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What would your parents do if your sister had a baby at 16 and your brother, who wasn't much older, finally got into so much trouble that he landed in jail? They would have you kidnapped, of course, and sent off to Europe even though your siblings' behavior was not your fault! Domenica Santolina Doone, also known as Dinnie, has lived most of her first life travelling from town to town with her family trailing after her father who is constantly in search of an "opportunity".
When her brother and sister get into trouble, her mother decides that something has to change and that's when Dinnie's second life begins. She writes, "My second life began when I was kidnapped by two complete strangers. My mother, who assisted in this kidnapping, said I was exaggerating. The strangers weren't complete strangers. I'd met them twice before. They were my mother's sister and her husband, Aunt Sandy and Uncle Max. They swooped down on our little New Mexico hill town and stayed up all night, talking to my mother. In the morning, we all went to see Stella and her new baby boy, and then my aunt and uncle forced me into their car (okay, they didn't completely force me, but no one asked my opinion about this kidnapping). With me was my box of things, and we drove to the airport in Albuquerque."
Aunt Sandy, Uncle Max, and Dinnie are off to an American boarding school in a Swiss town on the boarder of Italy; and, as wonderful and exotic that might sound to the rest of us, Dinnie wished that she was back home in New Mexico playing with her sister's new baby. The first thing she does when she gets to school is make a sign that says "Kidnapped! Held Against My Will!," but Aunt Sandy points out that people might not be able to read the English. Dinnie turns to her trusty English-Italian dictionary and makes several other attempts, but rather than saying "Help!" in Italian, her signs read "Please Take" and "Take by Force", as if she wants someone to kidnap her! Italian for Dinnie doesn't get much easier, but going to school in Europe eventually does as she learns to ski, discovers gelato, and gets to know students from all over the world. By the end of her first year, leaving the school in Switzerland, possibly forever, is not the easy choice it would have been back in September.
- Why does Dinnie refer to her time with her parents as her "first life," and her time in Switzerland as her "second life"? If her "third life" begins at the end of the book, how do you think it would differ from the first two?
- Dinnie observes that both Lila and Guthrie have very strong personalities, and worries about whether she is as interesting as they are. Toward the end of the book, she is surprised when Guthrie calls her interesting. Why does he think this? Do you think Dinnie is interesting?
- What appeals to Dinnie about struggling? How does she use being "full of struggles" to help her deal with her new life in Switzerland?
- To Dinnie, Switzerland is a strange and unfamiliar place that grows to feel comfortable. What similarities does she discover between Switzerland and her various homes in America? What differences? How do both the similarities and differences help Dinnie appreciate her experiences there?
- After Guthrie is rescued from the avalanche, Dinnie has a dream that her bubble is gone (pg. 228-29). What does that signify to Dinnie? How do the preceding events lead up to this revelation?
- Explain the contrasting perspectives of Lila and Guthrie, taking into consideration Guthrie's story of the two prisoners. How does Dinnie's personality complement theirs?
- Discuss Uncle Max's graduation speech about variety (pg. 250). How do variety and acceptance at the international school affect Dinnie? How is it different from her previous experiences?
- Dinnie observes that "for all our differences in nationality, in language, in culture, and in personality, we were all more alike than not" (pg. 256). What does she mean by this? Why is it so important to Dinnie to have a sense of belonging?
- What is Dinnie's relationship with her parents like? How does this affect her fears about being in a foreign country?
- How do Dinnie's dreams illustrate her concerns and thoughts? Select some examples to discuss.
- What does Dinnie discover about the notion of home? How do her experiences in Switzerland lead her to that conclusion (pg.261)?
- Why do you think the book is called Bloomability?
If you liked this book, try
- Homecoming by Cynthia Voight
- Thames Doesn't Rhyme With James by Paula Danziger
- The Grooming of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
- The Wanderer by Sharon Creech
Portions of this guide are credited to the HarperCollins Reading Group Guide to Bloomability.
Created in part with funds granted by the Oregon State Library under the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.