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White Smoke book cover

White Smoke

Thanks to her mom’s new job, Mari and her newly blended multi-racial family get free housing and a fresh start in an oddly renovated home in the decaying town of Cedarville, where her stepsister makes a new friend that no one else has seen.
White Smoke book cover

Share this Book

Mari is dealing with a lot of change and she’s trying hard to change herself. But she is haunted by her past. Talk with students about what that phrase means and open discussion to include other things from the book—and from life—that haunt humans but aren’t supernatural. Ask students if they have ever felt “haunted” by something. Brainstorm together some things that might haunt or preoccupy people, such as anxiety, loss, grief, loneliness, guilt, doubt, worries, memories, a wish, or something you said or did.

Have students put the discussion and brainstorming session to use when they write their own take on what it means to be haunted. This might include ghost stories, supernatural stories from their own cultures, or hauntings focused on experiences or feelings. Then have students develop their works into an audio recording, complete with non-copyrighted or fair use sound effects or music for a ghostly new classroom podcast series.

Questions for Discussion or Reflective Writing

  • Did you find Mari to be a reliable narrator? What do people assume about Mari?  What about her feelings and motivations led you to trust or doubt her? 
  • Mari is dealing with a lot of change and she’s trying hard to change herself. What challenges is she facing that make change difficult? Who is supporting her in her efforts to change? Do you think she needs more support? Why or why not? 
  • What reason does Mari have to dislike Alec? What do you make of Alec and his relationship with Mari and Sammy? Do you think he is a good parent to them? To Piper? Why or why not? Do you think Alec and Piper are trustworthy? Why or why not? 
  • Cedarville has a dark history. How have its residents been betrayed by their own town? Who is the real villain in White Smoke? How is this more than a story about a haunted house?

Related Resources

Tiffany D. Jackson Discusses White Smoke with Dhonielle Clayton video
Teaching With Podcasts from ReadWriteThink
Project Audio: Teaching Students How to Produce Their Own Podcasts from The New York Times Lesson Plans

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