The Shattered Lens (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians Series #4)

The Shattered Lens (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians Series #4)

by Brandon Sanderson
The Shattered Lens (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians Series #4)

The Shattered Lens (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians Series #4)

by Brandon Sanderson


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The Shattered Lens is the fourth action-packed fantasy adventure in the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series for young readers by the #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson. These fast-paced and funny novels are now available in deluxe hardcover editions illustrated by Hayley Lazo.

Alcatraz Smedry is up against a whole army of Evil Librarians with only his friend Bastille, a few pairs of glasses, and an unlimited supply of exploding teddy bears to help him. This time, even Alcatraz's extraordinary talent for breaking things may not be enough to defeat the army of Evil Librarians and their giant librarian robots.

“An excellent choice to read aloud to the whole family. It's funny, exciting, and briskly paced.” —Nancy Pearl on NPR'S Morning Edition

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780765379009
Publisher: Tor Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/19/2016
Series: Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians Series , #4
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 395,209
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.20(d)
Lexile: 670L (what's this?)
Age Range: 9 - 13 Years

About the Author

About The Author
BRANDON SANDERSON is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Rithmatist and Steelheart, both of which were selected for the American Library Association's Teens' Top Ten list. He's also written many popular and award-winning books for adults. His middle grade series, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, is now available in deluxe editions.

Read an Excerpt

The Knights of Crystallia

By Brandon Sanderson, Hayley Lazo

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2016 Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7653-7900-9


So there I was, hanging upside down underneath a gigantic glass bird, speeding along at a hundred miles an hour above the ocean, in no danger whatsoever.

That's right. I wasn't in any danger. I was more safe at that moment than I'd ever been in my entire life, despite a plummet of several hundred feet looming below me. (Or, well, above me, since I was upside down.)

I took a few cautious steps. The oversized boots on my feet had a special type of glass on the bottom, called Grappler's Glass, which let them stick to other things made of glass. That kept me from falling off. (At which point up would quickly become down as I fell to my death. Gravity is such a punk.)

If you'd seen me, with the wind howling around me and the sea churning below, you might not have agreed that I was safe. But these things — like which direction is up — are relative. You see, I'd grown up as a foster child in the Hushlands: lands controlled by the evil Librarians. They'd carefully watched over me during my childhood, anticipating the day when I'd receive a very special bag of sand from my father.

I'd received the bag. They'd stolen the bag. I'd gotten the bag back. Now I was stuck to the bottom of a giant glass bird. Simple really. If it doesn't make sense to you, then might I recommend picking up the first two books of a series before you try to read the third one?

Unfortunately, I know that some of you Hushlanders have trouble counting to three. (The Librarian-controlled schools don't want you to be able to manage complex mathematics.) So I've prepared this helpful guide.

Definition of "book one": The best place to start a series. You can identify "book one" by the fact that it says BOOK ONE on the back cover. Smedrys do a happy dance when you read book one first. Entropy shakes its angry fist at you for being clever enough to organize the world.

Definition of "book two": The book you read after book one. If you start with book two, I will make fun of you. (Okay, so I'll make fun of you either way. But honestly, do you want to give me more ammunition?)

Definition of "book three": The worst place, currently, to start a series. If you start here, I will throw things at you.

Definition of "book four": And ... how'd you manage to start with that one? I haven't even written it yet. (You sneaky time travelers.)

Anyway, if you haven't read book two, you missed out on some very important events. Those include: a trip into the fabled Library of Alexandria, sludge that tastes faintly of bananas, ghostly Librarians that want to suck your soul, giant glass dragons, the tomb of Alcatraz the First, and — most important — a lengthy discussion about belly button lint. By not reading book two, you also just forced a large number of people to waste an entire minute reading that recap. I hope you're satisfied.

I clomped along, making my way toward a solitary figure standing near the chest of the bird. Enormous glass wings beat on either side of me, and I passed thick glass bird legs that were curled up and tucked back. Wind howled and slammed against me. The bird — called Hawkwind — wasn't quite as majestic as our previous vehicle, a glass dragon called Dragonaut. Still, it had a nice group of compartments inside where one could travel in luxury.

My grandfather, of course, couldn't be bothered with something as normal as waiting inside a vehicle. No, he had to cling to the bottom and stare out over the ocean. I fought against the wind as I approached him — and then suddenly the wind vanished. I froze in shock, one of my boots locking into place on the bird's glass underside.

Grandpa Smedry jumped, turning. "Rotating Rothfusses!" he exclaimed. "You surprised me, lad!"

"Sorry," I said, walking forward, my boots making a clinking sound each time I unlocked one, took a step, then locked back onto the glass. As always, my grandfather wore a sharp black tuxedo — he thought it made him blend in better in the Hushlands. He was bald except for a tuft of white hair that ran around the back of his head, and he sported an impressively bushy white mustache.

"What happened to the wind?" I asked.

