1. How is The Story of Edgar Sawtelle a coming of age novel?
2. What is the significance of the epigraph to the novel, taken from Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species? How does it relate to the story it precedes?
3. What role do mysteries play in the novel? In what ways is The Story of Edgar Sawtelle a mystery?
4. Telegrams, the shape of words, muteness, barking, crossword puzzles . . . what is the importance of words in The Story of Edgar Sawtelle? And what about things that can't be put into words?
5. How are Sawtelle dogs different from other dogs? What role do they play in the telling of the novel, and how do their perceptions change your view of the human characters?
6. What is the significance of the chapter titles (such as "A Thin Sigh," "Pirates," etc.) Did any surprise you, or give you pause?
7. Hamlet is famously about a son seeking revenge for his father's death by poisoning (to be a little reductive). How does The Story of Edgar Sawtelle echo Hamlet? In what ways is it different?
8. How is death and mourning described and experienced differently at different times in the book?
9. How would you characterize the relationship between Edgar and his mother, Trudy?
10. How would you describe the pacing of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle? What effect does it have on your experience of the book?
11. How does The Story of Edgar Sawtelle compare to other books you have read which are prominently about animals? What makes it better or worse?
12. What is the importance of magic in the novel?
13. To what extent does Edgar create his own problems?
14. What role do settings play in The Story of Edgar Sawtelle?
15. "As they worked, they put the sky in place above, the trees in the ground. They invented colour and air and scent and gravity. Laughter and sadness." Describe the different kinds of training in the book and what they contribute to your sense of the characters and the story.
16. Why does Edgar leave the farm without waiting for Trudy's signal?
17. "He wouldn't have gotten into the car with Henry if he hadn't trusted him. There were moments when Edgar understood Henry better than Henry understood himself. What Henry couldn't see was that, ordinary or not, he was trustworthy. That much was clear as day." How is trust important in the novel? How do people, and dogs, become trustworthy?
18. In what ways is The Story of Edgar Sawtelle an American book?
19. In its glowing review of the novel, The Washington Post Book World said that the idea of "a story about a mute boy and his dogs sets off alarm bells. . . . Handicapped kids and pets can make a toxic mix of sentimentality." How does The Story of Edgar Sawtelle avoid this danger?
20. Why did David Wroblewski choose to end The Story of Edgar Sawtelle the way he does? What is the effect of the ending of the novel?