Least Tern > English Class > MS Fiction

The House of Dies Drear

by Virginia Hamilton


This study guide was created for Middle School
by Elizabeth Sky-McIlvain

Reading Questions | Related Web Sites & Other Resources | Vocabulary | Character & Concept maps | For the Teacher

click triangle sections below to follow links

Reading Questions ~ By clicking the triangle, you will find reading & discussion questions and short writing topics for each section of the novel. These are meant for teachers and for students reading the novel independently. Students reading the novel in class should use the following links to a different set of questions:

Chapters 1-3
Chapters 4-7
Chapters 12-19 - Take home quiz

Reading Exercises:
Cloze Reading #1 - Harriet Tubman
Cloze Reading #2 - Dies Drear Chapter 3
Reading Passage #1 - Underground RR
Reading Passage #2 - Frederick Douglass
Reading Passage #3 - Puddin'head Wilson by Mark Twain

Writing Assignments related to reading - to be completed after the book has been completed.

Two Assignments : The first contrasts Alice's fall into the rabbit hole with Thomas's fall into the tunnel. The second is a creative assignment describing a dream.

Additional synthesis assignments: Themes, Motives, Conflicts, Secrets


Character and Concept Maps ~ Click the triangle to study or print the character & concept maps made 6th grade students. Students reading the novel independently should complete one of the additional exercises.


elated Web Sites ~ Click the triangle to find links to web sites and other resources which will help you to learn more about the author, the novel, and the historical background of the story.


ocabulary ~ Click the triangle to find a word list for the book, by chapter and page.


These Vocabulary and Detail crosswords can be completed online or printed and completed by hand.

Drear Vocabulary Crossword, Chapters 1-3
Drear Vocabulary 1-29 - Matching Exercise
Vocabulary test #1 - retake it! (a Word .doc file)



Related Web Sites & Other Resources
It is recommended that you start a web search at:

Virginia Hamilton ~

Biography - and resources
Virginia Hamilton homepage

Historical Background ~ Do your research in Encarta for the keywords in red. All of these topics can be searched online. You might select BJ Pinchbeck as your starting point, rather than a search engine. If you do not know how to do a multimedia search in Encarta, please find out before you begin.

Slavery in the United States:

A timeline of Black History

Underground Railroad:

Elijah Anderson - Use Edit-find to locate the information about Elijah Anderson on this Kentucky's Underground Railroad page.

Harriet Tubman - see also the general links above

The Civil Rights Movement in the United States - Voices of the Civil Rights Era

Life in America in the time of Dies Drear - see
United States History, Sectional Rivalries in the Encarta and follow the general links to Slavery topics above.


The French Renaissance - see
France, Renaissance in Encarta and the links under Objects below.

About the Novel ~ Web links are underlined~ Do your research in Encarta for the keywords in red.

Make a map of the drive from Asheville, NC to BlueField, WV, then to Yellow Springs, OH - Blue Ridge Parkway

Architectural features ~ what the house might have looked like

Animals ~ bobwhite quail - picture and call, gerfalcon or gyrfalcon or falcon

Plants ~ mullein weed and a picture, Ohio trees, hyacinth, fern, catalpa tree, chicory

Natural phenomena ~ limestone, mineral springs, stalactites and stalagmites in Ohio Caverns, and another photo, resin

Objects from the novel ~ Mr. Pluto's buggy, a bellows - see Forging in Encarta, a captain's chair, Greek cross, monk's cloth, stovepipe hat, high-button shoes, Pesty's bonnet, totem pole, French Renaissance furniture & art - see Interior Design/Red Drawing Room and Reception Room - see also Furniture/French Baroque and here for a desk similar to that in the novel, Persian carpets - see Rugs and Carpets, hand blown glass and also illustrations, penicillin, natural medicines, picket fence, turpentine

Other ~ topics in red can easily be researched in Encarta ~ Internet links are underlined


Vocabulary by chapter & page
(all page numbers are for the Aladdin Paperbacks edition, 1968)

You are required to know spelling, pronunciation and the stressed syllable for each word.
You must be able to define the word as it is used in the novel.  You may copy the definition from your dictionary.
You must write your own sentence for each word.

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3
1 resin, turpentine 15 subdued, relic 29 gloom, lurch
2 whittle, spew 16 concealment 30 murky, loom
3 dismal, sedan 17 bondage 31 ledge
4 picket 18 eccentric 32 percolating
5 craven, chicory 19 plunder, Selah, bounty hunter 33 opaque
7 gable, verandah 24 caretaker, cloven 34 pathetic, mansard roof, eaves
8 sinister 25 spry, recesses 35 foyer
11 desolation, idly 26 bay, roan, agile 36 quatrefoil
28 gravely 37 gilded
39 tureen, hearth, wary
43 barren
Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7
47 serene 61 solemn, gaping 78 jowls 83 menacing, threshold
54 sod 62 brackish 80 rounder 85 cordial, shifty
58 forlorn 63 varicolored 86 pose
59 hew 68 commotion, crestfallen 87 hobble
71 meander, pry 88 specter
72 furrows
Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10
99 varnished 108 hoecakes 127 refuge, stifled, runagate
100 ajar 113 progression 132 hawk-eyed, shrewd,
feign, disinterest
101 clammy, cumbersome 116 accumulate, intruder 133 to gauge, standoffish
104 stealthily, ornate, parlor,
117 confide 134 clannish, frayed
105 vapor, to skirt, metallic 119 fondly 135 lulled
120 tulle 137 congregation
121 endure, sinister 139 drone
122 incline 140 sheer, malice, grave
142 bemused, milled around
Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13
146 aloofness 164 sprawling 174 hillock
148 dispense with, garret, glumly 167 tread 175 sconce
150 vicious 169 dread 176 eerie, scoundrel, recoil
158 meander 178 forge,
160 rednecks
Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16
184 sentinel, stupendous, cavern 202 awe 215 anguish
185 veneered 203 obsessed, fanatical 218 reprimand
186 tapestries, fleetingly, amassed 204 heritage, zeal 223 peeved
187 interspersed, prism 206 mortal, plunder, whim 224 uproariously
188 hues, winch, murky,
207 prophet 225 in unison
189 curator, oblong 208 venture
190 ledger, barter, dumbly, vaguely 210 vandal
192 ruse, legacy
194 rasp
195 probe, withering
196 phantasm
Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19
226 shroud 246 phosphorus 267 vaulted
228 cherish, squatter 247 gossamer 268 inventory
229 premonition 248 menacingly 272 legacy
231 inkling, dank 249 to fidget
240 bushel, splendor, remote 251 prospect, apparition, grim
241 legitimate, steadfastness 254 stealthily
258 translucent, muffled, husky
259 specter, tormentor
260 malice


For the Teacher:

These materials were produced for a 6th grade laptop classroom. They assume familiarity with Internet searching and downloading, the availability of an online or CD encyclopedia (Encarta is specified, but any one will do), and word processing skills. Concept and Character Mapping can be done in Word, AW, on paper or in any other medium. If you have Inspiration, however, it is the best.

This novel follows nicely after Alice in Wonderland and nicely precedes Haroun.

The reading questions, study questions, take home quiz, and writing assignment may be printed or downloaded and adapted.

Tests for the novel are available to teachers. Please contact Least Tern.

Least Tern

Elizabeth Sky-McIlvain 5/12/03