Chapter Questions with Answers
1. Where is Cole being sent, and why is he being sent there? Cole is being sent to an island in southeast Alaska as a punishment for violently beating up Peter Driscall, the boy who reported to police that Cole robbed and ransacked a hardware store. (6) He has accepted banishment as an alternative to being put in prison (3). 2. How does Cole feel about banishment as a punishment? Cole sees it as a way of avoiding being put in prison, although others think he is doing it because he feels sorry for what he has done (5). 3. How does Cole view adults and authority? Cite examples from the book. Cole shows disrespect for adults, such as when he purposely spits so it will hit Edwin, believes that the adults that are supposed to help him always pass him on to others, and believes he could always get another last chance (5 – 6). 4. Garvey, the youth probation officer, introduces Cole to the concept of Circle Justice. Briefly describe what Circle Justice is. Circle Justice is a healing contract to help correct the wrong done by a criminal. In the example given, if a person kills somebody’s cat, that person may need to help the victim pick out a new kitten and help raise it to help make things right. The objective is to heal, not punish (10-12). 5. Why does Garvey state “Something terrible has happened to you to make you want to kill a poor small animal”? Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why or why not. ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. Garvey tells Cole that “You figure if I’m scared of you, you can trust me.” What does he mean by this? Do you agree or disagree with this statement? ANSWERS WILL VARY but could focus on how Garvey is saying that the only way Cole believes trust is built is through fear and intimidation, not mutual respect. 2. What are some of the advice and warnings Edwin gives Cole for surviving the island? If you eat, you’ll live. Cut plenty of wood or you’ll freeze. Keep things dry because wet kills. Don’t touch Devil’s Club or the thistles will infect your hands. Animals will kill you if need be. Animals can teach you more than any teacher. Don’t eat anything unless you know what it is (17 – 18). 3. Spirit Bear is introduced in Chapter Two. Describe this bear. Spirit Bear lives off the coast of British Columbia. It is a special breed of black bear that is pure white, and has pride, dignity, and honour. 4. Is there any significance in the fact that Spirit Bear is a pure white black bear? ANSWERS WILL VARY but could revolve around the contrast between black being perceived as evil and darkness while white is associated with peace and pureness. 5. What does Cole say he would do to Spirit Bear? What does Edwin tell him? Cole says he would kill it, and Edwin warns him that whatever he does to the animals, he does to himself (18). 6. What does Garvey leave with Cole? What must he do with it? At.oow – a blanket handed down through the generations in his family. Cole must take care of it, and hand it down to someone he trusts in the future (19). 7. Do you think Garvey agreed to be Cole’s sponsor for the Circle because Cole genuinely had changed? Why or why not? ANSWERS WILL VARY. 8. What does Cole do to his shelter at the end of the chapter? Why do you think he did this? He burns it down (25). ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. How does Garvey convince Cole to eat the groceries? He says he’s surprised that Cole is afraid of a little bad taste, knowing Cole will want to prove that not to be the case (28-29). 2. Think back to Garvey’s statement in the first chapter that “Something terrible has happened to you to make you want to kill a poor, small animal.” Then look at the list of the “ingredients” of Cole’s life on page 31. How do these connect? ANSWERS WILL VARY but should revolve around the past events in Cole’s life and how he allowed these events to lead himself to the robbery and beating up of Peter. 3. Describe Cole’s plan to escape the island. Do you think he will be successful? Since Cole had taken swimming lessons, he plans on swimming from island to island until a boat picks him up (32). 4. Who is allowed to be at Cole’s Circle? Anybody who wants to help find a solution can be at the Circle. This could include lawyers, the judge, parents, classmates, and community members (33). 5. Why is it important for Peter to forgive Cole? Until Peter forgives Cole, Peter won’t heal (33).
