ask
ways of conveying meaning through writing. They students to organize their memory writing
may want to write poetry, compose a song, develop chronologically to the best of their ability. Then,
a persuasive letter, or even write a narrative. As long ask them to read through their own collection of
as they are somehow able to convey their everyday memories and discuss how these memories helped
miracle and what it means to them, then all forms shape who they are today. Discuss as a class how
of written expression should be considered. Briana’s memories shaped her as a person, but also
how they helped give meaning to the overall story.



Fractured Fairy Tales The Arts

• I n Mr. Woodman’s class, Briana has the chance to
write a fractured fairy tale. This is when a traditional
Art Therapy
tale is mixed up with other elements or other stories • W
 riting and creating art can help people process
to create a new story. Briana’s first story is based on their pain. There is a field of psychology specifically
Little Red Riding Hood, but there are many examples dedicated to using art to help people express
of fractured fairy tales. Read a few different ones themselves and work through difficult situations.
aloud, and then challenge students to create their In The Girl with More than One Heart, Briana uses
own fractured fairy tales. writing, but Daisy used visual arts to help her work
through the loss of her parent. Give students the
Chapter Titles opportunity to explore the field of art therapy with
 ometimes books do not have named chapters, but a group project. Working in teams, ask students to
this book does, and its chapater titles are often subtle work together to learn more about the work of art
references to the chapter’s events or the theme. Ask and music therapists.
students to choose one or two chapters and use details
• I f there are art or music therapists in the school
from those chapters to explain the meanings behind
community or local community, students may want
their titles.
to interview them. Students may want to focus on
 tudents should share a short summary for each and what a day in the life of a therapist looks like, why
then explain how the chapter title relates to the story. creating art can help people, or the education and
experience pathway that leads to a career as an art
 or each chapter, students should also evaluate the or music therapist.
chapter title and state whether or not they think it
was a good title. If not, they may want to propose a • A
 sk each group to report their findings by presenting
different title. to the class.

Comfort Books Science and Social Studies

 fter her father’s funeral, Briana scans her shelves and
mentions several books she has reread and enjoyed
Science and Social Studies
more than once. Ask students to choose one of the Quick Facts
books listed and either read it and give a book talk on • Th
 roughout The Girl with More than One Heart,
it or read about it (if it is a book that is above their there are a number of science and social studies facts
developmental or reading level). Books mentioned by shared. They range from information about worm
Briana include: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty hearts to discussions about hagfish to statements
Smith, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The about using 3-D printing to make artificial hearts.
Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers, The Tub There is even mention of Singing Sands in the Gobi
People by Pam Conrad, Abel’s Island by William Steig, Desert and the behaviors of silk worms. Ask students
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett, and The to search through the book for these interwoven facts,
Moomin books by Tove Jansson. and then choose one to research. Students should be
able to produce a short informational text article on
 s an alternative, students may want to share a book whatever topic they chose to research.
talk about a book choice of their own that they have
read over and over. Students should be prepared to
talk about whether or not they think the book they
are discussing is worthy of being read more than once.



The Power of Words •A

 s a shared reading exercise, guide students as they
• B
 riana writes stories, both fiction and memoirs, use close reading strategies to discover some of the
to help her work through the death of her father. common signs, symptoms, strengths, and challenges
One of the themes of this book is that words can of autism. Create a class list, and then ask students
have power. Ask students to look for examples to search for specific examples in The Girl with
of the power of words in The Girl with More than More than One Heart that show how Aaron is
One Heart. Discuss this as a class. demonstrating some of these symptoms, behaviors,
and challenges, but also the strengths.
• Th
 en, challenge students to look for examples in
history or current events that show the power of •E
 ncourage students to conduct outside research
words. Each student should find an example of the including reading and possibly interviewing specialists
power of words (speeches, articles, letters, quotes, to learn more about autism and ways to build on the
etc.) and be ready to explain why it is important strengths, especially when working with peers and
historically (or will be) as well as the effect the words members of the community who may be people with
had or are having on change. autism. As a culminating activity, ask students to
work together to create a class book, video, or
 tudents may want to present their ideas orally, brochure explaining what they know about autism, as
write about them, create a poster or visual display, well as some strategies that can be used to help people
or integrate technology to share their thinking. with autism to be successful in school and in life.

Character Education
Autism Awareness
 aron, Briana’s brother, is a child on the autistic
spectrum. Sometimes the way he reacts to situations
may seem frightening or “crazy,” as Briana described
it. Educating students about autism can help prepare
them for working with classmates with autism or may
help them understand their own diagnosis. Begin
with an exploration of informational text that
describes symptoms of autism. One possible resource
is the Autism Speaks website (

by Laura Geringer Bass


“Perceptive and brutally truthful.”


“Bass tackles some heavy issues . . .

with grace and empathy.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Bass balances the coming-of-age

narrative with a grief journey. …
sensitively and realistically.”
—School Library Journal

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2882-2 Ages 8 to 12


When Briana’s father dies, she feels a new heart grow inside her. It talks to her in her father’s voice and guides her
through her grief. It helps her navigate her not-so-normal life at home. When her mother’s own grief turns into
depression, Briana takes on new responsibilities for her little brother who is on the autistic spectrum. The
voice of Briana’s “Dad heart” helps her to cope. Eventually, she draws on her own imagination, originality,
and tender, loving heart to discover a surprising path through the storm.


Laura Geringer Bass is the author of Sign of the Qin, an ALA Best Book, and A Three Hat Day, an ALA
Notable Book. She was the publisher of Laura Geringer Books, an award-winning imprint of HarperCollins for
more than twenty years. She serves on the advisory board of First Book and as a mentor for Girls Write Now.

Visit Laura online at

This educator’s guide was written by Dr. Jennifer McMahon, education consultant © 2018.

You might also like