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Discussion Questions


Now that you, and other members of the community, have read News of the World how about starting a discussion about this story.

Here are some questions to get things started:

Reading Group Guide Image



Print a copy of this Reading Group Guide (pdf)

Some Other Questions to Discuss

Bookbrowse BookTalk

  1. How did the title of the novel fit into the novel's narrative? Did the title suit the novel?

  2. What message does the novel have for its readers about family ties?

  3. Why do you think Johanna wants to stay with her Kiowa family?

  4. How did Johanna wanting to scalp her fallen family make you feel about her?

  5. Why does Kidd accept the difficult job of returning Johanna home?

  6. What memorable lines/quotes stood out for you?

  7. How did you interpret Captain Kidd's final lines? What message do you think he carries?

  8. Overall, what did you think of News of the World?

  9. Mrs. Gannet makes a candy called Divinity for Johanna. Have you ever had it or made it? Did it remind you of any other old dishes or treats that are rarely eaten now?

  10. How did you respond to Jiles' depiction of life in Texas in the 1870s?

  11. What do we know about Kidd's emotional life?

  12. Why do you think Johanna's Kiowa family took her in and raised her? Why would they give her up? How do you think they felt when they let her go?

  13. In what ways do the various tensions in the novel (Indians and whites; soldiers and civilizations; America's recent past and its unsure future) underlie the story of Kidd and Johanna?

  14. What connects Kidd to Johanna? Why does she seem to trust him so easily?

Mount Prospect Public Library

  1. What might the experience of coming to hear a news reader be like? Did the author’s choice of having a news-reading scene be our first moments of the book help you move into the world of the story?

  2. What was your initial impression of Captain Kidd? What details contributed to that impression?

  3. Several commentaries offer the observation that News of the World is deceptively simple. What might this mean? Is it a compliment, or is it a neutral observation? Do you agree?

  4. Which elements of a traditional Western are evident in News of the World?

  5. What do we learn of Kidd’s youth? How does this inform the story? Were you glad to know more about his past?

  6. From the first scene in which Johanna is introduced, we are treated to brief moments of her perceptions. How do these glimpses enhance the story? What do we learn?

  7. How would you characterize Johanna’s behavior? Is it believable?

  8. In what ways does Kidd try to help Johanna become ready for re-assimilation into her new life?

  9. Conversely, what does Johanna teach Kidd?

  10. Jiles did a great deal of research on captives. Does it show? Does her work make this a better story in any way, or would it not have been much different to either make it up or leave in the background?

  11. From what we learn around the edges and from Johanna’s thoughts, would you say the Kiowa are depicted sympathetically?

  12. What were some of the memorable encounters along the journey?

  13. Describe the reunion between Johanna and her people. How does the Captain try to help? How is he treated?

  14. After he left her with family, was the Captain right to intervene?

  15. What was your reaction to the lives they created for themselves? Were you surprised? Satisfied?

  16. Was John Calley a good man? How would you describe him? What were the three circumstances in which they encountered him?

  17. What purpose did the talk Captain and Johanna have on her wedding day serve?

  18. Several of the characters, including Britt Johnson and Captain Kidd, are based on true historical figures. Is this surprising? Does this change your perception of them at all?

  19. Would you describe this as a realistic story?

  20. Where in the novel does the title appear? Does it have significance beyond the literal?

  21. What is the primary draw for you about this story: the setting, the bond of characters, and the journey?

  22. Would you describe this as a quiet novel? Why or why not?

  23. What will you take away with you from this novel? What will you remember?

  24. What is the significance of the line, “The bones of the Kiowa warriors did not lie in the earth but in the stories of their lives, told and retold – their bravery and daring, the death of Britt Johnson and his men, and Cicada, the little girl taken from the by the Indian Agent, Three Spotted’s little blue-eyed girl”?

  25. Jiles asserts that, “using quote marks is like surrounding human speech with barbed wire.” Was the omission of quotation marks distracting or confusing?

  26. Does it surprise you to learn Jiles is also a poet? Why or why not?

    2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.


  1. Talk about the ways in which Johanna Leonberger's life among the Kiowa Indians has shaped her identity, for better and for worse.

  2. Captain Kidd is reluctant at first to be saddled with Johanna. What changes his mind: why does he agree to take her to San Antonio? What does it say about the kind of man he is? What kind of man, in fact, is he?

  3. How does Paulette Jiles depict post-Civil War Texas? What kind of place is it? Talk about the landscape and the type of people Johanna and Captain Kidd encounter. Also, consider the effects of the Civil War on the populace: is the war actually over?

  4. Trace the development of the bond that develops between Johanna and Kidd. What cements their relationship? Whom do you think benefits more from the other? Or is their relationship equally symbiotic?

  5. Captain Kidd makes a living traveling through north Texas, reading the news to audiences who pay to hear him. Obviously, the novel's title refers to this activity, but what else might "the news of the world" refer to in the novel?

  6. All literary journeys follow the arc of the hero's journey. How does this novel adhere to that ancient narrative? Who is the hero—and in what way? How do both Johanna and Kidd change or grow as individuals during the course of their travels?

  7. Where you satisfied by the novel's ending? Does Captain Kidd do the right thing for Johanna? Would you have made the same choice, or a different one?