"Hum? Oh, that." My grandfather reached up, tapping the green-specked spectacles he wore. They were Oculatory Lenses, a type of magical glasses that — when activated by an Oculator like Grandpa Smedry or me — could do some very interesting things. (Those things don't, unfortunately, include forcing lazy readers to go and reread the first couple of books, thereby removing the need for me to explain all of this stuff over and over again.)

"Windstormer's Lenses?" I asked. "I didn't know you could use them like this." I'd had a pair of Windstormer's Lenses, and I'd used them to shoot out jets of wind.

"It takes quite a bit of practice, my boy," Grandpa Smedry said in his boisterous way. "I'm creating a bubble of wind that is shooting out from me in exactly the opposite direction of the wind that's pushing against me, thereby negating it all."

"But ... shouldn't that blow me backward as well?"

"What? No, of course not! What makes you think that it would?"

"Uh ... physics?" I said. (Which you might agree is a rather strange thing to be mentioning while hanging upside down through the use of magical glass boots.)

Grandpa Smedry laughed. "Excellent joke, lad. Excellent." He clasped me on the shoulder. Free Kingdomers such as my grandfather tend to be very amused by Librarian concepts like physics, which they find to be utter nonsense. I think that the Free Kingdomers don't give the Librarians enough credit. Physics isn't nonsense — it's just incomplete.

Free Kingdomer magic and technology have their own kind of logic. Take the glass bird. It was driven by something called a silimatic engine, which used different types of sands and glass to propel it. Smedry Talents and Oculator powers were called "magic" in the Free Kingdoms, since only special people could use them. Something that could be used by anyone — such as the silimatic engine or the boots on my feet — was called technology.

The longer I spent with people from the Free Kingdoms, the less I bought that distinction. "Grandfather," I said, "did I ever tell you that I managed to power a pair of Grappler's Glass boots just by touching them?"

"Hum?" Grandpa Smedry said. "What's that?"

"I gave a pair of these boots an extra boost of power," I said. "Just by touching them ... as if I could act like some kind of battery or energy source."

My grandfather was silent.

"What if that's what we do with the Lenses?" I said, tapping the spectacles on my face. "What if being an Oculator isn't as limited as we think it is? What if we can affect all kinds of glass?"

"You sound like your father, lad," Grandpa Smedry said. "He has a theory relating to exactly what you're talking about."

My father. I glanced upward. Then I turned back to Grandpa Smedry and focused on his pair of Windstormer's Lenses that kept the wind at bay.

"Windstormer's Lenses," I said. "I ... broke the other pair you gave me."

"Ha!" Grandpa Smedry said. "That's not surprising at all, lad. Your Talent is quite powerful."

My Talent — my Smedry Talent — was the magical ability to break things. Every Smedry has a Talent, even those who are only Smedrys by marriage. My grandfather's Talent was the ability to arrive late to appointments.

The Talents were both blessings and curses. My grandfather's Talent, for instance, was quite useful when he arrived late to things like bullets or tax day. But he'd also arrived too late to stop the Librarians from stealing my inheritance.

Grandpa Smedry fell uncharacteristically silent as he stared out over the ocean, which seemed to hang above us. West. Toward Nalhalla, my homeland, though I'd never once set foot upon its soil.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Hum? Wrong? Nothing's wrong! Why, we rescued your father from the Curators of Alexandria! You showed a very Smedry-like keenness of mind, I must say. Very well done! We've been victorious!"

"Except for the fact that my mother now has a pair of Translator's Lenses," I said.

"Ah yes. There is that."

The Sands of Rashid, which had started this entire mess, had been forged into Lenses that could translate any language. My father had somehow collected the Sands of Rashid, then he'd split them and sent half to me, enough to forge a single pair of spectacles. He'd made another pair for himself. After the fiasco at the Library of Alexandria, my mother had managed to steal his pair. (I still had mine, fortunately.)

Her theft meant that if she had access to an Oculator, she could read the Forgotten Language and understand the secrets of the ancient Incarna people. She could read about their technological and magical marvels, discovering advanced weapons. This was a problem. You see, my mother was a Librarian.

"What are we going to do?" I asked.

"I'm not sure," Grandpa Smedry said. "But I intend to speak with the Council of Kings. They should have something to say on this, yes indeed." He perked up. "Anyway, there's no use worrying about it at the moment! Surely you didn't come all the way down here just because you wanted to hear doom and gloom from your favorite grandfather!"

I almost replied that he was my only grandfather. Then I thought for a moment about what having only one grandfather would imply. Ew.

"Actually," I said, looking up toward Hawkwind, "I wanted to ask you about my father."

"What about him, lad?"

"Has he always been so ..."


I nodded.

Grandpa Smedry sighed. "Your father is a very driven man, Alcatraz. You know that I disapprove of the way he left you to be raised in the Hushlands ... but, well, he has accomplished some great things in his life. Scholars have been trying to crack the Forgotten Language for millennia! I was convinced that it couldn't be done. Beyond that, I don't think any Smedry has mastered their Talent as well as he has."

