Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Describe Jack's family
Jack is punished by his mom for shooting his dad's rifle and for mowing down her cornfield. Discuss how he is the victim in both incidents.
Jack's parents try to convince him that they work as a team. Debate whether
there is any teamwork in the Gantos family.
Cite evidence that Jack's mom "wears the pants in the family."
Which of Jack's parents does he most respect?
Discuss Jack's reputation among his peers.
Bunny Huffer is Jack's best friend. Trace their relationship from the beginning of the novel to the end.
At first, Jack is simply Miss Volker's scribe. At what point does he become
How does Bunny regard Jack's relationship with Miss Volker?
Discuss the relationship between Mr. Spizz and Miss Volker.
Mr. Spizz enjoys pestering Jack. Debate whether he is jealous of Jack's
relationship with Miss Volker.
Norvelt is a New Deal community that was built to give "hardworking poor
people a helping hand" (p. 54). Why does Jack's dad call it a "Commie" town?
Discuss Miss Volker's commitment to the town.
Debate whether Norvelt has lost its true sense of community.
What does Mrs. Gantos miss most about the "old" Norvelt? How is she trying to instill a sense of community in Jack?
Discuss how a town can change without changing its sense of community.
Jack tells his mother that his dad made him mow down the corn. Why does he
feel that squealing on his dad was a cowardly thing to do?
Anytime that Jack is anxious or fearful, his nose bleeds. How does it take courage to let Miss Volker operate on his nose?
Explain how Bunny contributes to Jack's fears. How does she also help him gain courage?
What is Jack's most courageous act in the novel?
Explain what Mrs. Gantos means when she tells Jack, "Remember, a person first lies to himself before he lies to others" (pp. 207-8).
Jack tells his parents that he didn't put the bullet in teh rifle. Why does it take Mr. Gantos a while to admit that Jack is telling the truth?
Who are the most honest and trustworthy characters in the novel?
Discuss the most dishonest characters. How do they lie to themselves and to the entire community?
At different times in the novel, Bunny and Miss Volker tell Jack that he needs to be a man. How might their definition of a man differ?
In what ways is Jack's father still a boy? Debate whether this interferes with Jack's journey toward manhood.
At what point in the novel does Jack begin to understand his role as a man?
Which character is most responsible for his coming of age?
Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Square Fish.
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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