A Simple Gift (Hardcover) by Nancy Ruth Patterson; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003. ISBN: 0374369240. pp: 128.
Ages: 9-12, gr: 3-6


Carrie O’Connor has decided she wants to be an actress rather than an author like her mother. When ten-year-old Carrie finds out that one of her mother’s books is being adapted into a play, she talks her parents into letting her try out without identifying herself as the author’s daughter. The personalities of the children selected for the roles contribute to conflict and misunderstanding. Carrie finds that although she didn’t get a big part in the play, she has a big part to play in getting the participants to pull together.


  1. Carrie’s class wrote a play for National Children&rsquo’s Dental Health Month.
  2. The plot of Michael Madigan’s Curtain Call is about Michael’s noble act in giving up his starring role in the school play to the unpopular Louis the Loser, because he knows how much Louis wants it and that Louis will be good.
    • Find another real person or fictional character that gave up something they wanted to let someone else have it.
    • Find another young person who has done a "noble act" at the My Hero Website.
  3. Carrie used her lyrics with the popular tunes Row, Row, Row Your Boat and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Create lyrics for a song about a special "Day" or "Week" for the current month. You can select from this holidays list.

  4. Nancy Ruth Patterson has written two other books, The Christmas Cup and The Shiniest Rock of All, which have been produced professionally as plays. Rewrite Chapter 5 "Almost Awesome" into a Readers’ Theatre selection. Arrange to present the selection in your library.

  5. Mrs. O’Connor gives Carrie a writing tip to get her started creating her lyric. Make a list of tips for writing a good story. Check your Language textbook, or these sites to get you started.
  6. Use an outline map of the United States.
    • Locate Roanoke, Virginia, where Nancy Patterson lives.
    • Locate where Carrie is living.
    • Locate where her father lived when he was growing up.
    • Locate where her mother lived when she was growing up.
    • Do you think Brownsville is a real or fictional town?
  7. In this story, Michael Madigan’s Curtain Call "won the Mountaineer Award for being voted favorite novel of the year by elementary school students in North Carolina." A Simple Gift is one of the 2005-2006 Nominees for the Mark Twain Award, voted on by students in grades 4 - 8 in Missouri schools. Does your state have a similar book award program, and, if so, what is it called? Find some books that have won in this kind of state reading program.

  8. Use the advice given at one of the following sites to do your own original writing:


More for the Teacher

Links to other online guides for A Simple Gift.


A Simple Gift. Accelerated Reader: Quiz #68675 EN; Book Level 4.7; Points= 3.0
Reading Counts: Level 4.6; Points= 6.0
Lexile Level 710
Guided Reading Level S
word count= 20182