Through the glass above, I could see shadows and shapes — our companions. My father was there, a man I'd spent my entire childhood wondering about. I'd expected him to be a little more ... well, excited to see me.

Even if he had abandoned me in the first place.

Grandpa Smedry rested his hand on my shoulder. "Ah, don't look so glum. Amazing Abrahams, lad! You're about to visit Nalhalla for the first time! We'll work this all out eventually. Sit back and rest for a bit. You've had a busy few months."

"How close are we anyway?" I asked. We'd been flying for the better part of the morning. That was after we'd spent two weeks camped outside the Library of Alexandria, waiting for my uncle Kaz to make his way to Nalhalla and send a ship back to pick us up. (He and Grandpa Smedry had agreed that it would be faster for Kaz to go by himself. Like the rest of us, Kaz's Talent — which is the ability to get lost in very spectacular ways — can be unpredictable.)

"Not too far, I'd say," Grandpa Smedry said, pointing. "Not far at all ..."

I turned to look across the waters, and there it was. A distant continent just coming into view. I took a step forward, squinting from my upside-down vantage. There was a city built along the coast of the continent, rising boldly in the early light.

"Castles," I whispered as we approached. "It's filled with castles?"

There were dozens of them, perhaps hundreds. The entire city was made of castles, reaching toward the sky, lofty towers and delicate spires. Flags flapping from the very tips. Each castle had a different design and shape, and a majestic city wall surrounded them all.

Three structures dominated the rest. One was a black castle on the far south side of the city. Its sides were sheer and tall, and it had a powerful feel to it, like a mountain. Or a really big stone bodybuilder. In the middle of the city there was a strange white castle that looked something like a pyramid with towers and parapets. It flew an enormous, brilliant red flag that I could make out even from a distance.

On the far north side of the city, to my right, was the oddest structure of all. It appeared to be a gigantic crystalline mushroom. It was at least a hundred feet tall and twice as wide. It sprouted from the city, its bell top throwing a huge shadow over a bunch of smaller castles. Atop the mushroom sat a more traditional-looking castle that sparkled in the sunlight, as if constructed entirely from glass.

"Crystallia?" I asked, pointing.

"Yes indeed!" Grandpa Smedry said.

Crystallia, home of the Knights of Crystallia, sworn protectors of the Smedry clan and the royalty of the Free Kingdoms. I glanced back up at Hawkwind. Bastille waited inside, still under condemnation for having lost her sword back in the Hushlands. Her homecoming would not be as pleasant as mine would be.

But ... well, I couldn't focus on that at the moment. I was coming home. I wish I could explain to you how it felt to finally see Nalhalla. It wasn't a crazy sense of excitement or glee — it was far more peaceful. Imagine what it's like to wake up in the morning, refreshed and alert after a remarkably good sleep.

It felt right. Serene.

That, of course, meant it was time for something to explode.


I hate explosions. Not only are they generally bad for one's health, but they're just so demanding. Whenever one comes along, you have to pay attention to it instead of whatever else you were doing. In fact, explosions are suspiciously like baby sisters in that regard.

Fortunately, I'm not going to talk about Hawkwind exploding right now. Instead I'm going to talk about something completely unrelated: fish sticks. (Get used to it. I do this sort of thing all the time.)

Fish sticks are without a doubt the most disgusting things ever created. Regular fish is bad enough, but fish sticks ... well, they raise disgustingness to an entirely new level. It's like they exist just to make us writers come up with new words to describe them, since the old words just aren't horrible enough. I'm thinking of using crapaflapnasti.

Definition of "crapaflapnasti": "Adj. Used to describe an item that is as disgusting as fish sticks." (Note: This word can only be used to describe fish sticks themselves, as nothing has yet been found that is equally crapaflapnasti. Though the unclean, moldy, cluttered space under Brandon Sanderson's bed comes close.)

Why am I telling you about fish sticks? Well, because in addition to being an unwholesome blight upon the land, they're all pretty much the same. If you don't like one brand, chances are very good you won't like any of them.

The thing is, I've noticed that people tend to treat books like fish sticks. People try one, and they figure they've tried them all.

Books are not fish sticks. While they're not all as awesome as the one you are now holding, there's so much variety to them that it can be unsettling. Even within the same genre, two books can be totally different.

We'll talk more about this later. For now, just try not to treat books like fish sticks. (And if you are forced to eat one of the two, go with the books. Trust me.)

The right side of Hawkwind exploded.

The vehicle pitched in the air, chunks of glass sparkling as they blew free. To my side, the glass bird's leg broke off and the world lurched, spun, and distorted — like I was riding a madman's version of a merry-go-round.

