Author Feature-Samantha Mabry



Spirit of Texas Reading Program-High School

Featured Author

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Samantha Mabry

A Fierce and Subtle Poison

Samantha Mabry grew up in Texas playing bass guitar along to vinyl records, writing fan letters to rock stars, and reading big, big books. She majored in English at Southern Methodist University, where she completed an honors project in Shakespeare’s Roman plays and won an award for being the most promising Latin student of the year (there were only about ten other students of Latin, so the competition wasn’t particularly stiff). In graduate school at Boston College, she shifted her focus to environmental literary criticism and wrote a lot about parks. For the past few years, Samantha has taught English, including developmental writing, composition and rhetoric, and Latino literature at the college level. In the classroom, she rarely talks about Shakespeare or parks, but she tries to throw in a Latin phrase or two whenever possible.
Samantha lives in Dallas with her husband—a historian—and her pets, including a cat named Mouse. A Fierce and Subtle Poison is her first novel.

 

 

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Book Quiz/Discussion Questions

Printable Copy

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

Discussion Questions

 

1. The book begins with the various myths or speculations on what happened to the wife who lived in the house at Calle Sol and who lives there now.  What strange stories have you heard about people or places, either in your culture or where you live?

2. Lucas often feels like an outsider on the island, like he never quite belongs. How does this affect how he reacts to Isabel? How does this clash of cultures impact the choices he makes?

3. Isabel’s dad hides her away for the safety of others so she does not harm anyone. Yet this isolates her from people, causing her to live a lonely life. What would you do in her situation? Would you hide yourself away to keep others safe, or would you try to run away?

4. Lucas says, “To me, stories were stronger than truth” (234).  What connections do you see between the truth and the stories told by the islanders?

5. The weather on the island plays a part in the story. How did it affect the overall tone of the novel? How did it affect the characters and their actions?  Your reading?

6. The author points out the arrival and departure of the mosquitos on the island.  What significance to these bugs hold? What do they symbolize?

7. Isabel accuses Lucas of having a hero complex.  Do you think he does?  Does this story have any heroes?

8. The mothers of both Lucas and Isabel left their families.  Neither is completely sure what happened or where they went.  How do you think that affects their actions?

9. What key decision does Lucas or Isabel make that causes the events to unfold at the end of the novel? What would have happened had one of them made a different decision?

10. Isabel’s very existence is surrounded by magic and myth, almost as if she doesn’t actually exist. Do you think Isabel is real or a figment of Lucas’s imagination?

 



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Academic Programs

Printable Copy of Program

Supplemental Documents

Author Visit

Pick Your Poison

Urban Legend

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

Academic Programming

 

These three activities tap into what students think, know, and want to learn about major story elements in A Fierce and Subtle Poison.  The first is a research-based activity for students to expand on and share their knowledge of real and deadly poisonous plants.  Activity two extends the concept of the legends described in the book to exploring urban legends, their origins and veracity.  Activity three is an author visit from Samantha Mabry to discuss her book and her life as an author.

 

Activity 1 - Pick Your Poison

 

Introduction

Because of constant exposure to toxic plants her father grows and studies, Isabel is both poisonous and being poisoned. With a touch of her finger, she is toxic to anyone or anything, and she will die if too much of the plant poison builds up in her body.  While Isabel’s story is fictional, there are many real plants that can make you very sick or even kill you.  Share what you discover about “The World’s 7 Deadliest Plants.”

 

TEKS - English I 15 (D); English II, 15 (C); English III, 15(D); English IV, 15 (D)

Biology 5 (A)(B)(C), 9(B), 10(B), 12(B)

Art 1, (A)(D)(E)(F); Art II, 2 (A)(B)(D)(E); Art III, (A)(B)(D)(E); Art IV (D)(E)

 

Books to Display

Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart

The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood and The Duchess of Northumberland

Nightshade by Maryrose Wood and The Duchess of Northumberland

 

Supply List

Computer or other devices to research online

Printer access

Online databases

Encyclopedias and other print resources (including Wicked Plants above)

Poster-size paper

Butcher paper

Markers

Crayons

Glue

Scissors

Paper

Pens or pencils

 

Description

Remind students of the storyline of Isabel and her connection to poisonous plants.  Introduce this group activity by distributing the instruction sheet, which students will follow to research a poisonous plant and to create an illustrated poster.  When the posters are finished, the class will do a gallery walk to read each poster and leave comments on what they learned about each plant.

