Teacher's Guide: The Prophet of Yonwood


Nickie Randolph is a young girl in the town of Yonwood, where the local prophet’s predictions of doom and destruction have inspired the townspeople to build a “shield of goodness” against impending evil.


Jeanne DuPrau writes for several hours each day and finds inspiration in a quote from Thomas Mann that says, “A writer is someone for whom writing is harder than it is for other people.” This quote guides DuPrau’s writing, which she often finds to be a challenging task. DuPrau knew she wanted to be a writer at a young age and has tried related careers in teaching, technical writing, and editing. She has written three novels, six books of nonfiction, and essays and stories. She lives in California where she loves to garden.


pre-reading activity

Nickie Randolph, the young protagonist in The Prophet of Yonwood, says she wants to “do something helpful for the world, what that would be she had no idea, but the world needed help badly. She would keep her eyes open for an opportunity.” (p. 14) The protagonists in The City of Ember and The People of Sparks, DuPrau’s other two novels, also seek ways to help their communities. Brainstorm the needs of the school and local community with students. Then ask them to write a journal entry on how they can make a difference and ultimately help the world.

connecting to the curriculum

LANGUAGE ARTS–Nickie instantly falls in love with her grandfather’s home in Yonwood. She describes the rooms of the house as “majestic” and decides to “point out good things about Greenhaven as often as she could, to change Crystal’s mind about selling it.” (p. 51) Review the elements of persuasive writing. Ask students to pretend they are Nickie and write a letter persuading Crystal to buy the house in Yonwood and remain there as a resident.

SCIENCE–Grover introduces readers to his love of snakes. He shows us how to care for snakes, and even describes how their jaws work. (pp. 185 & 187 respectively) Ask students to make a pamphlet featuring a type of snake. Include pictures of the snake along with explanations of how to care for it. Have students focus on one aspect of the snake’s anatomy, like Grover did when he described the expandable jaws of his snake.

SOCIAL STUDIES–Police officers demand to enter Hoyt McCoy’s house without a warrant, citing that a threat to security changes the rules. (p. 206) Ask students to investigate this claim in order to understand the constitutional rights of American citizens regarding their rights to privacy. In what instances can privacy laws be waived? Have your class research the standards for attaining a search warrant and design a search warrant for Officer Gurney to enter Hoyt’s home.

HISTORY–Mrs. Beeson becomes overly zealous in her attempt to wipe out evil. Hoyt McCoy says that “these days Mrs. Beeson was seeing something wicked everywhere she looked.” (p. 207) Ask students to research periods in history, like the Salem Witch Trials, when citizens became zealots in the face of fear. Ask students to write an essay comparing the events surrounding the witch trials to the events in The Prophet of Yonwood.

PERFORMING ARTS–Nickie describes Hoyt McCoy’s home as a “star-spangled chamber of night.” (p. 250) Ask students to imagine the inside of Hoyt’s celestial habitat and capture its essence with the composition of a song or a painting.

internet resources

Department of Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland Security’s official site where students can explore the functions of this department nd its impact on American civil liberties.

Famous American Trials:Salem Witch Trials
This site, hosted by the University of Missouri– Kansas City, outlines the fearful group hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials.

New York Times Daily Lesson Plan
Contains activities that illustrate how electricity flows through basic circuits (grade 6—12).

Watt’s on Your Mind
An interactive game about wasting energy (upper elementary).

Black Dog’s Word Puzzles for Kids
Fun word puzzles like the one Lina deciphers to exit Ember.

Kids RegenTeaching Themes: Health Kids, Healthy Planet
This Web site suggests activities for teaching students about both gardening and its history.


jaunty (p. 62), blustery (p. 100), ardently (p. 143), flailed (p. 217), stymied (p. 269), vacillating (p. 351)


about the novels of Jeanne DuPrau

Come inside DuPrau’s imaginary worlds, where the characters may be fictional, but their reactions to potential catastrophes remind us what all humans are capable of when faced with the threat of war, starvation, or extinction.


Prepared by Jennifer L. Hart, International Baccalaureate Coordinator, Thomas Jefferson High School, Richmond, Virginia.