At that moment, my panicked mind realized that the section of glass under my feet — the one my boots were still stuck to — had broken away from Hawkwind. The vehicle was still managing to fly. I, however, was not. Unless you count plummeting to your doom at a hundred miles an hour as "flying."

Everything was a blur. The large piece of glass I was stuck to was flipping end over end, the wind tossing it about like a sheet of paper. I didn't have much time.

Break! I thought, sending a shock of my Talent through my legs, shattering my boots and the sheet beneath them. Shards of glass exploded around me, but I stopped spinning. I twisted, looking down at the waves. I didn't have any Lenses that could save me — all I was carrying were the Translator's Lenses and my Oculator's Lenses. All my other pairs had been broken, given away, or returned to Grandpa Smedry.


Excerpted from The Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson, Hayley Lazo. Copyright © 2016 Dragonsteel Entertainment, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

About this guide
The questions and activities that follow are intended to enhance your reading of Brandon Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians novels. The guide has been developed in alignment with the Common Core State Standards; however please feel free to adapt this content to suit the needs and interests of your students or reading group participants.

Brandon Sanderson is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Rithmatist and Steelheart, both of which were selected for the American Library Association’s Teens’ Top Ten list. He’s also written many popular and award-winning books for adults. His middle-grade series, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, is now available in deluxe hardcover editions from Starscape.

Hayley Lazo grew up just outside Washington, D.C. Her art can be found at
About this series
Brandon Sanderson turns readers’ understanding of literary genres upside-down and backward in this lively adventure series. In the world of thirteen-year-old Alcatraz Smedry, “Librarians,” with their compulsions to organize and control information, are a source of evil, and “Talents” can include breaking things, arriving late, and getting lost. Add an unlikely teenage knight named Bastille, flying glass dragons, wild battles, references to philosophers and authors from Heraclitus to Terry Pratchett, and plenty of hilarious wordplay, and you have a series to please book lovers of all ages—one that will have readers reflecting deeply about the nature of knowledge, truth, family, and trust, all while laughing out loud.

Genre Study:FANTASY
In the introduction to the first book in the series, Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, the narrator, Alcatraz Smedry, claims that his story is true, even though it will be shelved as “fantasy” in the world known as “the Hushlands” to which his readers (you) belong.
Fantasy is a literary genre that often includes:
• Characters who are magical, inspired by mythology, or who have special powers
• Settings that include unexplored parts of the known world, or new and different worlds
• Plot elements (actions) that cannot be explained in terms of historical or scientific information from our known world
While reading the books in this series, note when the author uses some of these elements of fantasy to tell his story. Students can track their observations in reading journals if desired, noting which elements of the fantasy genre are most often used by the author.
Older readers (grades 6 and 7) may also consider the way the author incorporates elements of the following genre into his novels, as well as how this genre relates to the fantasy components of the series:
Science fiction, which deals with imaginative concepts such as futuristic settings and technologies, space and time travel, and parallel universes. Science fiction stories frequently explore the effects of specific scientific or technological discoveries on governments and societies.
After reading one or more of the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians books, invite students to reread the “Author’s Foreword” to Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians and discuss why they think the author chose to begin the series by explaining where the books will be shelved in a library.

The Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series can be viewed as the author’s exploration of the idea, concept, and value of books themselves as both a way information is shared, and the way it is contained. One way Brandon Sanderson accomplishes this is to question the very structure of the novel. Invite students to look for the following elements in the stories and share their reactions to these literary devices and structures.

In this series, the point of view through which the reader sees the story is in the first-person voice of Alcatraz Smedry. He also claims that he is using the name Brandon Sanderson as a pseudonym, thus this is an autobiography or memoir. Is Alcatraz Smedry a reliable narrator, giving readers an unbiased report of the events of the story, or is Alcatraz an unreliable narrator, making false claims or telling the story in such a way as to leave doubts in the reader’s mind? In what ways is Alcatraz reliable and/or unreliable? How might the series be different if Bastille or another character were telling the story? (Hint: For further examples of unreliable narrators in children’s and teen fiction, read Jon Sciezska’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, E. Nesbit’s The Story of the Treasure Seekers, Justine Larbalestier’s Liar, or Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.)
At times, the narrator directly addresses the reader, suggesting how s/he should interpret a comment or how to best enjoy the novel (e.g. reading aloud or acting out scenes). Does this change the reader’s sense of his or her relationship with the book? If so, how does this relationship feel different?
Discuss the unusual ways the author begins, ends, numbers, and sequences chapters particularly in books four and five. Is this pleasant or unpleasant? Have readers come across any other works of fiction (or nonfiction) that explore chapters in this way?
To explain Free Kingdoms ideas, technologies, and objects in terms of the Hushlander (readers’) world, the author uses similes, metaphors, and analogies. To reflect protagonist Alcatraz’s own confusion and frustration, Brandon Sanderson employs invented words, puns, and even text written backward or in other unusual ways. Find examples of these uses of wordplay in the text. How does the use of these literary devices enrich the text?

