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FORM 5 2016




Dear Mr Kilmer is a story of Richard Knight, a quiet and lonely lowa farm lad of fifteen who
seems to be a social misfit. He has a talent for writing poetry which he hides from everyone.
Inspired by the poem Trees read out in English class, he writes a letter to the poet, Joyce Kilmer,
who is enlisted in the army. Thus begins a happy exchange of letters and poems which help
Richard overcome his loneliness, fears and struggles at home and at school. Richard is greatly
encouraged by Kilmers positive comments and suggestions. Kilmers influence help Richard as
a poem and as a poet. Relationships with his peers go through trying times as the drama is played
out against the backdrop of World War 1 raging in Europe. Inevitably, racial prejudice rears its
ugly head in Turtle Lake Country, creating ripples of discontent, confusion, fear and ostracism in
the town. Richard has problems communicating with his reserved and quiet father. Fortunately,
he finds solace in the Schermers home. After Kilmers death, Richard published poem in the
local daily helps his father to overcome grief, and their relationship improves.

CHAPTER 1 A Shot Misfired
Richard Knight is a quiet, sensitive lad of fifteen. He is out deer hunting with his father and his
elder brother, Gus. He deliberately misfires to avoid killing the beautiful young buck. Although
his father is disappointed, he allows Richard the liberty of not deer hunting in future. After
helping eldest sister Angie in the kitchen, Richard goes to his room to reflect on recent events.
He recalls his first hunting trip at the age of eight and the private tears he had shed when
Grandpa killed a majestic deer with one pull of trigger. Inspired, Richard composes a poem to
depict the remorse he felt at the killing. He locks it away in his private drawer of past poems he
had penned. Later on he burns this newest poem because he is afraid his family would find out
and think him to be stranger than he already is.

CHAPTER 2 Letter to Kilmer

It is the month of April and America declares war in Germany. Richard catches Hannah
Schermer, the pretty girl of German ancestry, crying in the hallway because someone had written
Dirty Huns on her book cover. Richard confronts his classmates who then reveal their hatred
towards Germans. Richard decides to wite to Mr Kilmer. He introduces himself and tells him that
he likes his simple poems, which reveal his love for all living things. Richard salutes him for
enlisting and promises to pray for him.

CHAPTER 3 Dirty Huns

Mrs Hansen announced that the tavern owned by Hannah Schermer parents has been
vandalized. To instil good values in her students, she encourages them to sign a card expressing
their sympathy for Hannah and her family. Mrs Hansen is shocked at the protests by more vocal
students, and the culture of fear created by class bullies, which stops some sincere students from
signing. Only Richard has the integrity and courage to sign.

CHAPTER 4 Fear Not

Richard is thrilled to receive a reply from Joyce Kilmer, who symphatises with him and
encourages him to pursue his poetic dreams with courage and confidence. Currently training at
the new York Armoury, he shares his own fears and tells fear is a part of life. He invites his
young fan to write again and to send him one of his poems. When Richard shares the letter with
is family, he is disappointed that they show little enthusiasm about his fellow poet. Pa is
surprised to learn that his younger son has been secretly penning poems for a long time. Sadly,
no one seems interested in reading and listening to his poems. In private, Gus tells his younger
brother not to be an oddball or a Hun lover, but try and fit in with society.

CHAPTER 5 More Letters and Poems

On the last day of school year, Mrs Hansen invites Richard to make special presentation in front
the class. With trembling hands and quivering voice, he shares about the letter he had written to
Kilmer and reads the poem about a thunderstorm. Then, Richard reads out Joyce Kilmer second
letter in which he commends Richard on his poetic talent and shares about his family, army
training and posting to France.

CHAPTER 6 Lady Liberty and Dough Boy

Richard and Kilmer exchange a number of letters throughout the summer. Richard sends a poem
which each letter and is always delighted to receive encouragement and suggestions for
improvement from his poet hero. In September, Kilmer writes to say that they have arrived in
France. Kilmer shares his fear of fighting in the battlefront. Richard is upset and ponders on
endlessness and cruelty of trench warfare. He wonders if Gus and himself will have to enlist if it
does not end, and is reminded of Uncle Rolands tragic death in the Cuban war.

