Erin and her friends, January and Mouse, run away from their orphanage home in search of the boundless freedom of the ocean, but what they find instead shocks and amazes them. Just across the river, slightly beyond the Black Middens where their raft comes to rest, they find a girl named Heaven Eyes. Intrigued by their new acquaintance, Erin and her companions attempt to discover who Heaven Eyes is and where she has come from. In doing so, they come to recognize the beauty that lies in her ability to see through the darkness in the world to the joy that lies beneath.
1. Though each of the children in Heaven Eyes is an orphan, Almond develops a strong sense of family throughout the book. What role does family play in the novel? According to the book, what does it take to become a family?
2. Names and the ability to be renamed are very important to the characters in the story. Discuss the significance of each character’s name to their role in the book. What does it mean when someone is renamed? How does it change their character? What happens when Heaven Eyes discovers her true name?
3. Heaven Eyes constantly reveals her sleep thoughts to Erin and explains that they are separate from her waking thoughts. Is this true? How do the sleep thoughts of Heaven Eyes and the other characters relate to their waking lives? What happens when the two realms collide?
4. Discuss the role of death in the novel. How does death impact each of the characters? How does the children’s perception of death change from the beginning of the novel to the end? What influence do Heaven Eyes and Grampa have on that perception?
5. Erin and January set out in search of freedom and decide to bring Mouse along when they find him scavenging the earth for "real treasure." (p. 35) Do you think January and Erin are looking only for freedom? How does their search change when they reach the Black Middens? What treasures do they find when they meet Heaven Eyes and Grampa? What do those treasures come to mean to them?
6. Contrast the reactions of Erin and January when they first meet Heaven Eyes. Why do you think they react so differently to her?
7. How are light and dark important in the book? Who is associated with the light and who with the dark? Why do you think this is so?
8. The two living adult characters in the book have different ways of relating to the past. Grampa chooses to shroud the past in secrecy, while Maureen continually asks the children in her care to reveal their memories. How do the children respond to the adults’ ways of dealing with the past? What effect do the secrets and revelations have on the children? How do the children choose to deal with the past on their own? How does it affect their self-knowledge?
9. As they set out to return to Whitegates, Erin notes, "The most marvelous of things could be found a few yards away, a river’s-width away. The most extraordinary things existed in our ordinary world and just waited for us to find them." (p.194) How is this statement reflected throughout the book? How does this view of the world vary from one that Erin and January might have expressed at the beginning of the novel?
10. At the end of the novel Erin explains to Maureen that "We run for freedom. . . . Just for freedom." (p. 197) Do you think Erin, January, and Mouse found what they set out to find? Are there ways in which Heaven Eyes might represent freedom to them?
David Almond grew up in a small town in England. He has been a mailman, a brush salesman, an editor, and a teacher. He won the Michael L. Printz Award for Kit’s Wilderness as well as a Printz Honor for his first novel, Skellig, which also received the Whitbread Award and the Carnegie Medal in the U.K. David Almond lives with his family in Newcastle, England.
A Note from the Author:
Stories are central to our shared civilization. They speak across oceans and continents and draw us closer together. Nothing will ever replace their power to enter our minds and hearts and help us understand what it is to be human.
Like my first two novels, this story is set in very real surroundings, close to my home in the northeast of England. And like those novels, it blends that reality with imagination and dreams and explores its magical possibilities.
From the Hardcover edition.