by T. A. Barron. Novel. 272 pages. Grades 3-7.
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While this captivating fantasy's theme of the role of death is a somber one, the writing is not. That's partly because of the attendant theme of love conquering all. The book has elements of physics, metaphysics, adventure, science fiction and fantasy, broadening its appeal to many audiences. Even the author recognizes similarities in plot to Madeleine L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time which many students will have read previously.


Heartlight is the first book in the Adventures of Kate trilogy. Kate's grandfather has been working in his laboratory to uncover an unknown element in the heart of stars, called "Pure Concentrated Light". He has succeeded in making a small amount of this magical substance which has the power to liberate your "Heartlight" so that you can travel to anyplace in space. Soon his laboratory is plagued by a destructive presence and then the sun begins to lose power. Grandfather becomes "heartlight" and travels to a distant star which he believes may hold the answer. Kate, using a magical butterfly, joins him and they begin a voyage into a world where Darkness and the Pattern are battling it out. They learn about the desire to live forever in contrast to the rightness of the pattern where the death of one thing means the birth of something else.



Things to Talk About and Notice

  • What do you think the author's feeling about death is? Does that coincide with your own beliefs?

  • What did you think of grandfather's fate in the book? Would you have written it that way? How did the author help you accept it?

  • How do you understand the Sages' statement: "There are two kinds of death for a star, and they are as different as hope is different from despair."

  • "If you trust in the Pattern, you trust in yourself. and if you trust in yourself, your voice holds all the power of truth." is another quote from the book. Does it have any meaning for you?


  • Make a venn diagram comparing this book with A Wrinkle in Time.

  • Cover Art Compare this book's philosophy about death with that in The Giver.

  • Read or reread the sections of Tuck Everlasting, Charlotte's Web and Everywhere (see below) which talk about life and death.

  • What if everyone did live even twenty years longer than the expected years today? thirty years? one hundred? Find current statistics and recalculate them with the hypothetical longer life. What would it do to the quality of life? What accommodation would societies have to make?

  • Investigate the philosophy about death in religions other than your own.


Related Books

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    Grades 4 - 8
    Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. Novel. 180 pages.
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    This thought-provoking, delightful book has got to be one of the all time great fantasies for children. The writing is superb, the plot engrossing and the images and themes can last in the reader's mind for a very long time. When Winnie, a rather bored and overly protected child, becomes friends with the Tuck family, her life is changed forever. The Tucks, mother and father and two sons, have inadvertently drunk from a well that halts aging and gives them everlasting life. They will never grow old, never die. Read More in our Featured Book Teachers Guide with discussion questions, extension activities, related books and links.

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    Grades 3 - 5
    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. Novel. 256 pages.
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    In this combination science fiction & fantasy, Meg, her genius brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin travel through space to rescue her father who is being held on the sinister planet Camazotz. They accomplish their travel through the use of a tesseract: in effect, a wrinkle in time. This they have learned from their other-worldly neighbors: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which.

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    Grades 6 - 9
    The Giver by Lois Lowry. Novel. 179 pages.
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    This is a fascinating novel, a combination of fantasy and science fiction in which a seemingly Utopian society is shown to be a cruel and unforgiving civilization. Jonas has reached the age of career assignments in this carefully regulated society and is chosen to be the recipient of the memories which he gets from The Giver in a series of intense and physical transferences. As the memories accumulate, he and we become aware of all that the society has relinquished and Jonas must decide whether or not to stay. Winner of the Newbery Award. Read More.

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    Grades 5 - 9
    Tracker by Gary Paulsen. Novel. 96 pages.
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    John, who is 13, must track and kill a deer for his family's winter meat. In so doing, he finds himself drawn to the doe which he is pursuing and which draws him ever deeper into the woods. John hates his role as hunter and he cannot accept the fact that his grandfather is dying of cancer. For John, pursuing the doe until he can touch her and NOT give her death helps him to accept his grandfather's fate.

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    Grades 3 - 6
    Charlotte's Web by E. B. White. Illustrated by Garth Williams. Novel. 282 pages.
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    This book, that's brought tears and laughter to so many generations, is a book that we tend to take for granted. No other book in the field has handled the inevitability of the cycle of life with more skill and wisdom. At the same time, White pokes gentle fun at advertising and human nature while he celebrates the simplicities of farm life. Another beauty of the work is that it can be understood on so many levels. Children much younger than eight may be too young to deal with the death of a favorite character, but kids from that age up can usually handle it. Read More in our Featured Book Teachers Guide with discussion questions, extension activities, related books and links.

  • Goble, Paul. Beyond the Ridge. Bradbury, 1989. ISBN 0027365816. Paperback. 32 pages.
    This is a Native American view of death. We watch the spirit of an old woman leave her body and follow the voices from the next world as they lead her up a ridge. Descending from it she finds her parents in a circle of teepees. We then shift back to the deathbed where the family prepares her body and grieves for her.


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