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Sparking Conversation in the Classroom: The Big Dig by Lisa Harrington

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Reviewing The Big Dig

The Big Dig by Lisa Harrington is the perfect young adult novel to spark meaningful discussions on a variety of topics. Teachers are familiar with the difficulties that students face when they have to move and change schools. This story can help ease the transition as readers can relate to the main character, who is faced with the challenge of making new friends and adapting to a new community. Each of the three main characters is unique in their own way. Although their personalities would seem to naturally clash, they accept each other’s differences and forge a very strong friendship.

It’s 1977, and shortly after dealing with the loss of her mother, Lucy is sent by her father to live with her Great-Aunt Josie for the summer. There, she meets two friends, Colin and Kit, and they create everlasting friendships. Together, they attempt to help Lucy uncover the truth she is seeking.

Harrington does a fantastic job of bringing the reader into Lucy’s head. As the reader follows fourteen year-old Lucy to Nova Scotia for summer break, the author makes you feel as if you are with her, every step of the way. Each page contains elements that are described in such detail that you feel as though you can smell, hear, and taste (even Josie’s poor cooking) everything. The natural range of emotions that a teenager would feel after dealing with such a huge loss are felt in every chapter.

Having read most of this book up at the cottage, it was easy to imagine the setting and put myself in Lucy’s shoes. If you ask me, she would have been a huge Joni Mitchell fan. Her albums Blue and The Hissing of Summer Lawns are a great companion for this book.

On her journey to the truth, Lucy comes across a number of clues. With each passing chapter, she has to decide what to do with the information she uncovers.


Themes & Discussion Areas

There are many interesting talking points that teachers could use in small group discussions, or for students to use in reading responses.

  • How do you deal with discovering negative details about a loved one’s past?
  • Does is matter how someone acted many years ago?
  • Do people deserve second chances?
  • The consequences of making assumptions when you hear something.
  • Dealing with the death of a parent.

The main talking point for readers revolves around the theme of secrets. Although Lucy is trying to uncover the truth, there are many different aspects to the theme the reader must consider:

Is there ever a good reason to keep the truth from someone? At what age can someone handle information that will affect how they view their own life, and those who they love?

This story will open up many great discussions between readers, as everyone will have different reactions to how Lucy and her friends deal with everything that happens. The author evokes many emotions in just a short period of time. Once you are done reading The Big Dig, there is plenty to talk about.



Since jumping at the opportunity to become a Teacher-Librarian, Geoffrey Ruggero has transformed the Learning Commons at a Maple Public School into a modern learning space. His passion for reading and making inspires students to bring their learning to life in many unique ways.

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August 20, 2019
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