CHAPTER 7 At the Schermers

Richard senses the some students appreciate Hannah essay but are to scared to clap because of
the class bullies. The next day, Mrs Hansen announces that Hannah has turned down the role of
Lady Liberty. Richars seeks her out and she tells him that her essay has triggered a war in Turtle
Lake because of her German roots. Hannah withdraws to avoid causing people more pain.
Richard also gives up the role of Doughboy he dislikes the mean, biased behaviour of his friends
and neighbours. He also admires Hannah for her principles and courage and wants to give her
moral support.

CHAPTER 8 Grey Skies and Glimmers of Hope

Pa asks Richard why he turned down the part in the school show. Richard explains that it was
unfair of classmates to gang up against Hannah. Ike Lewis has accused Richard of siding with
the Schermers, thus supporting the German in the war. Pa reminds his son of Ikes kindness and
support when he broke his leg three years ago then states the Schermers are not our people.
Richard defends the Schermers. Pa blames Richards poetry for filling his head with foolish
ideas. This makes Richard so sad and makes him wants to cry.

CHAPTER 9 The Road Less Taken

Gus tries to talk and bid goodbye to his unresponsive father but eventually has to leave with a
mere handshake for Richard. As Gus leave for Sioux City, Richard begins to truly understand
Hannahs worry for her brother. Richard works joylessly alongside his silent and distant father.
Angie tells him that pa is afraid for Gus, but Richard comments that it would be good for pa to
talk about it. Richard finds relief and release from visiting the Schermers whenever he can and
from writing poetry.

CHAPTER 10 Goodbye Mr Kilmer

Richard is standing at the Schermers doorway, to stunned to cry. With great compassion, the
family brings him inside. Mr Schermer gently shows him the headline Beloved American Poet
Killed in Battle in the newspaper. Richard gazes at the smiling face of his poet mentor and
friend, amazed that he is only seeing his face for the first time after his death. The article
recounts the circumstances of Kilmers death and how his comrades bury him in France. The war
ends in mid-November with an Allied victory. Soon his poems are regularly feartured in the local
weekly. Richards father is now his consultant and his poems deal with farm life and Pa is an
expert. Richard is happy that Pas ideas and suggestions are as helpful as Joyce Kilmers had







CHAPTER 1 A Shot Misfired

PLACE = Forest go hunting with Pa and Gus
TIME = Night after having dinner -Richard composes a poem
SOCIETY = People work as hunter to feed themselves

CHAPTER 2 Letter to Kilmer

PLACE = Richards school Mrs Hansen reads out a poem entitled Trees by Joyce Kilmer
TIME =month of April America declares war in Germany
SOCIETY =English teacher and the students in school

CHAPTER 3 Dirty Huns

PLACE= Richards school Mrs Hansen encourages her student to sign a card to express
sympathy for Hannah and her family
TIME =Noon after class lesson Richard approached his class teacher and asks for the card
SOCIETY =has courage and integrity to do something that people hated

CHAPTER 4 Fear Not

PLACE =Richards home shares the letter from Joyce Kilmer to his family
TIME =Night after having dinner - shares the letter from Joyce Kilmer to his family
SOCIETY=Hannah apologises to Richard for her rudeness

CHAPTER 5 More Letters and Poems

PLACE =Richard school - Richard having a special presentation infront the class
TIME =Last day of the school year Richard having a special presentation infront the class
SOCIETY=Peggy, Blanche and Hannah start to respect Richard

CHAPTER 6 Lady Liberty and Dough Boy

PLACE =School essay competition
TIME In September Kilmer writes a letter to Mr Kilmer
SOCIETY=Patriotic program