1. Why is it significant that Cole gives a threatening look to Peter at the beginning of the Circle? It shows that Cole is not truly sorry for his actions. 2. According to the Keeper, what is the point of the Circle, and why does regular justice often fail? She states that the purpose of the justice system is to meet the needs of the offender and the victim, allowing them to heal. The regular justice system often seeks to punish instead (38). 3. Do you think that everybody who is present at the Circle has a sincere reason for being there? Do you think that there are people who don’t want to be there? ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. For the first time, Cole admits that he made a mistake. What was this mistake? His anger had clouded his thinking and he failed to consider the incoming tide when trying to swim to the next island (41). 2. Describe Cole’s first encounter with what appears to be Spirit Bear. Cole sees Spirit Bear on the shoreline near the opening of the bay. He threatens it and throws a rock at it, thinking that the animal had none of the pride, dignity, or honour Edwin claimed it had. Cole believes it had no right to stare at him, so turns to get a knife to kill the bear. When he turns around, the bear is gone, and Cole’s search through the trees proves fruitless (44). 3. Review the four comments made about Cole at the Circle on page 46. Which comments do you agree with? Which ones do you disagree with? Justify your answer. ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. What does Cole accuse his father of in the Circle? How does his father respond? Cole accuses his father of beating him, but his father claims he only gave him “swats” when he deserved them (47-48). 2. Why do you think Cole’s mother did not tell the Circle how his father would beat up on him? While the novel states she looked frightened (49), ANSWERS WILL VARY. 3. When the Keeper asks Peter what needs to be done to make things better, he responds by saying “I think someone should smash Cole’s head against a sidewalk so he knows how it feels.” Do you think Cole already knows how this might feel? Why or why not? ANSWERS WILL VARY. 4. When leaving the Circle, in reference to his father Cole asks Garvey “Did you hear him lie tonight?” Garvey responds “He wasn’t the only one.” To whom is Garvey referring? Cole’s father. Evidence of Cole’s lying is found on page 39 when he makes his initial statement. 5. Cole reformulates his plans for leaving the island. How will he try his next escape? Cole observes the pattern of the tide, and finds that the high tide comes in at noon, and recedes an hour later. He decides to use the receding tide to help him swim to the next island the following day at noon (54). 6. Garvey discusses some of the reasons that isolation works to help heal a criminal. What are these reasons? The isolation keeps a person away from all negative influences, including people, alcohol, and drugs, so they can think (56). 7. Outline what will happen to Cole after the banishment is over. Cole will be reevaluated by the Circle to see if he really has changed for the better. If he hasn’t, he will be placed in custody (56).
1. As chapter seven begins, Cole finds himself needing to “clear the anger and pressure from his mind.” Does this bode well for Cole’s healing process? Why or why not? ANSWERS WILL VARY. 2. What weapon does Cole create and how does he make it? What does he intend to use it for? He creates a spear out of a sapling by sharpening one end with his charred knife blade. He intends to use it to kill Spirit Bear (59). 3. Cole plans on escaping the island, yet still attempts to kill Spirit Bear. What does this say about Cole, and his respect for life? ANSWERS WILL VARY. 4. As Cole inches towards Spirit Bear, he stops, looks around, and becomes aware that nobody is watching and he could easily back away. What compels him to keep approaching Spirit Bear? His lifetime of anger seems to control his muscles and makes him continue (64). 5. Describe Spirit Bear and its characteristics. Spirit Bear appears to not be afraid of Cole, remaining calm and still as Cole approaches. Cole finds courage in this stillness, but concludes it must be scared or it would attack (63 – 64). 6. What do you think will happen when Cole gets close enough to kill Spirit Bear? ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. Describe Spirit Bear’s attack on Cole. The bear deflects Cole’s spear, then bites into his leg. Cole attempts to stab the bear, but it only makes it bite harder. His pelvis cracks, and Spirit Bear grabs Cole by his arm, swinging him around and breaking his arm. Finally, it stomps on Cole’s chest and cracks several of his ribs (65 – 66). 2. As Cole lays bleeding, he thinks to himself “What luck… [t]o end up on an island with a stupid bear that didn’t have brains enough to run away.” Has Cole realized his responsibility for what has happened? No, even after this attack, Cole continues to blame others for his problems, and he can’t understand why the bear was not afraid of him (68 – 69). 3. Cole states he would rather be in a prison cell than on the island. What are his reasons? On the island, he was alone, powerless, and without food or warmth. In a prison cell, he felt he was in control and had others worrying about him (71). 4. What does Cole’s crushing of the caterpillar indicate about his personality, even in his beaten state? ANSWERS WILL VARY. 5. Look back to Peter’s comments at the Circle on page 50. What parallels are there between what Peter wanted for Cole and what has happened to him? Peter wanted someone to smash Cole’s head into the sidewalk so he knows how it feels. Cole has experienced this with the attack by Spirit Bear. 6. Do you feel bad for what has happened to Cole? Why or why not? ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. Cole comments that “Nobody else cared about him, so why should he care about himself?” Is it true that nobody else cares about him? Even if nobody cares about Cole, why should he care about himself? ANSWERS WILL VARY but it is clear that Garvey cares about Cole, as he has gone to considerable efforts to help Cole heal. 2. What happens to the tree with the sparrow’s nest during the electrical storm? It is knocked over by a lightning strike (79). 3. Why do you think Cole calls out to see if the baby sparrows are okay? ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. Cole notices that the baby sparrows tried to do something before their death. What was it? How does Cole relate this to his experience growing up? They tried to return home to their nest. Cole feels envy because, unlike the sparrows, he never really had a place he felt was a home as a child (82). 2. Cole begins to think about the circle of life. What is this circle, according to Cole, and how does he feel about his role in it? Like the tree, Cole thinks that one lives, dies, and then rots, and out of that rotting new life sprouts. Cole starts to question how the world benefited from his life (83). 3. Cole thinks “The power to choose was the real power, not the fake power of making others afraid.” Explain this statement. ANSWERS WILL VARY. 4. What does Cole catch to eat at the end of this chapter? He catches a mouse (87).
1. In this chapter, what are some of the things Cole does to survive? He eats a mouse, chunks of fish from his own vomit, and more worms. Cole also places mud over his skin to keep the mosquitoes from biting and to soothe his skin, and uses the muddy hole to pool water to drink 2. Spirit Bear appears near Cole at the end of this chapter. What do you think will happen to Cole? ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. When Spirit Bear comes back, why do you think Cole chooses not to spit on him, but instead touch him? ANSWERS WILL VARY. 2. How does Cole feel about death? He has accepted it, is happy to have seen beauty in nature, and feels that he had trusted and been trusted in his last encounter with Spirit Bear (97). 3. What was the buzzing sound Cole heard? The sound was the motor of the boat containing Edwin and Garvey. 4. Was it really the seagulls grabbing at Cole and trying to lift him up? No, it was Edwin and Garvey. 5. What do Edwin and Garvey do with Cole? They give him something warm to drink, take him on their aluminum skiff back to land, and then drive him to a nurse’s station (98 – 100). 6. When Cole says that he’s okay, what does he mean by this? ANSWERS WILL VARY but could focus on how Cole seems to have come to terms with his anger and now understands his role in life’s circle, thus Cole would appear to be speaking of his state of mind, not his physical condition.
