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Silver on the Tree


About The Book

The six champions of the Light join forces at last to fight the Dark in this fifth and final installment of Susan Cooper’s epic and award-winning The Dark Is Rising sequence, now with a brand-new look!

The last great battle between the Light and the Dark has arrived, engulfing Will Stanton; his ageless master, Merriman; the three heroic Drew children; and Bran, the Welsh boy whose destiny is tied to the Light.

On a quest through time and space that touches the most ancient myths of the islands of Britain, the six heroes fight fear and death in the darkly brooding mountains of Wales. And in the haunting Lost Land, Will and Bran find dream and nightmare, but also achieve the final talisman against the Dark: the crystal sword.

In the dreadful last moment when the Dark rises, all the servants of the Light join to combine the powers of the sword and the six ancient signs. But even with the Signs on their side, can Light prevail?

Reading Group Guide

About the Book

In the final installment of the Dark Is Rising Sequence, Merriman, Will Stanton, Bran, and the three Drew Siblings join forces in the final quest to forever vanquish the Dark. But before that can happen, Will and Bran must journey through a lost land, and succeed in six challenges before Bran can reclaim his inheritance: a crystal sword, a talisman of great power first belonging to Bran’s father, King Arthur. In the final moments as the Dark comes rising, it will take all the combined powers of the Light to succeed. Who will prevail in this last great battle between the Dark and the Light?

Discussion Questions

1. Early in the story Will and two of his brothers intervene in a racially charged scene of bullying. Why do you think the author chose to include this scene? What do the bullied boy and Bran have in common? In the chapter titled “The Rising,” the Dark Rider claims that Bran cannot help the Light and should “‘go back to the time in which he belongs.’” (p. 309) How does this compare to Mr. Moore’s racist beliefs? On page 68, after a kind gesture from his sister, Will reminds himself: “The other side. Don’t forget. There’s always the other side of people too.” Discuss how human beings are a mixture of good and bad. Discuss Will’s response to Bran’s question as to why the lords of the Dark only cloak themselves in black or white: “‘Without colour . . . I don’t know. Maybe because the Dark can only reach people at extremes—blinded by their own shining ideas, or locked up in the darkness of their own heads.’” (p. 179)

2. Stephen Stanton believes that Will is mixed up in something very strange, and confronts him about it. Will makes a decision to tell Stephen the truth about who he really is, and in doing so says, “‘beneath the High Magic are two . . . poles . . . that we call the Dark and the Light. No other power orders them. They merely exist.’” (p. 17) Why does Will describe the Dark and the Light as “poles”? Do you believe that light (goodness) and darkness (evil) merely exist, or are they a choice made by people? Explain.

3. In the chapter “The Calling,” Will is transported through time to ancient Rome, where he needs to hide the Six Signs for future use. Will connects to the Roman man’s homesickness, as well as to the archaeologist’s longing for his Florida home. How is empathy a powerful emotion? In what other ways does Will reveal empathy?

4. On page 56, Merriman tells Will, “‘men have minds of their own, and can determine their actions, for good or ill, for going outward, or turning in.’” Describe how free will is a running theme in the story. How does free will direct John Rowlands’s judgment later in the novel?

5. Dreams and nightmares are frequent subjects throughout the series. How does the author separate between dreams and nightmares? How does Jane’s ability to interact with both her dreams and nightmares show strength and courage? Why do you think Jane was chosen to deliver the last message? The Lady tells Jane, “‘For you and I are much the same, Jane, Jana, Juno, Jane, in clear ways that separate us from all the others concerned in this quest.’” (p. 111) Besides both being female, how are Jane and the Lady alike?

6. Discuss the character, Gwion, minstrel to King Gwyddno. Based on the sixth century Welsh poet Taliesin, Gwion is the king’s loyal servant who guides Will and Bran through the Lost Land and helps them access the glass tower. Although not an Old One or part of the Light, he is wise and loyal. Discuss this statement he makes after Will and Bran emerge from the mirrored maze; “‘Real is a hard word. . . . Almost as hard as true, or now.’” (p. 197) Discuss what you think Gwion means. How can these words that describe absolutes be “hard”?