CHAPTER 7 At the Schermers

PLACE =Schermers home Richard spend delightful evening with them
TIME=Evening Pa waiting Richard back home
SOCIETY=Richard admires Hannah for her principles and courage

CHAPTER 8 Grey Skies and Glimmers of Hope

PLACE =The Schermers home is an oasis of love for Richard
TIME =in January Richard received sad letter from Joyce Kilmer
SOCIETY=Pa reminds his son of Ikes kindness

CHAPTER 9 The Road Less Taken

PLACE =Richards home Gus announces that he has enlisted in army program
TIME = In July Richard send a latest poem to Joyce Kilmer
SOCIETY=Pa concern for his son, Gus

CHAPTER 10 Goodbye Mr Kilmer

PLACE =Schermers doorway Richard is standing
TIME= mid-November The war ends with Allied victory
SOCIETY=Richard is too shocked to cry


I5-year-old boy who lives on a farm in lowa

Blonde hair, tall, pale and slender , like his mother
Han a good sense of values-integrity, honesty

Sensitive Poetic Imaginative Dreamer

Does not want to kill the buck purposely misfires (p.6)

Dislikes killing living things(p.6)
Composes poems, as inspiration come(p.16)

Outspoken Courageous

Is the only one who dared to sign the card for Hannah defies the biased, small minded
class bullies and personally brings it to the Schemers(p.34,40)
Stands up against the class bullies and wins the fight(p.37)

Well read Realistic Good student

Knows detail of trench warfare in war-torn Europe(p.12)

Unlike others, Richard knows the reality of warfare read and heard about the worried
for the safety of Otto and Kilmer9p.56)
Writes the best essay to win the role of Doughboy(p.75)


Dark, brawny, broad back

Diligent and dedicated farmer who truky loves his work
Did not finish high school, not interested in poetry and books, but shares interest in sports
with Gus

A good father Wise Understanding

Defends Richard when Gus scolds Richard for not shooting the deer(p.5)
Insist on privacy when he speaks to Richard (p.5)
Insists that Gus does not hunt for trophies (p.10)

Authoritative Realistic

Orders Gus to unload the rifle and pack up despite Guss protest(p.6)
Insists that Gus finish high school for a better future(p.12)
Is angry that Gus did not consult him about joining the army

Diligent Hardworking

A dedicated farmer who works long hours overseeing farmhands(p.64)


A strict but dedicated teacher

Has initiative, sense of humour
Keep to her words, not easily swayed

Creative Patriotic

Uses poetry to enliven her lessons(p.9)

Initiates a pageant featuring Lady Liberty and Doughboy to raise fund for the war

Has a sense of humour

Tells Abner that a lot of ppoets have been even bigger troublemakers than you!

American poet whose poem Trees inspired Richard to write to him and continue writing poetry

His poems are simple and celebrate the simple joys of ordinary life
Brave, patriotic -volunteers for national service
A family man wife Aleen and three children

A family man

Misses his wife Aline and three children, especially during Christmas(p.113)


Misses celebrating Christmas with his family(p.97)

Notes that the French are kind and religion (p.98)
Prays in a ruined French church(p.98)


Although he is a published poet, he tells Richard that he has yet to understand the poets
Perhaps I am a poor poet and a poor soldier, but my heart is in poetry(p.114)


A lovely, blue-eyed lass with blonde hair like corn silk

Born and raised in Milwaukee
Has German roots, her parents run the local tavern(Prairie Haus)

Cultured Well travelled

Has been to many places around the world including Berlin, Paris and London(p.90)
Gives Richard accounts of her trip to New York(p.103)

Gracious Practical

Turns down the role of Lady Liberty as her essay, which is about making peace within
our hearts are in the world, has ironically started a war in school instead(p.80_

Generous Compassionate Gentle

Invites Richard home for dinner and is a gracious host(p.86)

Bakes cookies for Kilmer, which Richard sends to France(p.98)


Richards older brother

Dark and brawny like Pa, an outdoor person
Brotherly, a mediocre student



Tries to help her younger brother fit in,
encourages Richard to be involved in
Cant wait to get into the army as soon as he
finishes high school without consulting