1. When Rosey asks for a blanket, Garvey wants to hand him the at.óow. Why is it significant that Cole reaches out and grabs it? For Cole, the blanket has a special significance. When he was alone on the island after Spirit Bear’s attack, he longed for the blanket to keep him warm. It also kept him warm after his failed escape attempt from the island. 2. Why is it significant that Cole whispers “My fault!” when Garvey apologizes for getting Cole into this situation? It shows that Cole is accepting responsibility and not blaming others. 3. Garvey tells Cole that he will still be facing jail time when he recovers. Considering what he went through, do you think this is fair? ANSWERS WILL VARY. 4. Why does Cole throw out the hair he pulled from Spirit Bear? Would you have done the same? He feels that he always had to prove himself when he was lying, and from now on he wants his word to be proof enough (111-112). ANSWERS WILL VARY. 5. Edwin says that Cole will be okay if he ever finds a reason to live. Do you think Cole has found his reason to live? Explain. ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. What happened to Cole’s father? Why does it seem Cole’s mother charged him? Cole’s father was arrested and charged with child abuse. He denied the accusations and quickly paid his bail. Garvey told Cole’s mother that she would share the blame for his abuse if she didn’t take responsibility and report him (116). 2. Cole’s mother appears to have a change of heart regarding her lifestyle and relationship with Cole. Describe the changes and consider why you think she has changed. Cole’s mother has taken to reminding Cole that she loves him (116). She has also quit drinking and started dressing more casually, and apologizes to Cole for all the abuse that he went through and not having tried hard enough to stop it (121). 3. Cole’s mother discusses how his father was beaten as a child, and she says this was a reason for him abusing Cole. How is this also a circle? In this case, the cycle of abuse goes from one generation to the next. Cole’s grandfather beat Cole’s father, and Cole’s father beat Cole. Cole, in turn, beat Peter and it is not unreasonable to assume that Cole would have behaved the same way to his future children. 4. When Cole returns to the Circle, there are two people missing. Who are they? Why do you think they are not there? The two people missing are Cole’s father and Peter (122). ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. How is Peter recovering from the injuries caused by Cole? Peter is experiencing slurred speech and poor coordination (126). 2. How does Edwin demonstrate the change in Cole’s path in life? Edwin points to a line in the flooring and says it represents a bad path in life that he wants Cole to move away from, and there are two ways to get him away from it. The first way demonstrated was Cole and Edwin pushing at each other while they walked the line. Cole did not get far. The second way was for Edwin to suddenly push Cole away with both hands. Edwin then says there are two ways for people to change – slow and persistent pressure or a single, traumatic experience. Edwin believes that Cole’s experience on the island was what pushed him in the right way. He cites the fact that Cole did not come out swinging when Edwin pushed him over as evidence that he is headed in the right direction (127-128). 3. What did Edwin’s friend Bernie see on an island near the one on which Cole had been placed? What does this prove? On a fishing expedition, Bernie and others on a boat saw a white bear (129). It would appear to prove that Cole was telling the truth. 4. Peter’s lawyer is very abrupt and not kind to Cole. Why do you think the lawyer acts in this manner? ANSWERS WILL VARY but could include that she doesn’t believe that Cole has changed, or that she is trying to get an anger-filled reaction out of Cole to prove that he is not in control of his anger. 5. The Keeper says that they have no way of knowing if Cole is over his anger. What is his response? He agrees that he is not over his anger, but is a stronger person because he can ask for help and tell the truth (130). 6. What news does Cole receive from Edwin and Garvey at the chapter’s end? Would you have made the same decision? Why or why not? That he has been allowed to go back to the island (133). ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. How is Cole’s second trip to the island being funded? Cole has had to sell all of his personal belongings, such as his dirt bike, snowmobile, bicycle, skis, and helmet (134). 2. When Cole asks “What do we do first” Garvey responds “Everything is up to you now.” Why would he say this? He says this because Cole must now prove his commitment. 3. What are some of the first tasks Cole has to complete? Starting a fire, setting up the tent, fixing dinner, and building his shelter with the supplies brought to the island (136). 4. What could Garvey’s observation that “all the world is a hot dog” (139) mean? ANSWERS WILL VARY. 5. Cole briefly considers the possibility of taking the skiff and returning to the mainland. However, even if he had tried, Edwin had removed the spark plugs from the engine, so it would not have worked. What does this incident tell us about Cole, Edwin, and Garvey? ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. Cole thinks about Peter when he cannot sleep. What are his thoughts? How are these thoughts different from his earlier feelings about Peter? Cole hopes that Peter will be okay (141) which differs from his previous hatred of Peter for reporting him. 2. Edwin uses a stick to demonstrate a point to Cole. What is this point? Edwin tells Cole that the right end of the stick is his happiness, and the left end is his anger. He asks Cole to break off the left end, but the stick will always have a left end, no matter how many times it is broken. The key is to focus on the happiness side, and happiness will become a habit (146).
