THE BLIND FAITH HOTEL (Margaret K. McElderry Books, Simon and Schuster 2008)


Pamela Todd



print : Simon and Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

Reading Level

Grades 5-10


THE BLIND FAITH HOTEL is a coming-of-age book that students can connect to on many different levels – body image, growing up, coping with loss, separating from parents, making friends, falling in love, taking responsibility, living in family and community, facing difficult truths, and finding the courage to let go and forgive.

It deals realistically with a young teen’s struggle to come to terms with the break-up of her family, the impact of alcoholism on her family, and how she finds her way again after a shoplifting episode lands her in a work program at a prairie preserve. The book focuses on the strength that comes from connection to nature, including both ocean and prairie. This connection makes it a good choice for a cross-curricular plan that includes language arts, art, science, environmental studies, and social studies.

Objectives and Goals:

  • Students learn main characters, setting, and conflict.
  • Students develop new vocabulary.
  • Critical and analysis skills are developed, using reading as the main format.


  • Read and understand literature representative of various societies, eras and ideas (Literature, State Goal 2)
  • Write to communicate for a variety of purposes (Written Communication, State Goal 3)

    Understand the fundamental concepts, principles and interconnections of the life, physical and earth/space sciences ( Science, State Goal 12)

  • Understand principles of health promotion and the prevention and treatment of illness and injury (Health, State Goal 22)
  • Understand human body systems and factors that influence growth and development (Development, State Goal 23)

Anticipatory set:

  • Plant seeds of local native plants.
  • Have students write a memory essay about an occurrence in their lives which made them feel a sense of loss or a lack of personal power.


Connection to nature

  • Write a descriptive poem or essay about your favorite wild place.
  • Create a one-month calendar of events you observe in nature, similar to Zoe’s “wall calendar.”
  • Read p. 186-187 and 191-192 in preparation for a field trip to a nature preserve.

Family relationships

  • How do Zoe’s feelings about her father change over the course of the book (use Chapter 20 as a pivotal example)?
  • How and why do Zoe’s feelings about her mother change?


  • What are some of the things you’d expect a good friend to do for you? Give examples from this book that demonstrate these actions.
  • Tell about a time you had to tell a friend a hard truth.

Separation and Loss

  • How do Nelia, Zoe, and Oliver differ in their reactions to the loss of their father? Do you think their reactions fit their characters?
  • Compare the ways various other characters cope with the losses they experience in this book.


  • Did you think it was fair for Zoe to be arrested for shoplifting when she turned herself in?
  • Why does Zoe feel she needs Hub’s forgiveness?


  • Who do you think is standing on the porch waiting when Zoe comes home at the end of the book?
  • Write what you think will happen next. What might happen if the person waiting on the porch was another character in the book?


  • Stage a dramatic reading of an action scene in the book (e.g. p. 30-33).
  • Create a picture map of Selena and a drawing of the prairie landscape.
  • Trace Zoe’s journeys on a map of the United States, noting the places she’s lived or visited.
  • Write and illustrate a seasonal diary for Zoe.
  • Make a quote book with selections from each character, telling why their words are significant to you.


  • Write a letter Zoe might write to her father after he leaves.
  • Create an illustrated dictionary of prairie plants and their uses.
  • Research lifecycle and hunting habits of Cooper’s Hawks.
  • Write about the story from Nelia’s point of view.


  • Wild life corridors are important because they provide a way for plants and animals to move about and interrelate. Create an interactive map of the open spaces and wild places in your area. See if there’s a way you can help connect these wild places by growing native plants in yards or around schools, parks, or other public buildings.


  • Science – prairie plants, animals and restoration; wetland ecology; overfishing and the world’s oceans , constellations, bird life
  • Social Studies – life aboard commercial fishing vessels, history of life on the prairie