Dark, a little stout, broad build like Pa and Gus

Hard-working, responsible, realistic
Selfless, patient, understanding, non judgemental


Assumes her mothers responsibilities as a
full time farm woman
Loves the family and tries to be the heart of
the home(p.14)

Main Theme
The challenges of growing up

Richard has problems fitting in society. Having a quiet, sensitive nature, he likes to be
alone and daydream rather than playing sports. He doesnt enjoy hunting like the men in
his family.
Richard has a little chance to communicating with Pa who is often silent and reserved.
Richard can only share a limited amount of his pain and frustration with Angie.
Hannah faces the challenges of coming from a migrant German family, new to lowa
county thought not new to the country. Then, she has to endure the pain of ostracism and
rejection by a majority of fearful, unreasonable classmates and country people.

Sub Themes
Love understanding and family relationships

Pa loves his children but is unable to express it or talk about buried pain over the loss of
his wife and brother. Often lost in his silence and his thought, this causes some strange
barrier between him and his children.
Gus cannot understand why Richard is not interested in team sports or fitting in. this
causes some tension in the home.
The Schermer family, in contrast, is a more balanced and happy one. There is a joy,
laughter, communication, music, singing, books and literature in their home. Richard
finds their home an oasis after the silence of his own family.

Humanity and friendship gives us hope

Being kind to others when they are facing difficulty reveals the basic goodness of man,
and underlines our hhumanity.
Hence, when the Schermers tavern was vandalized, Mrs Hansen asks her class to sign a
card of sympathy. The whole class disobeys her except Richard.
Early in the tale, Richard finds Hannah Schermer crying alone in the hallway. He notices
the words Dirty Huns written on her book cover. Angry, he confromts his classmates.

Where there is prejudice, there is no reason

Prejudice is a way of thinking that drowns out reason. It causes people to become
judgemental and unreasonable. Some children will reflect their parents prejudice.
It is 1917 and World War 1 is still continuing inat school Europe. America has just
declared war on Germany. Hence, sentiments against the Germans are strong in this
At school, the German American girl Hannah is the first victim of prejudice. The cover of
her book is written with the words Dirty Huns and she is octracised.

Courage and resilience

Richard has the courage to sign the card of sympathy

for the Schermers even though he is the only one to do
so and has to face the class bullies later.
Hannah turns down the role of Lady Liberty, which she
wanted very much, even though she won it fearly
Joyce Kilmer volunteers to serve in World War 1

Truth, integrity and honour


Richard tells his father the truth that he purposely

misfired, as he cannot bear killing the beautiful buck
Kilmer tells Richard thatif people like me do their duty
in his last war, fine young man like you will never have
to fight and die ever again
Mr Higby tells his students that the Liberty Bonds
Posters are wrong in calling present-day Germans

Rationally and moderation


The classmates of Richard and Hannah do not act with

rationality and moderation when they refuse to sign the
card for the Schermers or clap when Hannah wins the
part of Lady Liberty.
Abner and Harry are irrational and extremist when they
pick a fight with Richard after school, calling him a
Hun lover and out and out raitor!
Pa is also not rational when he blindly listens to Ikes
inaccurate nterpretation of Richards motive for turning
down the part of Doughboy and Ikes statement that
Richard is hoping for the German to win the war.

Diligence and perseverance


Pa is a hardworking and persevering worker. He works

long hours running his farm
Richard is a dedicated student who excels in English
and History. He does double the amount of farmwork
compared to Gus.

Angie left school in the 8th grade to take over her

mothers responsibilities as a full-time farm woman

Joyce Kilmer is a poet with a family, yet he signed up as

a soldier.
Roland, Pas late younger brother, fought in the Cuban
War and was killed in the Battle of El Carney, the only
American casualty
Gus, like Roland, is a little reckless and without
consulting his father, signed up for the army
immediately after graduation. He has misguided idea of
the glamour of war.