Having been raised in foster homes convinced that both of his parents were horrible people, Alcatraz Smedry is often uncertain as to what it means to like, love, and trust other people. Since he is the narrator of the series, Alcatraz’s uncertainty affects readers’ perceptions of the characters he describes. In a reading journal or in class discussion, have students analyze the physical traits, lineage (parents, relationships), motivations, and concerns of major characters in the novel. How is each character related to Alcatraz? What is especially important about the idea of family relationships in this series? Does Alcatraz’s view of certain characters change in the course of a single book? Do recurring characters develop or change over the course of more than one book in the series? If so, how and why do the characters evolve?

English Language Arts Common Core Reading Literature Standards
RL.3.3-6, 4.3-6, 5.3-6, 6.3-6, 7.3-6

Themes & Motifs:DISCUSSION TOPICS for the SERIES
Sanderson’s Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians novels can be read on many levels, including as adventure stories, as musings on the nature of knowledge, and as fantasies incorporating elements of science fiction. Here are some themes you may want to watch for and explore with your classmates or students.
How does Sanderson use the word “talent” in traditional and nontraditional ways? Is talent important, valuable, even essential? What does Sanderson really mean by “talent”? How might students incorporate Sanderson’s unique interpretation of the word “talent” into their own sense of self?
Throughout the novel, Alcatraz claims to be “bad,” “a liar,” “a coward,” and “not a hero.” What makes a “hero” in a novel, a movie, and in real life? Does it matter if a person acts heroically on purpose or by accident? What do you think is the most important reason Alcatraz denies his heroism?
Knowledge, Learning, Thinking
Find instances in the stories when Alcatraz admits to acting before thinking ahead to consider all possible outcomes of his plans. In these instances, is he simply being careless or does he lack some important information since he was raised in the Librarian controlled Hushlands? Compare and contrast the way people acquire knowledge in the Hushlands versus the Free Kingdoms.
In The Shattered Lens, the narrator refers to the ideas of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, whose doctrines included (1) universal flux (the idea that things are constantly changing) and (2) unity of opposites (the idea that opposites [objects, ideas] are necessary and balance each other). The philosopher also believed that “Much learning does not teach understanding.” (The Art and Thought of Heraclitus, ed. Charles H. Kahn. Cambridge University Press, 1981). How might the series be read as an exploration of Heraclitus’ doctrines?

English Language Arts Common Core Speaking and Listening Standards
SL.3.1, 4.1, 5.1, 6.1, 7.1
SL.3.3, 4.3, 5.3, 6.3, 7.3

Keep a reading journal. Use the journal to record:
• Favorite quotations, funny lines, exciting scenes (note page numbers)
• Situations in which the main character is in crisis or danger, and notes on what advice readers might offer
• New vocabulary words and/or a list of invented words; deliberately misspelled words
• Sketches inspired by the novels
• Questions readers would like to ask the author or characters from the novels
Explore Glass
From Oculator’s Lenses to unbreakable glass buildings, glass is a core substance throughout the series. Go to the library or online to learn more about glass. Create a PowerPoint or other multi-media presentation discussing the physical properties, history, practical and creative uses of glass. Or create a presentation explaining how glass works in the Free Kingdoms. Include visual elements, such as photographs or drawings, in your presentation.
Silimatic Technology
This part scientific, part magical technology powers much of the Free Kingdoms. Using details from the novels, create an outline or short pamphlet explaining the rules and functions of silimatic technology as you understand it. If desired, dress as you imagine a Free Kingdoms scientist might choose to dress and present your findings to classmates.
Choose a Talent
Many of the characters in the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series have talents that seem more like problems. Think of a personality quality you consider a fault in your own life, such as messy penmanship, poor spelling, or the inability to catch a baseball. Imagine how that talent might prove useful in the world of Alcatraz. Write a 3-5 page scene in which you encounter Alcatraz and help him using your “talent.”

English Language Arts Common Core Writing Standards
W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3
W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9

Who is Alcatraz Smedry? Is his tendency to break things a curse…or a talent? Though his past has been marked by a series of disastrous foster home placements, his breaking ability is about to lead him to a future battling Evil Librarians and discovering the truth about his long-missing parents.
Discuss your interpretation of the following quotations in terms their meaning within the novel; in terms of your thoughts about books and libraries; and in terms of their relevance to the real lives of readers.
“Now, you Hushlanders may think that I took all of these strange experiences quite well…maybe if you’d grown up with the magical ability to break almost anything you touched, then you would have been just as quick to accept unusual circumstances.” (Chapter 3)

“Public libraries exist to entice. Librarians want everyone to read their books—whether those books are deep and poignant works about dead puppies or nonfiction books about made-up topics, like the Pilgrims, penicillin, and France. In fact the only book they don’t want you to read is the one you’re holding right now.” (Chapter 7)

“It has been my experience that most problems in life are caused by a lack of information. Many people just don’t know the things they need to know.

