"A Lion to Guard Us", by Clyde Robert Bulla, is a great book that is perfect for students in fourth to fifth grade. This literature unit has critical thinking questions, ideas for reading and writing, and crosses in to other subject areas, including social studies, math and art.
About the Book and Author
"A Lion to Guard Us" takes place in the 1600’s when Amanda Freebold is left in charge of her two younger siblings. Her father, James Freebold, has gone to Jamestown, Virginia in America to work. Her mother is very sick and dies trying to recover from her illness. Amanda and her two siblings only have a brass lion’s head from her father that once was on their house. Amanda must decide what to do and finally decided to make the voyage to America. She can only hope that her family will be once again reunited.
Clyde Robert Bulla was born on January 9, 1914 on a farm near King City, Missouri. He was the youngest of four children. Clyde went to a one room school house and learned how to read and write. He found that words were magical and started writing his own stories and verses. His father told him he couldn’t be a writer because he hadn’t been anywhere. Clyde sold his first story when he was twenty years old to a pulp magazine. He continued sell more stories and helped his family survive during the Depression.
Clyde later moved to town and worked on a newspaper. He continued to write in his spare time. He eventually wrote and published his first children’s book, "The Donkey Cart." He wrote his second book and decided to move to California. He traveled to different places and wrote about the places he visited. He has written and published over eighty books.
Critical Thinking Questions
1. Why did James Freebold travel to Virginia? Why did the rest of the family have to stay behind in London?
2. Why is the brass lion’s head door knocker important to the Freebold children?
3. What do you think will happen to Amanda, Jemmy, and Meg now that their mother has died?
4. How does Amanda behave responsibly even in her grief over her mother’s death?
5. Why does Amanda decide to journey to the New World?
6. According to Ellie, why does Mistress Trippett want to keep the Freebold children in her home?
7. Why does Mistress Trippett feel she is entitled to Amanda’s money? Why does Amanda disagree?
8. What did you learn about the life of the poor in London in the 1600’s?
9. How does Dr. Crider help the children on the night they are chased out of the Trippett house?
10. Why do the children have to travel in the hold of the ship? What are the living conditions in the hold?
11. Why do you think the people on board the ships have mixed emotions about leaving England? Have you ever felt both happy and sad at the same time?
12. Why do you think Dr. Crider did not heed the sailor’s warning about the danger of the waves?
13. When does Amanda finally stop pretending that Dr. Crider is still alive?
14. Why do some people aboard the ship think the lion’s head door knocker is made of gold?
15. Describe what makes this storm much worse than other storms?
16. Why do you think the composition of the lion’s head door knocker is so important to the ship’s passengers?
17. What do you think will happen to Amanda, Meg, and Jemmy on the island of Bermuda?
18. Why does Admiral Somers give up lighting the fire on the north tip of the island? Do you think he was right to do this?
19. How is the voyage from Bermuda to Virginia different from the voyage from London to Bermuda? How is it the same?
20. Describe Mr. Freebold’s condition. Will he be okay?
- Chapter I – III
plump, bitter, idle, snort, peered, pantry, pallet, brass
- Chapter IV - VI
mend, pale, seize, clearing, voyage, tripped
- Chapter VII - IX
pier, dock, alley, lantern, hollow
Chapter X - XIII
bound, break, breeches, canvas, chest, coach, daring, galley, heap, weeping
Chapter XIV - XVI
restless, fierce, shallow, safe, afloat, strange, roar, stillness
Chapter XVII - XIX
moss, pools, ached, split, deck
- Chapter XX - XXIII
Reading & Writing Activities
- Write a postcard to the main character, Amanda Freebold
- Create a daily log of ship’s activity
- Write a journal during Amanda’s voyage
- Create a sequencing of events in the story
- Create a vocabulary quilt
- Read other books by Clyde Robert Bulla, such as "Eagle Feather"
It took the Sea Adventure seven weeks, or from June 2, 1609 until July 26, 1609, to make the voyage from London to Bermuda.
- Find out the distance in miles from London to Bermuda.
- Calculate how many miles the ship traveled each day.
- Then compare this with the time it would to go from London to Bermuda by ship today.
- How long does it take to go from London to Bermuda by airplane today?
- Do a make your own paper activity using tea bags to make the paper look old.
The paper can then be used for one of the journals to be added to the class book.
- Find a book on tropical trees and plants and read about palmetto trees, whose leaves were used to make the roof of Amanda’s house. Bring pictures of the palmetto trees into class.
- Learn about hurricanes and what happens when a hurricane hits. In 1609, there was no way to know that a hurricane was coming, but now we have predictions and hurricane watches.
- Map the voyage from England to Bermuda to Virginia, labeling the continents and oceans
- Add a "Voyage to the Colonies" activity
- Create a how times have changed sheet
This book is based on real life events and also has real people that traveled on these ships. Discuss:
- What happened to these important people in history when they reached Jamestown, Virginia?
- How were the conditions in Jamestown when they arrived? Talk about the Starvation Times. Learn about Jamestown and how people built their lives there.
- John Rolfe and his life and time on the ship. His wife was very sick on the ship on the voyage to Virginia. When they got shipwrecked, she seemed to be feeling better. While in Bermuda, his wife and child died.
- Illustrate a picture of a scene of the family in Jamestown after the family is reunited together.