Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening Discussion Questions

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

'Mr. Owita's Guide to Gardening' is a memoir that details a cherished friendship and a fostered passion for gardening that transforms the author's life. Use these discussion questions to help high school-age students respond to the book's themes.

Mr. Owita's Guide to Gardening by Carol Wall

In Carol Wall's memoir Mr. Owita's Guide to Gardening, she recounts the years long friendship she fostered with an unlikely acquaintance and how it changed her outlook on life. Wall explains how her friendship with Mr. Owita awakened both her love of gardening and her love of life. Help your high school-age students digest and discuss the themes of this memoir, including awakenings, connections, and wisdom. You may wish to discuss these questions in a one-on-one conversation with a single student or provide a list of questions to partners or teams. After discussion has concluded, consider asking students to craft a written response to one or more questions to serve as a summative assessment.

*Note: These questions are designed to be used after students have read the book. Additionally, some questions ask for specific textual examples so having a copy of the book during discussion will be helpful.


  • Mr. Owita and Carol are an unlikely pair for such a close friendship. Do you agree or disagree with this statement and why? Are friendships between people who come from different worlds more meaningful than those with whom we have a lot in common? What did these two friends discover that they had in common? Provide examples from the text.
  • How do Carol and Bienta interact? Why is Carol surprised upon learning that Bienta considers her one of her closest friends? How do friendships develop between people who communicate in very different ways? What is the difference between Carol's perception of Bienta's feelings toward her and the reality? Why do you think Carol has the perception that Bienta is distant with her?
  • Discuss the relationship between Carol and her husband, Dick. What obstacles do they have to overcome as a couple, and as individuals? Is Carol right to assume that Dick is keeping secrets because of what she finds in his suitcase? Why or why not? How do they rebuild the trust between them? How and why do you think it changed over time?
  • Carol's parents are very ill. How does she take on the role of caretaker? What emotions does she grapple with throughout their later days of life? Do you think she is a good daughter to them? Why or why not? How has her relationship with her parents changed throughout life? Do you think parent-child relationships change when the child becomes an adult? What about when a parent ages and/or becomes very ill?

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