 

Students will break into groups and will choose or be assigned a plant from the web page “7 of the World’s Deadliest Plants”.  Using online or print resources, groups will find the following information and use it to create their posters:

  1. Name of the plant including its scientific name.
  2. Native habitat (where does it grow?).
  3. Description of the plant.
  4. List of symptoms when poisoned by the plant.
  5. What type of contact causes symptoms?  Do you have to touch it or ingest it to get sick?
  6. Is contact with this plant always fatal?  Who is affected by it (adults/children/pets)?
  7. One other interesting story or fact about the plant.

 

On their posters, students will include an accurate illustration of the plant. Once each group has completed a poster, they will place it in the middle of a larger piece of butcher paper on a table or desk(s).  Each group will go from poster to poster and will leave a written comment about something they learned from reading the information.  After the gallery walk and if time allows, the whole class can discuss what they learned.  Posters can then be displayed in the classroom.

 

Activity Resources

Printout of web page 7 of the World’s Deadliest Plants (https://www.britannica.com/list/7-of-the-worlds-deadliest-plants)

Activity instruction sheet

 

Activity Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart

 

Activity 2 - Urban Legends - True or False?

 

Introduction

The old ladies said the house on Calle Sol had “bad air.”  They whispered that the man treated his wife like a specimen and drove her away.  It was rumored that people dreamed about a green-skinned baby that stood in that street and threw stones at them. The hotel where Lucas stays was once a convent.  Legend has it that his room is haunted by a young nun who died of a broken heart there long ago. Almost everyone knows at least one urban legend which is a story that is passed down over time that explains something scary, mysterious or funny and is said to be true.  Do you know a story like this?  Talk about some you know and research one.

 

TEKS - English I, II, III, IV - 20 (A), 21(C), 22(B)(C), 23(C)(E), 26

 

Books to Display

Phantom Hitchhikers and Other Urban Legends: the Strange Stories Behind Tall Tales by Jack Albert

Encyclopedia of Urban Legends by Jan Harold Brunvand

Top 10 Urban Legends by Kathryn Clay

The Exploding Toilet by David Holt

Urban Legends: Strange Stories Behind Modern Myths by A.S. Moss

 

Supply List

Computer/Printer Access

Access to presentation software (PowerPoint, Google Slides, Prezi, emaze, Haiku Deck, etc.)

Print Resources

Pens/Pencils

Paper

 

Description

Remind students about references to the legends that come up in A Fierce and Subtle Poison.  Ask students to tell any such stories that they know from their families, their culture or their neighborhood.  Define urban legend: (Google) “A humorous or horrific story or piece of information circulated as though true, especially one purporting to involve someone vaguely related or known to the teller.” Brainstorm some they may already know.   Read one or two of the urban legends from the books. Talk about the website Snopes.com as a site they can use to look up many urban legends to find information about the origins and whether they are true or not.

 

Students will work in groups to research an urban legend using the books or the websites listed in the Activity Resources or other Internet sites they find.  Through their research, they will answer questions about the origin and truth of the legend.  They will check Snopes.com to see if their legend is listed and if it is deemed true or false.  Student groups will create presentations that they will show to the class.  The last slide of their presentation will be a bibliography.

 

Activity Resources

Activity Instruction Sheet

 

Activity Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

American Folklore -

 http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/urban-legends/

 

10 Creepy Urban Legends from Around the USA -

http://listverse.com/2013/10/22/10-creepy-urban-legends-around-the-usa/

 

The Origins Behind 9 Terrifying American Urban Legends -

http://www.the-line-up.com/the-origins-behind-9-terrifying-american-urban-legends/

 

Activity 3 – Author Visit, Samantha Mabry

Introduction

Having an author visit after students have read the book is a great opportunity to hear what a writer has to say about her book and the writing process.  Students will also have an opportunity to ask their own questions.

