Reading Guide Questions
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.