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Book Club Questions for Toots
  1. Annie Smith—Toots was only ten years old when she left her home in Ireland. What did you think about her journey to America? How different was that from a young girl traveling today?

  2. There was a lot of history in the novel. Did you have a favorite part? Did you learn something new about either the Irish or the American aspects? Did you find the history interesting or helpful? Or did it distract from Annie’s story?

  3. What did you think about the relationship between Annie and Nellie? Did you see differences between sisters then and today?

  4. Did you have a favorite character? Why?

  5. Favorite scenes in the book? Why did these scenes stand out for you? What did they make you feel? Laugh? Cry? Cringe?

  6. How did Toots change or grow throughout the story?

  7. What did you think about Toots’ life in Nebraska compared to her life in the cities?

  8. This book was loosely based on the author’s great-aunt and certain parts of Toots’ life had to be imagined. Did this make you think about people in your own family—people about whom you might wish to know more? Did the story make you reflect on your own life and experiences?

  9. What was the most satisfying or disappointing part of the novel? Why?

  10. Were you satisfied with the novel’s ending? With Toots’ life journey? Did it inspire you or challenge you in any way?

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So, why am I talking about cornbread? You might recall that Toots worked in a bakery during WWI. Much of America's wheat was being sent to Europe as their fields had been devastated by the war. Americans were being encouraged to try other grains for making bread. Certainly, cornbread was not new to many in this country. It had been a staple in the American Indian diet and for those in the South, but it was new to Toots and her family and they liked it!

I'm not giving you a recipe for cornbread today as there are millions of recipes and mixes out there, and pretty much all of them will be good. I will tell you what I have found is the best thing to do when you are baking it: be generous and use oil to prepare your iron skillet, or your corning or pyrex dish. Then place the dish in your pre-heated oven for about five minutes to let the oil get really hot before you pour your batter into the dish. This will give the cornbread a delicious crust!

I do favor a recipe with oil (instead of butter) and a bit of sugar. Then be creative: try using yogurt in place of milk, or adding cheese or green chilis or sun-dried tomatoes, or dust the top of the batter with sugar. Serve with butter and honey, or the two of these mixed into a spread and enjoy!

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