TEKS – English I, II, II, IV – 24 (A)(B), 26

Books to Display

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

Supply List

Note Cards

Pens/Pencils

Journals

Access to computer

Access to Skype

Projector

Screen

Speakers

Description of Activity

Booking an author visit or Skype chat frequently takes some time to arrange.  If it has been awhile since the class read the book, a discussion to refresh their memories about the plot of the story will be helpful.  Also, visit her author website (www.samanthamabry.com) to learn a little about her as a person before the event.  Authors love to be warmly welcomed, so creating a banner or poster doing so would be good preparation.   

All authors expect that students will have questions.  It makes the Q & A time more interesting if students think of good questions in advance, write them out on notecards and share them with a small group, the whole class and teacher for feedback and editing before the event.  Discuss with students the etiquette of engaged and polite listening to a speaker.  Also remind students to wait until the author asks for questions rather than interrupting the presentation. Instruct students to be aware of the author’s speaking style and what they think of it because it will be be part of their reflection.

After the event, students will write a reflection piece in their journals about the experience.  They will write about the things they remember most or that surprised or inspired them; anything that they heard and found to be meaningful to them.  They should also include their impression of her speaking style and presentation.

Of course, everyone will thank the author at the time of the presentation, but it is always nice to find a way to thank her after she’s gone either through email or by sending a snail-mail thank-you card signed by the whole class.

Activity Resources

Activity instruction sheet

Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Samantha Mabry’s Website – www.samanthamabry.com

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

 

 

 

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Active Programs

Printable Copy of Program

 

 

Survival 101

 

In Samantha Mabry’s A Fierce and Subtle Poison, seventeen-year-old Lucas is poisoned by Isabel, who lives in a courtyard full of plants almost as poisons as she is. Teens can learn how to survive in the wild and avoid poisonous plants. Pair this activity with the passive program, “Poisonous Plants Guide” to cross promote!

 

Survival 101

Could you survive in the wild? Can you tell the difference between English Ivy and Poison Ivy? Have a wilderness expert show you how to survive in the wild!

 

Books to Display

Wilderness First Aid by Howard Backer

A Field Guide to Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants by Steven Foster

Know Your Poisonous Plants by Wilma Roberts James

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart

Mind-Altering and Poisonous Plants of the World by Michael Wink

 

Activity Supply List

Microphone for guest speaker

Table and chair for guest speaker

Water/refreshments for guest speaker

Chairs for audience

 

Detailed Description of Activity

Ask a local wilderness guide to come to the library to speak to teens about real-life wilderness survival. If there is a wooded area around the library, this would be a great opportunity for a wilderness walk. Even if there isn’t a heavily wooded area nearby, a local expert will be able to show you all kinds of different types of plants and vegetation. Possible avenues to find wilderness experts include a local Boy Scout organization or local park rangers.

 

Incentives

Incentives are not necessary, but door prizes could encourage attendance. Possible door prizes include:

A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

Paracord bracelets

Compass

Water Canteen

First-aid kit

 

Activity Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

“Survival Gear: 101 Preparedness Items Survival Gear List” http://offgridsurvival.com/101survivalgear/

 

 

Garden Club Visit

 

Isabel’s world is full of poisonous plants due to her botanist father who experiments on creating the most potent poisons. This activity focuses on the gardening and botany side rather than the poison.

 

Homegrown Gardener

Teens can learn the ins and outs of gardening from a local expert. Invite a local garden club or master gardener to talk to teens and parents about gardening at home or in the library. They’ll learn tips on how to grow all kinds of plants from edible vegetables and herbs to beautiful flowers!

 

Books to Display or Book Talk

Indoor Salad: How to Grow Vegetables Indoors by Ginger Booth

Community Gardens (Urban Gardening and Farming for Teens) by Susan Burns Chong

Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover's Guide to Vegetable Gardening by Willi Galloway

A Teen Guide to Eco-Gardening, Food, and Cooking by Jen Green

Gardening: The Simple instructive complete guide to vegetable gardening for beginners by Linda Krall

 

Activity Supply List

Microphone for guest speaker

Table and chair for guest speaker

Water/refreshments for guest speaker

Chairs for audience

 

Detailed Description of Activity

Invite the local garden club or a master gardener to talk to teens and their parents about gardening at home or in the community. Plan the event 1-3 months in advance to allow time to advertise at the library. Teens can learn how to grow their own vegetables or a flower garden at home, in the community, or even at the library! This would be a great opportunity to partner with local Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts for a library beautification project. To find a local master gardener check your area to see if it has a master gardener program from the link listed in the activity resources.

