"Willa of the Wood" Book Discussion Questions and Themed Berry Sugar Cookies Recipe
Willa is unlike the other Faeran in her clan; she was taught the old ways by her grandmother, and she can blend into any natural surroundings, especially in the woods, as well as use the magic of trees to aid her. But when she goes thieving alone and is shot by a homesteader, who strangely comes to check on her when he sees she is wounded, the life she has known begins to change. Soon, she finds herself saving forest creatures, even at the expense of disobeying her powerful leader, the Padaran. Now on the run for betraying her people, Willa must survive alone, and unravel the mysteries of the strange homesteader who wasn’t actually trying to kill her, as she had always been warned, and find how to save her forest from the dangerous outsiders who are chopping down the trees and killing its wildlife. is a suspenseful, empowering adventure for older children and teens, and a lesson for all of us to live in harmony with nature and animals and to never allow greed to control our desires. Willa of the Wood
What were the jaetters? Was Willa a good one or not? Why?
What was the power of the white bear’s lake, or Atagahi? Who took her there?
What did Willa find hidden and starving in a cage in the back of her clan’s Dead Hollow Lair? How did this make her start to feel separate from the clan and exclaim “I didn’t take you” even though she had always been trained to think, “there is no I, only we”?
What strange things did the padaran show her that he was keeping and doing? Why did he “seem to live in worry of what his subjects were seeing when they looked at him, and what they were thinking”?
The padaran had “learned the language of the day-folk, but forgotten the language of the wolves. Did that make him a supreme being? Or a lesser one?” Why?
How did Willa ask the living trees to help her cross the river, or to fight the loggers? Why did that take less energy from her than bringing the dead sticks in the Dead Hollow back to life to create a hole?
Who taught Willa to speak the Faeran language? Why was losing her probably the greatest loss of her life, even more than losing her twin? How did that loss make her feel completely alone?
Why did Willa try to follow after the panther? What was it she really wanted? What must it have been like to not talk to a living person in days?
Why was the homesteader Nathaniel different from what the padaran had told her (violent, hateful, capturing)? What things did he teach her? What did she teach him?
Why did Nathaniel cut down trees and how was he like the wolf? How was this different from the loggers?
In the Faran language, the needles of a pine tree are called erunda. The color of fresh grass is finlalin. Why do we call all these colors green? Is there a difference? Do we have more specific names for green that maybe Nathaniel didn’t know?
What is esperia or woodcraft? Can it be taught, or are some born as “whisperers”? How is that different from being Faeran?
Why was the padaran kidnapping human children, and treating them differently?
Who was Naillic and what happened to him?
How did destruction lead to a good kind of change?
Willa foraged for blackberries and strawberries in the thickets of the woods and in the Great Smoky Mountain. She also found “small, crumbly lumps” of cookies in the homesteader’s house, which she shared with Ishka. To combine those fruits, I created a recipe for Strawberry and Blackberry Sugar Cookies. You can substitute any berries you have on hand.
*This recipe uses fresh berries. If you wish to use frozen, you will need to defrost them between the folded layers of a clean dish cloth (or layered paper towels) for several hours beforehand, so the cloth soaks up the excess moisture.
* You will need to refrigerate the dough for one hour before baking, so plan for a little extra reading time (or refrigerate overnight and bake the following day).
Strawberry and Blackberry Cookies
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp flour, divided
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 large egg
- 1/4-1/2 cup fresh strawberries (diced) and blackberries
Strawberry and Blackberry Cookies
- Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment on medium speed for one minute. Toss the fresh berries with the tablespoon of flour in a small bowl (if you like lots of berries, use 1/2 cup. If less, use 1/4 cup). Set aside.
- In the mixer, add the flour on low speed, followed by the baking powder. Then add the egg just until it all comes together. Stop the mixer to scrape down any dough sticking to the sides of the bowl. Gently fold in the berries into the dough with a rubber spatula.
- **Refrigerate dough in metal bowl, covered, for one hour.** Remove from fridge and scoop by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets, leaving at least an inch space on all sides. Cool the first pan in the freezer for ten more minutes (leave the others in until ready to bake). Then bake each pan at 325° F for 14 minutes. Makes two dozen cookies.
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Another book about living in the woods among nature and animals without people is My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George.
An empowering book about kids who help save the world is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.
Another mystery adventure about the importance of plants is Seed-Savers Treasure by Sandra Smith. A mystery about a hidden lake and secret tunnels is The Secret Lake by Karen Inglis. A girl with abilities similar to a wood-witch is the main character in Diary of Anna the Girl-Witch by Vic Connor.
“Sometimes, two things weren’t just two things; they were a pair, and a pair was a thing. Half wasn’t always half. Sometimes half was whole.”
“Twins always took care of each other, protected each other... It was the bond that could not be broken.”
“Willa didn’t know what it meant for someone to ‘pass away,’ and she didn’t know how her life would change, but she learned in the shadowed days that followed. It felt like something had been torn away from her, bleeding and raw. For the rest of her life she had felt a dark hollowness in her soul, like something that should be there was missing.”
“She floated with nothing but sadness...She just let herself be carried by the blood of the earth, with no want or desire or need, other than to go back...But she knew a river couldn’t go back, and she had no will to fight it.”
“In the swarming clan of the padaran, love and family had become the smallest and rarest of leaves.”
“The rocks are strong, but the river wins. It turns. It tumbles. It chooses the path.”
“As she lay on the bank, the sun gave her its warmth, the earth gave her its stillness, and the living trees held sway over the earth once more.”
“We all have our ways to survive.”
“Love was a rare and tenuous thing.”
“She was not alone. She had inside her everything every creature of the forest had ever taught her. She was everything every friend had given her.”
“The Dead Hollow clan had started dying...with...the drowning of love and compassion and sympathy in a swarm of fear and malice and control.”
“She began to feel an unfamiliar kind of hope in her heart, the kind of hope that could only come after desolation, after destruction, a sense that maybe...that which had forever been unchangeable was about to change.”
© 2018 Amanda Leitch