Children’s Literature

The Kitchen Madonna by Rumer Godden

Introduction to Children’s Literature

Dear Parents and Families,

I am very excited to share with you some of our family’s favorite books. The books I’ve chosen are the special ones that have entered into our hearts and our family’s culture. They have been read aloud many many times. I encourage you to read them aloud and to use the discussion questions to draw your family into conversation. Some of the questions have “correct” answers but many of them are personal. The answers can help you to get to know each other better.

Many of the books are still in print though a few may be rather hard to find. I’ll post a new book each month.

I don’t think there is an age bracket for these books. A young child will enjoy the story in one way and an adult in another.

I’m beginning with The Kitchen Madonna by Rumer Godden because it has a very special place in my heart. I always find it new and fresh even after reading it many times. And one year, after I read it to my children, one of my young sons made me a Kitchen Madonna!

Thanks for joining me in this course! I hope it enriches your life.

The Kitchen Madonna

In The Kitchen Madonna by Rumer Godden, you will meet Gregory Thomas. He is 9 years old and is closed in on himself and his possessions. He does not mind being unfriendly or unkind, lying or disobeying his parents. Yet inside of him, there is a spark waiting to be blown into flame.

Note about the page numbering: I am using an older edition of The Kitchen Madonna so my page numbers might not match with your edition. You can use the descriptive title I gave to each section to help you match the questions to the correct part of the story.


Marta’s Unhappiness pp 9-22

  • Have you ever chosen to do something and not liked it at all?
  • Are you more like Janet or Gregory? In what ways?
  • Why does Mother wonder if Gregory has a heart?
  • Why do you think he is so possessive?
  • Why did Marta stay 22 years with the old woman?
  • How are Marta and Gregory the same? How are they different?
  • Why do you think Gregory let Marta take care of Rootle?
  • Why does Marta like her childhood kitchen better than Mother’s kitchen?
  • Do you think the kitchen was more beautiful before or after Marta came?
  • What is beginning to happen to Gregory at the end of this section?
  • Does your house have a “good place”?

The Museum pp 22-31

  • Why does Gregory store up and not put out?
  • Why do you think Gregory wants to be the one to give Marta an icon?
  • Who is really the selfish one?
  • Why does Gregory say, “She isn’t only Marta”?
  • Why doesn’t Marta want the Thomases to know about the picture?
  • Why don’t the children like the icons?
  • What does the gentleman say icons are?
  • Have you ever had a window opening to Heaven? What was it?
  • Does it bother Gregory that he is disobedient?
  • Why do you think Janet is so loyal to Gregory?

The Disappointments pp 31-46

  • Why is the jeweler’s shop not like other shops?
  • What do you think the older man would have said to Gregory if the children had stayed in the shop?
  • Why does seeing the picture make up a little for the shame Gregory feels?
  • Why is he ashamed? Should he be ashamed of this? Is there anything he should be ashamed of doing?
  • Why do you think that buying the lamp cheered the children?
  • Do you think that Gregory is praying when he speaks to Our Lady of Czestochowa?
  • Is she unmoved?

Think pp 46-56

  • Does Gregory only care about Marta’s sadness because she will go away?
  • Why do you think Gregory loves Marta?
  • How do you make something with think?
  • Why is Gregory now willing to sacrifice his ship picture? What is happening to him?
  • What change is happening in Janet? What is making her change?
  • Look up the two pictures. Which do you like better? Why?
  • Do you like to jump into a project or take your time and plan? Is one way better than the other?

Wonderful Scraps pp 59-68

  • Why is Gregory more patient with Janet now?
  • What would your family have in a scrap bag?
  • Have you ever made something new out of something that had worn out?
  • Why does Gregory decide to see Madame Ginette on Monday?
  • Is Madame like the men at Rostov’s? Why do you think she is not grand?
  • Why do you think Gregory told Madame Ginette about the Kitchen Madonna?

Jewels pp 68-80

  • Why do you think the Kitchen Madonna starts coming together after Gregory cuts up his ship picture?
  • Is Gregory’s work a type of prayer?
  • Do you think of Mary as a person who wore royal robes or simple clothing?
  • Why does Gregory go back to the church?
  • Why do you think Gregory does not ask Janet to go with him to the sweets shop?
  • Why is Barty so surprised by Gregory’s story?
  • How is Gregory’s picture already bringing joy to others?

The Presentation in the Kitchen pp 68-80

  • Is the picture entirely Gregory’s work? Why does Gregory thank Janet?
  • Why does Mother cry?
  • What does Marta do when she sees the picture?
  • What do you think Marta said in her prayer?
  • How can a picture make her so happy? What does it signify to her?
  • Do you think any of Gregory’s other pictures could be as great as this first one? Why or why not?
  • How could you make a “good place” for yourself or for someone else?