1. What does Cole begin building in this chapter? Why must it be of such high quality, and why do Edwin and Garvey not help him with the labour? Cole begins building his shelter (148), which must be built tightly to keep out the weather and the mice (149). Cole must build it himself because this time it is his responsibility and if he again destroys it, he will only be hurting himself (148). 2. Edwin states “Pride has no place on this island.” Cite two instances in this chapter where Cole puts his pride ahead of practicality. Two instances are when he refuses to wear the gloves while building the cabin and when he refuses to admit that he should have eaten more for breakfast (148). 3. Cole is upset that Edwin and Garvey are not helping with anything. By doing nothing, are they helping Cole? Edwin and Garvey are allowing Cole to develop the skills he needs to survive while teaching him about responsibility. 4. What does Cole take away from the whale dance? Cole realizes that like the whale, he too has no permanent home. Instead, he migrates from place to place (152). 5. What activities do Cole and Edwin do to help Cole release his anger? Cole and Edwin return to the pond for a soak, then Cole carries a large rock, representing his ancestors, up a hill. His objective is to carry the knowledge of his ancestors up the hill with him. At the top of the hill, Cole is told to now let the rock represent his anger, and let it roll back down the hill (153 – 156).
1. What does Cole do after working on his shelter? He claims he is “dog tired” and heads straight for his tent, telling Garvey and Edwin that they can eat cold cereal if they are hungry (158). 2. What is Garvey’s response to Cole? Do you think it is fair? Garvey tells Cole that they will dismantle the shelter tomorrow and head back to Minneapolis (159). ANSWERS WILL VARY. 3. What lesson does Cole learn from the wolf dance? He learns that you need the help of others (162). 4. When pushing the rock down the hill, Cole comes to a realization. What is it? He realizes that he will not be able to let go of his anger until he quits blaming others (166). 5. What does Cole see as he begins to return to camp? He spots a white shape disappearing into the trees (166).
1. What realization does Cole have regarding his father? Cole realizes that the only reason he treats him the way he does is because his father is scared and doesn’t know any better (168). 2. Why do you think that Edwin and Garvey don’t heap a lot of praise on Cole for building his cabin? ANSWERS WILL VARY. 3. Edwin put the spark plugs back in the boat two days before he and Garvey left. What does this indicate? This would indicate that Edwin is starting to trust Cole. 4. Edwin states that “you can never heal completely until you discover one thing” but does not tell Cole what that thing is. What do you think Edwin is referring to? ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. Cole discovers a large piece of driftwood along the beach and realizes that there are two possible uses for it. What are they? He could either carve a totem pole out of it, or turn the log into a canoe to escape (179). 2. What does Cole do with the log? He begins to carve a canoe, but feels his anger growing, so he instead chops at the log to make it unusable for a canoe, and then begins carving a totem pole with it (180). 3. Do you think Cole is sincere when he asks Edwin about how Peter is doing? Why or why not? ANSWERS WILL VARY. 4. How does Edwin explain totem poles to Cole? He tells Cole that anyone can carve a totem pole, and each pole tells its own story. It is up to Cole to gain the life experiences to carve his own story (183).
1. How does Cole make himself invisible, and why is he doing this? Cole bathes then rubs ashes and boughs over himself to make himself invisible in the hopes of seeing the Spirit Bear (186). 2. Cole appears to have discovered why Spirit Bear came to visit him, and why the fish and beaver came so close to him. What do you think the reason is? ANSWERS WILL VARY but it appears that at all these times, Cole had a clear mind.