 

Activity Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

“State and Provincial Master Gardener Programs”

http://articles.extension.org/pages/9925/state-and-provincial-master-gardener-programs:-extension-and-affiliated-program-listings

DIY Planters Craft

 

Plants and gardens are pivotal to the story of A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry. This activity takes that concept and gives teens the opportunity to make their own planters where they can grow plants on their own. This is a great “upcycling” project that would be great paired with a garden club visit.

 

DIY Planters Craft

Learn how to grow your own food from a seed and make your own planter to grow it in. Take recycled soda bottles to make and decorate a planter and watch your own food grow before your very eyes!

 

Books to Display or Book Talk

Community Gardens (Urban Gardening and Farming for Teens) by Susan Burns Chong

Handmade Garden Projects by Lorene Edwards Forkner

Grow Cook Eat: A Food Lover's Guide to Vegetable Gardening by Willi Galloway

A Teen Guide to Eco-Gardening, Food, and Cooking by Jen Green

Handmade for the Garden by Susan Guagliumi

 

Activity Supply List

Soda bottles (16 oz size works best, but liter bottles work, too)

Exacto knife or scissors

Thumbtack

Permanent marker

Acrylic paint

Paintbrush

Plastic paint pallet

Cups with water

Tablecloth, butcher paper, newspaper

Tables

Chairs

Potting soil

Vegetable seeds

 

Detailed Description of Activity

Collect used (and washed) soda bottles from the library community to turn into planters for teens. Cut off the tops of the bottles using a knife or scissors--cut straight across or create a cute shape like cat ears. Poke small holes in the bottom of the bottle planters using a thumbtack--this allows for drainage. (If you skip this step, the soil will rot when watered.) This should be done before the program.

 

To set up the program, lay out tablecloths or butcher paper to protect the tables from paint. Set out paint palettes with dabs of acrylic paint ahead of time. Also include cups of water to rinse paintbrushes and small paintbrushes on the table.

 

For the program, teens can paint the bottles however they like. They can do a design or make a cat face. They may need to let the layers of paint dry between applications. After the paint has completely dried, they can fill the planter with potting soil. (Be sure that the bottle has holes poked in the bottom to allow for drainage.) Once filled with soil, follow instructions on the seed packets to plant the seeds.

 

Activity Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

“How-To: Plastic Bottle Cat Planters” http://makezine.com/2014/03/25/how-to-plastic-bottle-cat-planter/

“20 Fun and Creative Crafts with Plastic Soda Bottles” http://www.diyncrafts.com/4870/home/20-fun-creative-crafts-plastic-soda-bottles

 

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Passive Programs

Printable Copy of Program

Passive Programming for A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry

 

Wish Jar Display

 

One key detail from the novel A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry is that the island people would throw their wishes over the garden wall of Isabel’s house. Isabel finds these wishes in her garden and collects them. This passive display centers around the concept of wishes and setting goals to make wishes a reality.

 

If Wishes Were Fishes...

Teens will write their wishes on a piece of paper and place it in a clear jar so that it slowly fills up. Books displayed focus on setting goals, encouraging teens to take steps to make their wishes come true. An inspirational quote can be displayed behind as well.

 

Books to Display

What Do You Really Want?: How to Set a Goal and Go for It! A Guide for Teens by Beverly K. Bachel

The Success Principles for Teens: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens: The Ultimate Teenage Success Guide by Sean Covey

Get Up and Goal: A Simple Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals for Teens by Alicia Hadley

From Dreaming to Becoming by Phinehas Kinuthia

Life Strategies For Teens by Jay McGraw

 

Supply List

Jar or box (may consider including a lid/slot to ensure teens don’t remove wishes)

Paper squares

Paper

Clear packing tape

Pen

Butcher paper

Staples

Markers

Display materials

 

Detailed Description

Create a quote display on the wall behind the book display. Use butcher paper and markers or whatever is available to you to put up the quote. Quotes to choose from include:

 

“Sometimes unfair and illogical things happen, and those things have the ability to convince you fairness and logic are illusions, as real as wishes blown off dandelions.” A Fierce and Subtle Poison

 

“Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” Michael Jordan

 

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Ghandi

 

For more quote options, check out the Brainy Quotes link listed under resources.

