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Teaching and Learning

Home  >  Teaching and Learning  >  Shopping for Porcupine  >  Reading Comprehension Questions
Non-Dairy Creamer

Essay Summary:  Howie Kantner moves to Alaska, lives with an Inupiaq couple, and falls in love with the land. He meets Erna Strausbourger and they move to northwest Alaska and build a sod-igloo. They marry and have two sons, Kole and Seth.  The family begins an existence of living off the land. Kantner provides a brief history of the area, including Edward Teller's Project Chariot, a plan to detonate a nuclear bomb and create a port near Cape Thompson.  

How did Howie feed his first team of dogs? (p. 9)

University of Alaska Fairbanks Commons food scraps.

What degree did Howie Kantner earn from the University of Alaska? (p. 10)

He earned a degree in zoology, but never filled out the required paperwork to get the certificate.

What was Project Chariot? (p. 10)

An Atomic Energy Commission plan to detonate a nuclear bomb to create a deep-water port at Cape Thompson.

What do caribou eat in the winter months? (p. 10)


Who taught Mabel Thomas how to hunt? (p. 12)

Her father.

Mabel's father was what? (p. 12)

A shaman, or medicine man.

According to Howie, why was Edward Teller still mad about Project Chariot? (p. 13)

He didn't get to "blow up those bird cliffs."

What did Kantner's mother drop from an airplane to her future husband as he climbed Denali? (p. 14)

A box of oranges.

What did Erna's mother call Alaska? (p. 17)

The Icebox.

How many legs did Tommy Douglas have? (p. 18)

None. He'd lost both legs in a plane crash. He moved about on one wooden leg.

What was the name of the boat the Kantners took to get to where they built their first sod igloo? (p. 23)

The Arc.

What does Kantner think might have been harder than the isolation and giving birth in a sod igloo? (p. 24)

Turning her back on her education and dreams.

What was the most exotic creature on the tundra? (p. 25)


What were the most important animals to the Kantners? (p. 25)


Why did the hunters from Kiana have treats like Fig Newtons, Butterfingers, and Banquet chicken? (p. 27)

Their village was "bigger and richer."

What food did hunters often drop off at the Kantner's sod igloo? (p. 29)

Loons or skinny caribou.

What caused Seth and Kole to feel different? (p. 30)

Racism they encountered in Kotzebue because they were white boys.

What did Kantner call the new people that came to the tundra? (p. 32)

Strangers to the North.

What did Howie have that helped him fit in well with the old Eskimos? (p. 33)

Howie possessed acceptance and openness.

What did Howie work hard to avoid? (p. 34)

A job.

Why is caribou hair hollow? (p. 35)

Caribou hair is hollow for warmth.

What did Kole and Seth find in the Epsteins' old house? (p. 36)

Trapping wire, fruit cocktail, and non-dairy creamer.

To see a bear in winter was as "disconcerting" as seeing what two things? (p. 38)

A camel or a game warden on the tundra in winter.

What was wrong with the bear that Howie killed? (p. 38)

It was old, skinny, and had worn and broken teeth.

Inupiaq riches were what three items? (p. 39)

Furs, skins, and fat meat.

What made Seth feel stupid when it came to grammar and writing? (p. 39)

He didn't know he had dyslexia.

What present did Kole get from his father that he didn't fully appreciate? (p. 40)

A collection of hand drawn cards with birds on them.

What did the boys use to destroy their model planes? (p. 43)

Non-dairy creamer.

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