Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
When Kirstens mom lets Kirsten out at the drop-off, what does Kirstens
mom do that surprises Kirsten?
Why did Kirsten and Walk have to go to school on a Saturday?
Who stands up for Kirsten when she is accused of stealing Balderiss
wallet? Why do you think this person takes Kirstens side?
Why is Sylvia worried about Jamal? What does Walk think Jamal is
What is Matteos secret? Why do you think he keeps this information to
What does Brianna say at the open house that is so hurtful to Walk? Why
is it hurtful?
If you had been Kirsten, would you have helped Matteo? If so, how?
Is Mrs. McKenna helpful in dealing with Kirsten and her weight problems?
If you were Mrs. McKenna, what would you do differently?
Have you ever had experiences like those Kirsten has with Rory or Matteo
has with Brianna? If so, how did you handle them? How might you handle
similar problems in the future?
How does Matteo feel about Kirsten? What makes you think this?
Many characters in the book have secrets, including Sylvia, Mac, Matteo,
and Jamal. Which secrets would you have had the characters reveal? Which
secrets would you have had them keep? Are there times when keeping a secret
about yourself is a good idea? Explain.
What decision does Walk make about Mountain School? Why does he make it?
Would you have made the same decision?
Walks chapters are told in the third person. Kirstens chapters are
told in the first person. Why do you think the author uses two perspectives?
When Walk is writing about the question: If a tree falls in the forest
and no one hears it, does it make a sound? He says: A tree is a tree with
all its sounds, sticks, leaves, dirt, roots, whatever. Anyone tells you
otherwise, theyre wrong. What is he really talking about? What does this
have to do with what he has discovered about himself during the course of
When Kirsten tells Kippy she thinks their parents will plant the tree,
what is she really saying? What has the tree come to symbolize for the
How does Walk feel when he finds out why Jamal is working so hard to
make money? Why is this significant?
Does Kirsten change by the end of the book? Does Walk? How has their
friendship helped them deal with the crises in their lives?
Create a writers notebook like the one Walk is working on in Ms.
Scrushys class. Write about the quotes he has been asked to write about.
Find five new quotes Ms. Scrushy might assign to write about in the future.
Write your thoughts about those new quotes, too.
Write a letter to someone who has treated you the way Brianna and Rory
have treated Kirsten, or how Brianna has treated Matteo. Tell this person
how you wish to be treated in the future and why you feel that way. Be
If you were creating your own middle school, what would it be like? In a
group or on your own, write the rules that would be enforced at your middle
school. Make a map of the school. Draw a flag for the school. Create the
Have you ever been the only boy in a situation? Or the only girl? The
only Hispanic person? The only Caucasian person? The only Jewish person? The
only tall person? The only short person? Write a short essay about your
experience; use humor if possible.
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Harcourt Children's Books.
Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.
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