Written By: Kevin Henkes


For parents of independent readers, we provide a set of questions that should give you insight into what your child is reading and help you engage him/her in meaningful conversations about literature. We recommend using the questions provided here as a springboard for deeper conversation about Junonia and what your child takes away from the book. Enjoy!


Alice loves spending her birthday at the beach cottage in Florida, with friends and family around, but she is thrown for a loop when things aren’t exactly as they were last year. Old friends are absent and new people that she isn’t sure about enter the picture, including her aunt’s new boyfriend and his troubled daughter, Mallory. She comes to realize that things can’t always be the way you want them to be, and she spends her vacation contemplating God, life and her transition into adolescence. Along the way, she continues her hunt for the illusive junonia seashell that she has been searching for every year. This coming-of-age story follows a young girl as she tries to figure out the world and her place in it.

Discussion Questions

  1. {Briefly discuss the idea of foreshadowing} In the beginning of the story, Alice has a bad feeling as they cross the bridge to the island. How does this foreshadow what is to come in the story?
  2. Why is she disappointed when she gets to the island? What/who did she expect to find when she got there?
  3. How does Alice feel about the “speck” on her face? Can you think of times in the story where Alice shows her insecurities about her appearance? Is there anything about your own appearance that you are self-conscious about?
  4. How would you describe Mallory’s character? Do you think that the experiences she has had in her life explain why she acts the way she does? Why or why not?
  5. Describe the God that Alice imagines in her head. Why does she give her the name Junonia? What do you imagine your “personal God” to look like?   
  6. How does Alice find the junonia shell? How does she feel about the way that she got it?
  7. Alice and her family make two trips over the bridge in this story: one in the beginning and one in the end. How is her final trip over the bridge similar to the one she took in the beginning of the story? What is different about the feeling that she has on her trip home?
  8. The Junonia is a real type of shell that exists on the coast of Florida, among other places. Check out this link to learn more about this rare shell.

Above all, be sure to engage your child in a discussion about the plot line and his/her thoughts and feelings about the book. Ask what s/he likes, encourage exploration related to the book, and every now and again, offer to read parts of the book aloud, just for fun!