Some ignore the truth; others never understand it.” (Chapter 15)
Reading Journal Entry: A BAG OF SAND
What would you make of the sort of birthday present Alcatraz received? Write a journal entry describing how you might have reacted and the emotions you felt (anger, curiosity, disappointment, confusion) upon receiving such a gift. Sketch your vision of this odd gift.
Reading Journal Entry: LYING
Throughout the novel, Alcatraz insists that he is a liar. Write an entry into your reading journal in which you explain what you think Alcatraz means by being a LIAR. Follow with your thoughts on one or more of the following questions: Have you ever acted or felt like a liar in ways similar to those of Alcatraz? Have you ever felt like people were not seeing you as your true self—or were making assumptions about you based on information from other people? How did you react? Did you try to make people see the truth or allow them to believe the falsehood? Is lying always bad? Is something that feels like a lie always a lie?
Explanatory Text: SANDS OF RASHID
Imagine you are Bastille, Sing, or Grandpa Smedry separated from Alcatraz but anxious for him to understand the truth about the Sands of Rashid. In the voice of one of these characters, write a letter of explanation to send to Alcatraz.
Literary Analysis: CLIFFHANGERS
“Hooks and cliffhangers belong only at the ends of chapters.”
Go to the library or online to find definitions of the novel-writing terms “hook” and “cliffhanger.” Find examples of these devices as Brandon Sanderson uses them in his novel. Then, write a one-page essay in which you agree or disagree with the above quotation from the book. Use examples from Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians and other novels to support your position.
English Language Arts Common Core Standards
RL.3.1-4, 4.1-4, 5.1-4, 6.1-4, 7.1-4
SL.3.3-4, 4.3-4, 5.3-4, 6.3-4, 7.3-4
W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3; W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9
Lexile level: 730L, ATOS Book Level: 4.9, AR Points: 9.0, AR Quiz No. 118054 EN

Has Alcatraz’s estranged father gotten lost in the secret underground Library of Alexandria? And is he willing to pay the ultimate price for limitless knowledge…the sacrifice of his soul?
Discuss the following quotations in terms of what they mean in terms of the novel; in terms of your thoughts about books and libraries; and in terms of their relevance to the real lives of readers.
“The things I am telling you here are factual. In this case, I can only prove that I’m a liar by telling the truth, though I will also include some lies—which I will point out—to act as object lessons proving the truth that I’m a liar.” (Chapter 4)
“The quickest way I’ve found to feel bad about yourself is to read a self-help book, and the second quickest way is to read a depressing literary work intended to make you feel terrible about humanity in general.” (Chapter 9)

“Many people would rather give up what remains of their lives than live in ignorance…. This is only one of the many ways that we gain souls.” (Chapter 9)
“Writers—particularly storytellers like myself—write about people. That is ironic, since we actually know nothing about them.” (Chapter 16)
“Think about it. Why does someone become a writer? Is it because they like people? Of course not. Why else would we seek out a job where we get to spend all day, every day, cooped up in our basement with no company besides paper, a pencil, and our imaginary friends?” (Chapter 16)
Reading Journal Entry: KNOWLEDGE
The Curators attempt to trick Alcatraz and his comrades into reading. In a short essay or reading journal entry, describe what type of knowledge is most tempting to you. What is the most important kind of knowledge? Do you think you would be able to avoid the Curators’ traps? Why or why not?
With friends or classmates, go to the library or online to learn more about the Ancient Library of Alexandria and other ancient libraries or archives. Create informative posters about these places, their locations, history, contents, and legacy, and assemble them into a classroom display.
Literary Analysis: NAMES
Many Free Kingdoms characters have names associated with prisons. Make an annotated list of characters with prison names accompanied by facts about their namesake prisons. What reason(s) are given for the prison names by various characters in the story? Can you think of other novels, book series, television shows, or movies in which characters’ names are related to such things as historical figures or geographical landmarks? What impact does Brandon Sanderson’s naming choice have on your reading of the story?
Write a short essay explaining how the idea of a “Forgotten Language” is introduced in the story and how it becomes an increasingly important concept throughout the course of the novel. Why might the idea of language be something Brandon Sanderson seeks to put at the core of this series?

English Language Arts Common Core Standards
RL.3.1-4, 4.1-4, 5.1-4, 6.1-4, 7.1-4
SL.3.3-4, 4.3-4, 5.3-4, 6.3-4, 7.3-4
W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3; W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9
Lexile level: 660L, ATOS Book Level: 4.7, AR Points: 9.0, AR Quiz No. 126447 EN

Can Alcatraz handle the realization that, in the Free Kingdom city of Crystallia, he is incredibly famous? How will that change his friendship with Bastille, who has been stripped of her knighthood for failing to protect the “great” Alcatraz? And can either of them save the historic city from the Evil Librarians?
Discuss the following quotations in terms of what they mean in terms of the novel; in terms of your thoughts about books and libraries; and in terms of their relevance to the real lives of readers.

