Over Sea, Under Stone Topics for Discussion
by Susan Cooper

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Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Susan Cooper wrote Over Sea, Under Stone as a single novel; she did not see it as the first in a series of five novels until years later. Yet in the last sentence of the book, Barney predicts Jane, Simon, Great-Uncle Merry, and he will "know one day" what the words engraved on the grail mean. Are possible future novels anticipated elsewhere in the novel? How?

2. Near the end of Over Sea, Under Stone Barney realizes that Great-Uncle Merry is actually Merlin. " 'Merriman Lyon,' he said softly to himself. 'Merry Lyon. . . Merlion. . . Merlin. . . '" Which other names in the novel are important? Why and how?

3. Jane, Barney, and Simon's parents leave them alone much of the time. Would you like to live in this sort of family?

4. Do you like or dislike the illustrations? Do they help you imagine what the characters and scenes look like, or would you rather imagine what happens without having it drawn out for you? Do they capture the novel's mood and style?

5. Mrs. Palk sings hymns and Mr. Hastings lives in the vicarage, but both are evil. Do any of the other evil characters mislead by their actions?

6. Simon says "everything seems terribly big" when he, Jane, and Great- Uncle Merry approach the stones at night. What else in the novel is overwhelmingly big to Jane, Barney, and Simon?

7. Before they explore the house and find the manuscript in the attic, Mrs. Palk gives Jane, Barney, and Simon "a stack of freshly-baked scones cut in half, thickly buttered and put together again; a packet of squashed-fly biscuits, three apples, and a great slab of dark yellow-orange cake, thick and crumbling with fruit." This writing is specific and sensory—we can clearly see the lunch. Which other passages in the book are this visual? Do any passages emphasize other senses, like hearing?

8. We learn, in the first chapter, that "Barney's greatest heroes had been King Arthur and his knights." What other interests, knowledge, and abilities are uniquely Jane's, Barney's, and Simon's?

9. Jane, Barney, and Simon immediately accept and like Great-Uncle Merry. Would you react similarly if you were one of them?

10. After she and Mr. Withers kidnap Barney, Polly Withers "slipped out of the driving seat, moving like a snake." Where else are evil people compared with animals, birds, or snakes? Are good people ever compared with creatures? How do these comparisons make you feel?