Silent to the Bone
- Grades: 6–8
About this book
Subject Area : Language Arts
Reading Level : 6.2
When Branwell Zamborska calls 911 to say that his baby half -sister, Nikki, has slipped into a coma, he suddenly cannot speak. Luckily, Vivian, the au pair from England, takes over and the emergency team rushes to help her. As Nikki is whisked away to the hospital, Vivian reveals the awful truth that Branwell purposefully shook and dropped his baby sister.
Branwell is sent to the Clarion County Juvenile Behavior center where he remains silent, unwilling or unable to defend himself against Vivian's accusations. Unable to believe that Branwell would abuse his own sister, Connor, Branwell's best friend, starts his own investigation to get to the truth of what really happened that day. Branwell has always been an oddball, but would he purposefully have hurt his baby sister? Connor finds a way to communicate with his best friend and begins to unwind the mystery of Branwell's silence.
E.L. Konigsburg weaves an absorbing tale of friendship and trust that will keep you guessing until the end.
Students will use quotes to make predictions and draw inferences about the characters in the novel to prove Branwell's innocence or guilt.
Standard: Students will create a response to literature.
Ask a group of ten students to line up from left to right in a line according to their age without talking. Other students should observe the process.
- What other cues besides words did they use?
- What was difficult about communicating?
- How did it feel not to rely on verbal communication?
For this activity, students will create a written conversation so that they can experience a form of non-verbal communication. Part of this activity will be done silently. Students should be up to Chapter 20 in the novel.
- Put students in groups of three or more.
- Each student should decide whether he or she believes Branwell is innocent or guilty of dropping his sister (the group doesn't have to agree as a whole).
- Next have each student in the group select a quote about a character or an event that they believe is important to proving Branwell's innocence or guilt.
- Each student should write his or her quote or detail on a large index card (just like Connor did in the book) and then pass it clockwise to the next person.
- This part of the activity should be done SILENTLY.
- The students will now have someone else's card in front of them. They should respond in writing to the quote on the index card.
It is a good idea to post the questions below on the board to help students think about their responses. Remind students that these are suggestions on how to respond, and they need not answer all the questions.
Questions to Help Students With Responses
- Why did your group member select this quotation or event?
- Go back and reread this section. Do you see any additional details that you think are important to proving Branwell's guilt or innocence?
- Why do you think E.L. Konigsburg put this into the story?
- Do you agree with other people's thoughts?
- Does this remind you of anything from your own life?
- Is this a believable statement or event? Why?
Follow-up Activities and Discussion Questions
Post the "written conversations" on the board. Have students read and comment on the work of different groups. Discuss the different conclusions and predictions each group made about the characters. Take a class poll on Branwell's innocence or guilt. At the end of the novel, ask the students to go back and see if their predictions were correct.
- How did it feel to have a silent conversation?
- What kind of non-verbal signals do you use everyday?
- Why do you think Branwell doesn't talk?
- How can silence be more powerful than words?
Other Books Involving the Theme of Silence
By Marc Kornblatt
When Buddy White enters fifth grade he is so introverted and reserved that he won't converse with anyone. It is soon revealed that Buddy's silence is due to his mother's recent death.
The Secret Voice of Gina Zhang
By Dori Jones Yang
When Gina moves from China to the United States she feels displaced. The transition is so difficult that when she starts her new school in Seattle, Washington she stops speaking and retreats into a world of fantasy.
Other Books by E.L Konigsburg
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
The View from Saturday
The Second Mrs. Giaconda
Jennifer, Hecate, MacBeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth
A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver
About the B'Nai Bagels
Altogether, One at a Time
The Dragon in the Ghetto Caper
Samuel Todd's Book of Great Inventions
Up from Jericho Tel (Vol. 1)
Journey to an 800 Number
Amy Elizabeth Explores Bloomingdale's
Teaching Plan written by Gabrielle Nidus.