“Summarizing is when you take a story that is complicated and interesting, then stick it in a microwave until it shrivels up into a tiny piece of black crunchy tarlike stuff. A wise man once said, ‘Any story, no matter how good, will sound really, really dumb when you shorten it to a few sentences.’” (Chapter 8)

“People tend to believe what other people tell them…. And if we didn’t know who was an expert, we wouldn’t know whose opinion was the most important to listen to.

Or, at least that’s what the experts want us to believe. Those who have listened to Socrates know that they’re supposed to ask questions. Questions like, ‘If all people are equal, then why is my opinion worth less than that of the expert?’ or ‘If I like reading this book, then why should I let someone else tell me that I shouldn’t like reading it?’” (Chapter 13)

“I mean, why is it that you readers always assume you’re never to blame for anything? You just sit there, comfortable on your couch while we suffer. You can enjoy our pain and misery because you’re safe.” (Chapter 19)
Reading Journal Entry: FAME
Upon arriving in the Free Kingdom city of Crystallia, Alcatraz discovers that he is famous. In the character of Alcatraz, write a journal entry describing how you came to this discovery, your emotions, and any planned actions you might take since discovering this new fame and its power.
Explanatory Text: KNIGHTHOOD
Write a short essay explaining the roles, responsibilities, and sacrifices made by members of the Knights of Crystallia. Is Bastille an ordinary or unusual knight? Why or why not?
Explanatory Text: SOCRATES
With friends or classmates, go to the library or online to learn more about the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates and the “Socratic method” of teaching and learning. Compile your information into a short report. Conclude with 1-3 paragraphs explaining why Brandon Sanderson references Socrates in the novel.
Alcatraz is told that talents can have impact on space, time, knowledge, and the physical world, and that his talent (breaking things) is the one ability that can impact all four areas. Make a four-columned list to analyze these areas, noting the names and talents of various story characters whose abilities fall under each category, brainstorming other possible talents that could be included in each column and, finally, writing a short paragraph explaining the breaking talent and its breadth of impact.

English Language Arts Common Core Standards
RL.3.1-4, 4.1-4, 5.1-4, 6.1-4, 7.1-4
SL.3.3-4, 4.3-4, 5.3-4, 6.3-4, 7.3-4
W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3; W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9
Lexile level: 670L, ATOS Book Level: 4.9, AR Points: 9.0, AR Quiz No. 133649 EN

The island of Mokia is under siege by the Librarians, and its fate may tip the scales for the Librarians’ conquest of all the Free Kingdoms…unless Alcatraz can sort out family, enemies, friends, talents, and the power of exploding teddy bears.
Discuss the following quotations in terms of what they mean in terms of the novel; in terms of your thoughts about books and libraries; and in terms of their relevance to the real lives of readers.

“Most members of my family, it should be noted, are some kind of professor, teacher, or researcher. It may seem odd to you that a bunch of dedicated miscreants like us are also a bunch of scholars. If you think that it means you haven’t known enough professors in your time.” (Chapter 6)
“That’s how they win. By making us give up. I’ve lived in Librarian lands. They don’t win because they conquer, they win because they make people stop caring, stop wondering. They’ll tire you out, then feed you lies until you start repeating them, if only because it’s too hard to keep arguing.” (Chapter 070706)
“Something stirred inside of me, something that felt immense. Like an enormous serpent, shifting, moving, awakening.”

“‘I want everything to make sense again!’” (Chapter 8)
“The Librarians…they try to keep us from changing. They want everything to remain the same inside the Hushlands…

In this case, it’s not because they’re oppressive. It’s because they’re afraid. Change frightens them. It’s unknown, uncertain, like Smedrys and magic. They want everyone to assume that things can’t change.” (Author’s Afterword)
Reading Journal Entry: WHO IS RIGHT?
By the end of the fourth novel, Alcatraz believes that his mother, Shasta, is in the right while his father, Attica, is on a dangerous path. Write a journal entry describing how you think this new perspective will affect Alcatraz’s relationships with his parents. Have you ever felt caught between two parents or other adults in your life? How might you use this experience to offer advice to Alcatraz about handling his situation?
Reading Journal Entry: MOKIA
Imagine that you have arrived in Mokia along with Alcatraz. Write a journal entry describing the sights, sounds, smells, and emotions you experience those first moments on the island nation.
Imagine that you are a scholar from the Free Kingdoms assigned to instruct Alcatraz about the two worlds that coexist on Earth. Prepare a speech, including an introduction of yourself, your name, and your relationship to Alcatraz, then address the following questions: What are the key distinctions between these two worlds? How do characters move between the worlds? Can all characters do so? What do you think would happen to the Hushlands if they were made aware of the Free Kingdoms? Why are the Free Kingdoms so anxious to remain free from the Hushland society created by the Librarians?
Using information from the novel, create a chart comparing and contrasting the characters of Bastille and Draulin, Shasta and Attica Smedry, or another pair of characters of interest to you. Write a paragraph or essay describing the importance of including both of your chosen characters in the book. How does the contrast between the characters represent a larger conflict in the story.
From exploding teddy bears to myriad powerful lenses to terms like “stoopiderific,” the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians novels have a vocabulary of their own. Create an Excel spreadsheet, graphic index, or other type of chart or booklet in which you list and define the language of Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians.
In the course of the series, Alcatraz’s talent is described as the most powerful, dangerous, and dark, yet he is a legend and a hero. With the complex descriptions in mind, write a poem, song lyrics, or a four-panel cartoon celebrating (or denouncing) Alcatraz Smedry.

