the lightning queen readers' guide

based on core curriculum


The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau

Educators’ Guide (Common Core Standards for 6th grade)



Key Ideas and Details




1. On p. 195, Esma says, “Give yourself a fortune and make it come true.”  Use evidence from the text and examples from your personal experience to support Esma’s advice.


2. Does Esma’s grandmother want Teo and Esma’s fortune to come true? Find evidence in the text to support your opinion.  


3. On p. 166, Grandfather says, “You and I know my true fortune, Mistress.”  Infer what is meant by this, using evidence from the text. (What is his true fortune?)


4. On p. 191, Teo narrates, “I reached out and tugged her braid. And then the other.”  Infer the significance of this, and how Teo feels about Esma now.  Use evidence from the text.



5. One theme in the book is Esma’s claim, “Nothing is impossible.”  How do Esma’s actions reflect her philosophy? At what moments does she doubt this philosophy?  How do Teo and his grandson Mateo take action to support her philosophy?


6. Another theme in the book is the idea saving another creature or human.  Whosaves whom throughout the story, and how?  Is there any character who couldn’t be saved?  If so, what are your thoughts on why he/she couldn’t be saved?


7. What role do curses and fortunes play in the story? How do they affect the actions of the characters?  Do you believe in curses and fortunes?  Use examples from the text or personal experience or knowledge to support your belief.


8. What are some other themes you noticed in the book? Choose one and explain how it is revealed through character, plot, and/or events.




9. How does Teo feel about his life and himself at the beginning of the book?  What events and characters help him change?  How does his character grow? 


10. What is Esma’s attitude about her life and herself at the beginning of the book?  What events and characters help her change?  How does her character grow?


11. Compare and contrast the Mistress of Destiny with Grandfather, drawing on specific details in the text.  In addition to character traits, you might discuss how these characters relate to their grandchildren, how they relate to the spiritual world, and how they have hidden kinds of social power.


12. Compare and contrast the characters of Esma and Teo, drawing on specific details in the text.




13. What role does setting play in the story?  Discuss the significance of dry and rainy season, the floods, the river, storms, etc.  Give examples of how setting relates to the characters’ feelings.


14. In the last part of the book, discuss how the setting of the rehab center contrasts with the setting of the woods right outside.  When the characters take a walk into the woods, how does the change of setting reflect their changing feelings?


15. How does the Mexico City setting of Teo’s early childhood memories contrast with his trip with Esma and the Maestra to the urban setting of Coyoacan toward the end of the book?


Craft and structure




16. The author incorporates many words from the Spanish, Mixteco, and Romani languages.  Although there are glossaries in the back of the book, you can guess the meanings of these foreign words through context.   Re-read the text surrounding the following words:  p. 13 huipiles, p. 16 milpa, p. 18 petate, p. 56 panela.  Guess at the basic meaning of each word, explain how you figured out the meaning, and tell why you think the author used the foreign word instead of the English translation. 


17. Read the paragraphs of setting description on p. 60.  What is the mood?  How does Teo’s description of Esma’s Romani camp reflect his feelings?  How does the author’s word choice and language in these paragraphs create mood and meaning?


18. Find examples of figurative or descriptive language involving one of the following recurring images: fruit, lightning, weather events, coins, dance, music, or animals.  How does this language add to the quality of the text? Do you think this use of imagery is effective? Why or why not?




19. The author mentions a trauma involving Teo’s father years earlier.  On p. 69, Teo reveals to Esma what happened to his father, in a flashback given through dialogue.  What does this piece of Teo’s past tell you about how he feels now in his life? How does this help you understand his emotional response to his sister’s death and his mother’s remoteness?


20. The main plot involves Esma and Teo’s struggle to form and maintain a supportive friendship, but there are also subplots-- for instance, the emotional development of Uncle and the Maestra.  How do these subplots contribute to the theme of “saving someone?” 


21. Read this excerpt of Grandfather’s wisdom from p. 152: “’You’ll rise to the occasion when needed, son.’ Grandfather patted my shoulder. ‘People tend to do that. Surprise you. If you give them a chance.’  How do Teo, Uncle, and the Maestra’s actions ultimately demonstrate Grandfather’s claim? 




22. What mood is created at the beginning of Chapter 28, p. 207-208?  How does Teo feel?  What setting and character details reflect the mood and emotions?


23. Why do you think the author uses exaggeration when describing the Duke and the Mistress of Destiny? Give quotes from the text to support your opinion.  Do you think the use of exaggeration is effective?


24. How does the author use personification with Teo’s rescued animals? Discuss the distinct personalities of his duck, skunk, and goat.  Give quotes or examples from the text. How do these animals contribute to the plot, sub-plots, and themes?


