The Hunger Teacher’s Guide

hungerThe Hunger
by Marsha Skrypuch

Boardwalk Books 1999
isbn 1-895681-16-2

Pre-Reading Activities

Look at the cover. What do you think the story will be about? Think of the title and then read the blurb on the back of the book. What do you think “the hunger” refers to? Have you ever experienced a hunger? What were the circumstances? Is a hunger always about food? What other things can it be about?

Reading comprehension

pp 1 – 15. Read the first scene with Paula in gym class. What do we know about Paula? Have you ever had an embarrassing experience like this? What kind of relationship does Paula have with her father? How do you think this relationship affects how she feels about her body image?
pp 15 – 30. Both Paula and Erik have conflict with class mates. Compare and contrast the situations. Mr. Romaniuk has a different way of relating to Erik than he does with Paula. How would you feel about your father if you were Erik? How would you feel about your father if your were Paula? Compare Emily Romaniuk’s relationship with food to Paula’s relationship with food. How are the two related? Paula’s grandmother is Armenian, yet her last name is MacDonald. How did that happen?

pp 31 – 80. Paula spends quite a bit of time researching her history project. Try doing the same search she did. Do you come up with similar things? I juxtaposed Paula’s history project researching with Erik’s playing of Civilization II. Why do you think I did that? Compare the images that Paula finds on the Internet with what’s happening to her own body.

pp 80 – 95. Describe Paula’s relationship with the nurses, the social worker, her grandmother.

Who do you think has Paula’s best interest in mind? Why?

pp 96 – 100. Paula is experiencing a “near death experience” in this section. Have you ever talked to someone who had a near death experience? How was it the same as Paula’s? How was it different?

pp 100 – 111. What is the importance of April 23, 1915 in Armenian history? Compare Marta’s family situation with Paula’s. Compare how Paula feels about her brother Erik with how Marta feels about her brother Onnig. Describe Marta’s relationship with her sister Mariam. Which girl is stronger?

pp 112 – 122. Why are the Armenians being marched into the desert? What would you do if you were Marta?

pp 123 – 141. On page 126, Marta meets an Armenian working for the Turks. Do you think she is right to be angry with him? What would you have done in his situation? What do you think of Saad? Compare him to the Armenian soldier from page 126.

pp 141 – 156. What is the role of women in this home? Do you think the husband or his wives have better lives?

pp 157 – end. In the chapter titled Home, Marta becomes Paula. How does this scene compare to when Paula had become Marta? What does Paula learn from stepping into the shoes of Marta? Do you think Paula is cured of her eating disorder? Why? Why not?

General questions

What is the significance of the gold coin? Why do you think I named the novel The Hunger? Compare and contrast how this title relates to Paula and to Marta. Which girl is luckier? Discuss the significance of mirrors in this novel.

Character study

Write a character study of the following people: Paula, Erik, Gramma Pauline, Marta, Kevork.
Compare/contrast Paula/Marta. Compare/contrast Marta/Mariam. Which character in the novel is most like you? Why?

Self and Society

What have you learned about Armenian history by reading The Hunger ? What have you learned about Turkish history? Do library research to find one traditional Armenian dish. Is there a similar Turkish dish? Compare/contrast Armenian/Turkish costume, customs, religion, family life, and so on.


The following words are used in The Hunger. Define 5 of them. Use those five in context in separate sentences.

cardiac arrest


Find an album of Armenian music and listen to one of the songs. Can you identify any of the musical instruments? Which ones? How is the music different/the same from Canadian music?


Find a book on Armenian carpets. Carefully examine the patterns and symbols and colours that are used. Design your own Armenian carpet pattern, either on the computer or with coloured pencils or paint.


Here is a map that shows where the Armenian Genocide occurred.

Compare this old map with a modern one. How have the borders changed?

What World War was taking place at the same time as the Armenian Genocide? Who was Turkey’s ally?

Drama activities

Using at least seven students, act out the scene when the Captain chooses which orphans will be deported. Draw straws to see who will play the Captain, and who will play Marta, Mariam, Kevork, Paris, Miss Younger, Mr. Muller, the other soldiers. Once you have acted out the scene, discuss with the class how you felt about your role, and how you felt about the other characters’ roles.
Write and produce a play about a near death experience.

Have a traditional heritage day at school. Research one heritage other than your own, and make an appropriate costume to wear.

Author: Marsha

I write historical fiction, mostly from the perspective of young people who are thrust in the midst of war.