English Language Arts Common Core Standards
RL.3.1-4, 4.1-4, 5.1-4, 6.1-4, 7.1-4
SL.3.3-4, 4.3-4, 5.3-4, 6.3-4, 7.3-4
W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3; W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9
Lexile level: 680L, ATOS Book Level: 4.8, AR Points: 8.0, AR Quiz No. 140919 EN

To stop his father from carrying out a dastardly plan to unleash Talents across the Hushlands, Alcatraz must infiltrate his dad’s hiding place within the Evil Librarians’ great Highbrary—cunningly disguised as the Library of Congress. But can he trust his accomplices, including his terrifying mother Shasta and annoying cousin Dif? And, with his own Talent dangerously disabled, will he be able to find his father in time to save anyone—even himself?
Discuss the following quotations in terms of what they mean in terms of the novel; in terms of your thoughts about books and libraries; and in terms of their relevance to the real lives of readers.

“...the [tales] we tell ourselves these days always seem to need a happy ending…. Is it because the Librarians are protecting us from stories with sad endings? Or is it something about who we are, who we have become as a society, that makes us need to see the good guys win?” (Chapter Mary)
“Have you been with that fool of a grandfather of yours so long you’ve lost the ability to see the world as it has to be?” (Chapter 17)

Father said, “Son, you have to understand. Your mother is a Librarian. In her heart, she’s terrified of change—not to mention frightened of the idea of common people being outside her control.” (Chapter 18)
Reading Journal Entry: COWARDICE
Beginning with the “Foreword,” through chapters “Shu Wei” and 19, to the final pages of the “Afterword,” Alcatraz repeatedly calls himself a “coward.” Do you think Alcatraz is a coward in any or all of these instances? Write a journal entry explaining how you think Alcatraz would define the term coward, whether you use this term in the same way in your own life, and how you feel toward Alcatraz at moments in the story when he sees himself as a coward.
Reading Journal Entry: HAS ALCATRAZ FAILED?
Write a journal entry in which you agree or disagree with Alcatraz’s final page apologia. Has he failed and, if so, whom has he failed? Use quotes from the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series and/or from other novels or poems you have read, to support your position.
Explanatory Text: SMEDRYS
Throughout the novel, Alcatraz, Kaz, Dif, and other characters refer to certain actions or ideas as typical of a member of the Smedry line. In the character of Grandpa, Attica, Shasta, or Dif, write an essay explaining what it means to be a Smedry. Or, in the character of Alcatraz, write a letter to Bastille describing how you feel about belonging to the Smedry family.
Explanatory Text: AESOP’S FABLES
Brandon Sanderson makes several references to fables, particularly Aesop’s Fables, in The Dark Talent. With friends or classmates, go to the library or online to find a definition of “fable” and some facts about Aesop and his literary legacy. Read several of Aesop’s fables and select one that you feel could be applied to a scene in the novel. Write a short essay explaining why you believe Sanderson wanted to incorporate the idea of fables into this novel, and how and where you would reference your selected fable within the book.
Literary Analysis: AUTHORSHIP
The Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series is narrated by the character Alcatraz Smedry, who claims to be using the pseudonym of “Hushlands” author Brandon Sanderson. With friends or classmates, discuss how this double-layered claim of authorship affects the reading of the book and/or the reader’s relationship with the narrator. Then individually, write a short essay interpreting the following quote by Pulitzer Prize–winning author Junot Diaz in terms of the Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians novels you have read:
“…we all dream that there’s an authoritative voice out there that will explain things, including ourselves. If it wasn’t for our longing for these things, I doubt the novel or the short story would exist in its current form.”

English Language Arts Common Core Standards
RL.3.1-4, 4.1-4, 5.1-4, 6.1-4, 7.1-4
SL.3.3-4, 4.3-4, 5.3-4, 6.3-4, 7.3-4
W.3.1-3, 4.1-3, 5.1-3, 6.1-3, 7.1-3;
W3.7-8, 4.7-9, 5.7-9, 6.7-9, 7.7-9

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