The Westing Game

Written by: Ellen Raskin

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 The Westing Game and what your child takes away from the book. Enjoy!


A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing's will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger-and a possible murderer-to inherit his vast fortune, one thing's for sure: Sam Westing may be dead... but that won't stop him from playing one last game! (Publisher)

Pre-Reading Activity

KWL Chart

Create a K-W-L Chart and have your child fill in the first two columns with information that s/he knows and wants to find out about the story. S/he can fill in the last column, "What I Learned", once s/he has finished the story.

What I Know

After reading the summary of the story, let your child think about what s/he already knows about the story. Consider questions like, "Have you read any other murder mysteries? What do you know about books in this genre? What does the cover illustration say about the story?"

What I Want to Know

Include questions that your child might have about the plot, characters and setting. Think about including questions like, "Who is Samuel W. Westing? What will his game involve?"

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Maintain Vocabulary Journal

Encourage your child to stop when s/he gets to an unfamiliar word. See if s/he can discover its meaning by using context clues like prefixes and suffixes as well as the words surrounding it. Help him/her by keeping a “Vocabulary Journal” nearby when reading so that your child can write down new words, that s/he has either already defined or wishes to look up in the dictionary.

Discussion Questions

  1. Of the sixteen heirs, which do you find to be the most interesting? What is his/her back story? Do you have anything in common with this character? If so, what?
  2. What is the story of the two "unfortunate fellows" from Westing town?
  3. Who is responsible for the bombings that occur in the story? Why did that person do it and why did s/he confess?
  4. What are some questions that you had as you were reading?
  5. What were Samuel Westing's different identities?
  6. Who wins the game and how does s/he solve the puzzle?
  7. If you could change one aspect of the story, what would it be?

Extending the Story

Math Activity

In Chapter 28, Madame Hoo uses an abacus to do her calculations. Talk to your child about what an abacus does and create one yourself! Discuss the differences and similarities between an abacus and a calculator. (Source:


Writing Activity

With many characters come many different possible endings and winners. Come up with an alternate ending to the story, including a new winner and your own big twist! Encourage your child to incorporate some of the words from his/her vocabulary journal.