Author: Peter Eyvindson

Summary: Whenever he passes by his neighbour Mary’s house, a young boy can’t help but stare at the elderly woman with the missing teeth and layers of sweaters. Although he is afraid at first, he soon realizes that even though Mary is different, she is a wise and wonderful friend who has much to teach him.

 WITS Connection: Talk it out, Seek help

WITS Lesson Plan (PDF)

Learning Outcomes

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Questions and Activities


  • Show students a picture of a parka and describe how it is similar to their coats.
  • Discuss the concept of nicknames with students.


  1. How old do you think the lady on the cover of the book is?
  2. What other stories do you know that include elderly women as characters?
  3. Where is the parka on the cover? Why is it missing?
  4. Where do you think the story takes place?


  1. Why was the young boy afraid of Mary? Somewhere at sometime someone told him to be afraid of her brown eyes.
  2. The boy was unsure what to do when Mary gave him a bucket of chokecherries. How did he seek help? He brought them home and watched his Mom’s reaction
  3. How was Mary different? She was older, dressed differently and was alone.
  4. What did Mary teach the boy? To sew, catch rabbits and line moccasins with fur.
  5. What did Mary learn from the boy? She learned how to give in many ways.
  6. What would you have guessed to be the biggest gift in the world?
  7. How do you think the young boy felt when he received Mary’s gift? How would feel if you opened Mary’s gift?


  • How are Mary and the boy the same? How are they different? Distribute the Venn Diagram handout to students and have them fill it in to explore the similarities and differences between the two characters.
  • Have students create a self-portrait. Distribute the Me and My Parka handout and ask students to colour the parka, boots and mittens. Distribute small paper plates that the students can draw faces on and have them glue the pieces together to make a self-portrait. Provide items like pompoms, feathers, glitter, ribbon and felt to decorate the parkas and yarn for hair.