25. What point do you consider the main climax (high point) of Teo’s story and why?  What is the climax (high point) of Mateo’s narrative and why?


26. Discuss the unique narrative structure of the text.  Why do you think the author started with Mateo’s point of view in present tense and interspersed his narrative into his grandfather, Teo’s (which is in past tense)?  Did you enjoy these changes in tense, time, and point of view or did it jar or confuse you? Give examples to support your opinion.




27. How does Teo’s story-telling “voice” differ from Mateo’s?  Did you like or dislike this technique of alternating voices? What effect did it give overall? If you had written this story, would you have structured and/or narrated it differently? If so, how?


28. Choose one of these main characters-- Esma, Teo, the Maestra, or Uncle-- and show how he/she changed and grew throughout the book.  Give examples of situations that contributed to his/her growth, and how he/she responded.


29. What point of view do Teo and Mateo use—first or third?  Do you agree with the author’s choice to use these points of view? What effect does it have on you?  Does having Mateo’s modern point of view add to or detract from your enjoyment? Why?


Integration of Knowledge and Ideas


30. In this book, we see the encounters of different cultural and historical perspectives.  What were some unique features of Esma’s Romani culture?  What aspects felt positive to her? What aspects felt negative?


31. Both Teo’s and Esma’s cultures have been marginalized throughout history, and both have dealt with prejudice and discrimination from mainstream society.  Give examples of this prejudice from the text.  According to the author’s note in the back, how have these human rights issues changed or stayed the same over the past half-century?


32. Make connections with another work you’ve read that has something in common with this one.  (The other work could be poetry, fantasy, mythology, fiction, or memoir.)  Another book by this author, What the Moon Saw, also has narration alternating between grandparent and grandchild.  If you’ve read that book, compare and contrast the characters, themes, setting, and plot.


33. How did you personally connect to the text? Give examples from your own life.  Here are some ideas for possible connections:

Have you had an experience with a fortune or curse? How did it affect you? 

Have you had a traumatic event to recover from?  How did you do so? 

Have you had a difficult person to deal with (like the Maestra or Uncle?)  How did you deal with him or her?

Have you ever taught someone something important, as Teo did by teaching Esma to read? What were the challenges and rewards?

Have you ever saved or helped a human or animal?  What were the challenges and rewards?

Have you ever tried to do the impossible?  Discuss your process and outcome.


33. This genre is historical fiction with magical realism.  What other works of historical fiction or magical realism have you read? Discuss the similarities and differences with this book. 


34. Have you read other books with similar characters, settings, themes, or plots? For example, have you read any other books set in Mexico or Latin America? Have you read books about other strong characters who forged their own paths in life?  Compare and contrast one of those books with this one.


For Further Exploration


Research the Romani culture in another country and/or another time in history. Discuss similarities and differences between that culture and the Mexican Rom culture in the book.  Be sure to discuss human rights issues like discrimination and prejudice.


Research another indigenous group in Mexico or elsewhere in Latin America. Discuss similarities and differences between that culture and Teo’s Mixteco culture.  Be sure to discuss human rights issues like discrimination and prejudice.


Ask your librarian to help you find appropriate and authentic videos and audio recordings of Romani music and dance.  Is this how you had imagined the dance and music while reading the book? How were your impressions from the book similar or different from the recordings you watched/heard? 


Have a book-themed party.  Make chocolate-cinnamon atole (or just add cinnamon to hot chocolate.)  Make tortillas using a package of Mazeca corn flour from the grocery store (very easy, with parents’ help.)  Have Romani music playing, and try dancing to it.  Watch clips from some old Pedro Infante or Cantinflas movies. (Your parent or teacher can find these on YouTube.)  Have a fortune-telling station and create silly fortunes for each other.  Have fun dressing up as your favorite character.  Please see the Resources section of Laura Resau’s website for a Book Party Guide.


Teo and his grandfather are healers who use herbal medicines and indigenous healing practices. Learn more about indigenous Latin American healing techniques.  Find out different ways healers give limpias (spiritual cleanings.)


Research the history of bilingual education, and discuss the political forces involved.  Do you think bilingual education is a good idea?  Give evidence to support your opinion.


Many people have a very romanticized view of gypsies as free-spirited wanderers.  Find images that represent the popular, mythologized notion of gypsies.  Contrast those images with authentic images of Romani life.  Discuss similarities and differences.


*Be sure to check out the author’s website to learn more about her inspiration and writing process.*

Copyright Laura Resau. May be reproduced for non-profit, educational purposes if credit is given.