Literature Discussion Guide and Activities for The Door in the Wall

I stumbled upon the book The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli by accident. We received the Progeny Press study guide as a review item, and I wasn’t at all familiar with the book. I knew it had a Middle Ages historical setting, which was why I picked it. But other than that, I really had no idea what it was about.

The book isn’t very long, but the themes of the book may be better understood by older readers. I’ve seen it recommended for upper elementary through middle school grades. I read it aloud to the younger girls who were 4th and 5th graders at the time, and we used the study guide. We quickly became quite interested in the story, and it ended up becoming one that I loved and can definitely recommend as an excellent read aloud.

Use this guide to discuss the story as you read and the activities below to extend the learning.

Discussion guide for The Door in the Wall

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The story…

Robin is a boy in Medieval England. His father is off fighting for the king, and his mother has been beckoned to keep the queen company. While they are away and Robin is in the care of the housekeeper and house staff (in a well off family), plague sweeps through his area. Robin is taken with a crippling illness and cannot move off of his cot.

For a while, the housekeeper takes care of Robin, although his griping and complaining attitude of misery doesn’t offer her much thankfulness. A messenger is supposed to come and get Robin and take him off to train for knighthood with Sir Peter, but the plague changes everything and eventually takes even the housekeeper.

Brother Luke, a friar, learns of the situation and arrives to take Robin to Sir Peter. When he discovers Robin’s attitude of perpetual misery he begins to teach him- the academic lesson of writing which isn’t a common skill of the time and life lessons about God’s plan and purpose as well. Over time, Robin comes to accept Brother Luke as a friend, and he learns that, although things don’t work out the way that he expected, God always provides a way- a door in the wall.

Discussion points…

~ When readers first meet Robin, he’s not a very pleasant person. We talked much about his character and about how we respond to adversity. You cannot change your situation- only your response to it, and Robin learns this through his relationship with Brother Luke.

~ Brother Luke is a character who is full of patience with Robin, despite his negativity at the first. You can discuss his attitude and contrast it with that of Robin.
~ Robin definitely changes over the course of the story. It would be interesting to do a character timeline, writing a few descriptive words about Robin for each chapter. This will allow you to really see the change in him.
~ This book has a definite Christian worldview, and there are many good opportunities to talk about God’s sovereignty and how He works out His plan, even though we don’t understand. The main theme and the very title of the book illustrates that, although we think the doors are all closed and our plans have failed, God always provides that door in the wall, an alternate path.
~ Robin thinks that he will be worthless to Sir Peter because of his disability. This can provide a good discussion about disabilities and how God can use even people that the world may think less of. Older kids could do a comparison study of how people with disabilities have been treated over the years and how attitudes toward the disabled have changed over the years.
~ Bravery and fear are themes here as well. Discuss ways in which Robin was afraid through the different events of the story. Does being brave mean a person isn’t afraid?

Discussion guide for The Door in the Wall

Resources to use with the story…

This is a very comprehensive -and free- ten week lesson plan to use with the book. It contains links and suggestions for tons of activities along with vocabulary words and discussion points.
This lapbook isn’t free but is only $2 and has quite a few printable mini books to make a nice lapbook to accompany your reading of the book.
You can find a free teacher’s guide for the book here.

You can find notes for The Door in the Wall on GradeSaver, including summaries, themes, character lists and more.

If you’d rather listen to the story than read it aloud, the audio book is available here on Audible.

I hope that you’ll enjoy The Door in the Wall as a read aloud if you’ve not read it with your children before. It’s simple style, the great historical setting (perfect as an accompaniment to Middle Ages history), and the great themes that run throughout the story make it one I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

If you love literature unit studies, make sure you pick up my free ebook- The Ultimate Unit Study Book for Literature Lovers. It’s got 45 unit studies for great kids’ books, as well as a unit study planner and other goodies.

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