1. What does Cole believe to be the secret to be invisible? Why does he come to this conclusion? Cole believes that to be invisible, he has to clear his mind, as being invisible means not being sensed or felt. He concludes this because when he was in the pond, the fish and beaver approached him when he was clear in mind, but when he thought of hurting them, they fled, and that Spirit Bear approached him only when he was near death and had given up trying to be in control (189). 2. What does Cole see after allowing his mind to clear and letting himself become one with nature? He sees Spirit Bear (191). 3. Cole decides that he can now do the anger dance. When he is doing it, he screams “Please forgive me! I didn’t mean to hurt Peter!” Think back to his motivations at the time of the assault, Cole’s family history, and Cole’s reaction to Peter when he hears him speak for the first time since the assault at the Circle on page 40. Is this statement true? ANSWERS WILL VARY. 4. Cole also states “I forgive you” during his anger dance. To whom do you think he intends these statements? ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. What does Cole note about being angry at the opening of the chapter? Cole realizes that nobody ever woke up with the desire to be angry, therefore, if he was angry, it was indicative of somebody else controlling him (195). 2. Cole learns that if he cannot help the person he wronged, he should then help somebody else. What does he correctly speculate about Edwin and Garvey? That they are helping him because they need to right past wrongs (196). 3. Cole spots the Spirit Bear every few days now. What does this indicate about the change in Cole? It would indicate that Cole’s thoughts are now clear, as Spirit Bear only appears when Cole has a clear mind 4. When Cole starts thinking about his return to Minneapolis, what is he concerned about? Why is this unusual? ANSWERS WILL VARY. 5. Peter twice attempts to commit suicide, and Cole believes the answer to Peter’s problems is to have him spend time on the island. Why does Cole think this is a good idea, and do you think that it will work? Cole believes that if Peter came to the island, he could carry the ancestor rock, dance, carve a totem, and perhaps see the Spirit Bear, and that would help Peter change like it helped Cole change (202). ANSWERS WILL VARY. 6. Cole attempts to carve the bottom of the totem pole several times in this chapter, but cannot find an appropriate symbol for him getting over his anger. What do you think Cole should carve? ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. What is Cole’s idea to cure Peter’s depression? How does Edwin react to this suggestion? Cole suggests that Peter should stay on the island to learn what he learned during his time there (206). Edwin is at first reluctant, but warms up to the idea when he sees how sincere Cole is in his desire to help Peter (207). 2. Do you think it is a good idea for Peter to visit the island? Why or why not? ANSWERS WILL VARY. 3. About two weeks after Cole’s suggestion, who arrives on the island? Garvey, Edwin, Peter, and Peter’s parents (209). 4. Peter blurts “Leave me alone. I don’t want your help!” to Cole. How is this situation similar to Cole’s initial feelings about Garvey and Edwin? How is it different? ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. Peter does not want to sleep in the cabin with Cole. What arrangements are made for Cole’s living quarters while Peter is on the island? Cole will sleep in a tent that Edwin brought with him (216). 2. Do you think that Edwin purposely brought a leaky tent? Why or why not? ANSWERS WILL VARY. 3. Peter shows some signs of embracing Cole’s island practices. What are these? He pushes the ancestor rock down the hill, steps into the soaking pond, and finally invites Cole into the cabin during a heavy rain (223 – 225). 4. Why do you think Peter threw the rock at Cole and later tossed him into the water? ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. What does Peter tell Cole when he lets him into the cabin? What does Peter do in the following days that show he dislikes Cole? Peter says “It doesn’t mean we’re friends” when he allows Cole to sleep in the cabin, walks in muddy boots across Cole’s sleeping bag, knocks his jacket off the hanger, leaves the cabin door open when he exits to go to the bathroom, and destroys the bear carving on Cole’s totem pole (227 – 228). 2. What does Cole convince Peter to do after destroying the bear on his totem pole? Cole convinces Peter to begin carving his own totem pole (228 – 292). 3. What does Cole say about the quality of carvings on the two boys’ totem poles? Cole says that the quality of the carvings doesn’t matter, as comparing them is like saying one’s feelings are more important than another’s feelings (231). 4. What does Peter do to Cole’s totem pole at the end of the chapter? What does this say about the change in Peter’s attitude towards Cole? He carves a new bear where he destroyed the first one (232). ANSWERS WILL VARY.
1. Peter asks Garvey to not accompany Cole to the pond. Why does he do this? At first, it appears that Peter may be looking to offer forgiveness to Cole, but he instead tries to start a fight with him (235). 2. Why does Cole not fight back? Cole states that he’s not going to hurt him anymore (236). 3. Do you think Cole deserved the beating he received from Peter? Why or why not? ANSWERS WILL VARY. 4. Cole states “I don’t think I’ll ever heal from what I did to you, but I’m sorry, Peter. I really am sorry.” What then happens? Peter knelt and Cole hugged him. While they are embracing, they spot Spirit Bear (237). 5. As the book closes, Peter states “What makes you think I forgave you?” Do you think Peter has forgiven Cole? Why or why not? ANSWERS WILL VARY.