 

Place a jar beneath the quote with blank pieces of paper and a pen next to it so teens can write their wishes in place it in the jar. Label the jar “Wish Jar” with the paper and clear packing tape. Surround the jar with books on reaching goals and changing the world.

 

Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

“Wish Quotes” https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/wish.html

 

 

Poisonous Plants Guide

 

Isabel is a poisonous girl who makes those around her sick. When Lucas visits her garden, it is full of poisonous plants that her father studies. Isabel points out several of the poisonous plants to Lucas in A Fierce and Subtle Poison. This book display showcases books on identifying poisonous plants on hikes and in the wild. This is a great display to put up to cross promote the active program of a hiking expert speaker.

 

Survival 101

Would you be able to survive in the wild? Can you identify poison ivy so you can avoid it on hikes or when it creeps up in the backyard? Check out these books on poisonous plants and survival so that you can survive the wild and avoid poisonous plants!

 

Books to Display

Wilderness First Aid by Howard Backer

A Field Guide to Venomous Animals and Poisonous Plants by Steven Foster

Know Your Poisonous Plants by Wilma Roberts James

Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart

Mind-Altering and Poisonous Plants of the World by Michael Wink

 

Supply List

None required.

 

Detailed Description

This book display requires minimal setup. Poisonous plants are featured heavily in A Fierce and Subtle Poison. This display raises awareness on these plants through a poisonous plants and wilderness survival display. The book list includes practical guides along with fun plant trivia, such as Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother. Augment the display with wilderness guides that are specific to the region in which your library is located.

 

Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Toxic Plants: https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/ws/ws_37_toxicplants08.pdf

 

 

Classics & Fairy Tale Retellings

 

A Fierce and Subtle Poison is a retelling of Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Mabry reimagines the story from the perspective of a different culture. Likewise, these retellings put a spin on classics and fairy tales, both familiar and new. These books are great read-a-likes for A Fierce and Subtle Poison and would be a great part of a unit on classics, fairy tales, and legends.

 

Fairy Tales Retold

Classics are classic for a reason--they resonate deeply within us. Sometimes classic stories are difficult for teens to grasp, but a retelling told from a modern perspective can act as a stepping stone to help teens understand the original stories. This display introduces teens to updated classics and fairy tales.

 

Books to Display

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh (One Thousand and One Nights)

The Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco (Bancho Sarayashiki)

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen (Robin Hood)

Splintered by AG Howard (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)

Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones (Aladdin)

Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack (Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier)

The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan (Grimm’s)

 

Supply List

None required.

 

Detailed Description

This program is a display that requires minimal setup. The list of suggested books are retellings of classics and fairy tales. The list includes some lesser known retellings; the display can be augmented with current retellings bestsellers that are more well-known. The classic/fairy tale that is being retold is in parenthesis next to the book in the list above. Several lists of additional retellings are included in the resources section.

 

Display option: pull the original fairytale or classic to display along with the retelling

 

Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

Most Beloved YA Fairytale Retellings- https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/12256.Most_Beloved_YA_Fairytale_Retellings

14 YA Restagings of Classic Works- https://www.bustle.com/articles/19564-14-ya-restagings-of-classic-works-of-literature

Epic Read: Young Adult Retellings Chart- http://www.epicreads.com/blog/an-epic-chart-of-162-young-adult-retellings/

 

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Resources

Academic Program

Author Visit

Pick Your Poison

Urban Legend

Active Program

Annotated Bibliography

Book Quiz

Passive Program

Read-A-Likes 


If you have questions or comments for the Young Adult Round Table, contact yart.historian+webmaster@gmail.com 

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Created on Mar 7, 2017 | Last updated April 24, 2017