7. Gwion explains to Will and Bran how the Dark instilled fear into King Gwyddno after he made the crystal sword:

They showed the maker of the sword his own uncertainty and fear. Fear of having done the wrong thing—fear that having done this one great thing, he would never again be able to accomplish anything of great worth. . . . And gradually, he was put into despair. Fear grew into him, and he escaped from it into lethargy—and so hope died, and a terrible paralyzing melancholy took its place. (p. 203)

How can fear be a paralyzing force? What can you do when fear threatens to overwhelm you?

8. King Gwyddno is a prisoner of despair. After hearing the king describe how he is weary of life, Will senses: “The slow words came from so deep a despair, like a black pit giving back no sound when a stone is dropped in . . .” (p. 244) What is despair? Bran tells the king, “‘I will not countenance despair.’” Bran refuses to accept the king’s self-loathing and inaction. How does his confidence and determination help the king break the spell of his own sadness? How is despair “‘the tomb of all your hope’”? (p. 248) Do you agree that hope “‘is always alive for the hearts of men’”? (p. 277)

9. Reread pages 327 and 328. Discuss Bran’s decision not to go with his father, King Arthur. Do you think he made the right decision? What are loving bonds, and how do they relate to belonging? How are loving bonds, as Merriman says, “’the strongest things on all the earth’”?

Extension Activities

- The Queen of Every Hive. In the library-like gallery, Gwion shows Will and Bran a large black book that contains on one page a beautiful painting, and on the opposite page, one line: “I am the queen of every hive.” (p. 206). What Will and Bran are seeing is a page from an illuminated manuscript, a handwritten book whose decoration and/or illustration has been painted in gold, silver, and rich colors, which make the page shimmer (source:

Share this resource from the Victoria and Albert Museum with readers. Also share a selection of examples of illuminated manuscripts. Have students choose a scene, character, or object from Silver on the Tree. After choosing, give students time to make a detailed line drawing. Provide metallic inks and other brightly colored inks and paints for students to lay color onto their drawings.

- “Thou earth, thou! Speak!” On page 107, the Drew siblings hear echoes reverberating through the mountains. Barney says, “‘Echoes are special.’” Echoes can seem like the stuff of magic, when in fact the science behind them is straightforward and fascinating. Share this resource with students on the science of echoes. Explore and experiment in areas of the school in which echoes might be possible.

- Fierce Caring. As Merriman is saying his final goodbyes to Bran and the Drew siblings, he says:

“For remember . . . that it is altogether your world now. You and all the rest. . . . The responsibility and the hope and the promise are in your hands—your hands and the hands of the children of all men on this earth. The future cannot blame the present, just as the present cannot blame the past. The hope is always here, always alive, but only your fierce caring can fan it into a fire to warm the world.” (p. 332 )

Create a declaration of “fierce caring for the world.” On a large sheet of paper, have each student write a one-sentence pledge of how they will make the world a better place for future generations. Prominently display the document in the classroom, and over the course of the school year encourage students to add to it as new ideas emerge.

- Bards, Makers, and Poets. On page 202, Gwion explains to Will and Bran how King Gwyddno came to make the crystal sword: “‘He called together all the makers in the land . . . All those who wrote, or brought life to others’ words or music, or who made beautiful things.’” Select a scene, object, line, or passage from the story. Work independently or with a partner to create a work of art inspired by something that resonated with you while reading Silver on the Tree.

Guide created by Colleen Carroll, literacy educator, content creator, and author of the How Artists See series (Abbeville Kids). Learn more about Colleen at

This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes. For more Simon & Schuster guides and classroom materials, please visit or

About The Author

Photograph © Tsar Fedorsky Photography 2013

Susan Cooper is one of our foremost fantasy authors; her classic five-book fantasy sequence The Dark Is Rising has sold millions of copies worldwide. Her books’ accolades include the Newbery Medal, a Newbery Honor, the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award, and five shortlists for the Carnegie Medal. She combines fantasy with history in Victory (a Washington Post Top Ten Books for Children pick), King of Shadows, Ghost Hawk, and her magical The Boggart and the Monster, second in a trilogy, which won the Scottish Arts Council’s Children’s Book Award. Susan Cooper lives on a saltmarsh island in Massachusetts, and you can visit her online at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (November 14, 2023)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781665932974
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12
  • Lexile ® 890L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®
  • Fountas & Pinnell™ Y These books have been officially leveled by using the F&P Text Level Gradient™ Leveling System

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