The Ruby in the Smoke Ideas for Reports and Papers
by Philip Pullman

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Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. While Sally's Ruby of Agrapur is fictitious, there are many famous gemstones, some of which have legends or dramatic tales surrounding them. Examples of famous gems include the Hope diamond, the Koh-i-noor diamond, the Cullinan diamond, the Rosser Reeves star ruby, the Star of India sapphire, and the DeLong star ruby. Research one or several of these or other well-known gemstones and chronicle their histories.

2. The Ruby belongs to the family of gems called corundum. Explore the corundum gems. What is included in the family? Where are they found? What are the properties of the gems?

3. Sally Lockhart was an independent woman, just like Queen Victoria who ruled the British Empire during the time of Sally's adventures. Describe the life of Queen Victoria and discuss her importance in history.

4. Write an overview of the Opium Wars of 1839-1842 and 1856-1860. Discuss why they were fought and who participated in the wars. Then examine the results of these wars and explain their importance not only to the opium trade but to trade and commerce in general and to the power of the British Empire.

5. During Sally Lockhart's time, the British Empire extended over vast parts of the world. Identify the areas of Eastern Asia and the Indian subcontinent that were controlled by England. Then pick one area to explore in detail. How did British rule change that area?

6. The adventures of Sally Lockhart take place in 1872 during what is called the Victorian Age. Research the role of women in Victorian society. Was Sally a typical Victorian woman?

7. Read The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, a best-selling novel written in the 1860s and compare and contrast it to The Ruby in the Smoke. Do techniques and settings used to create mystery and suspense in Collins's classic show up in Pullman's book?

8. Frederick Garland is attempting to make his living as a photographer. Explore the early history of photography. What...

(The entire section is 479 words.)