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Discussion Module

Give a Boy a Gun
by
Todd Strasser

Publishing Information: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers: New York, 2000
ISBN: 0689811128 / 0689848935 (PB) / 0606240780 (Turtle)
Pages
: 146 p.
Ages: 14 & Up

Summary:
In Give a Boy a Gun, the interweaving voices of students, teachers, friends, and the gunmen themselves re-create the harrowing crisis at Middletown High and the reasons behind Gary and Brendan's rampage. Mirroring the voices on each page are facts about guns and school violence that offer a blistering counterpoint to a tragedy that rings dreadfully true to life. (From Give a Boy a Gun book jacket.)

Book Talk:
Who feels safe at school - raise your hands? I know that I've always felt safe at school; just as safe as when I'm walking on the street, shopping, and going to the movies. However, after reading Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser, I now feel a little uneasy about my safety at school. This book is about school violence, particularly school shootings. I knew about school shootings before reading this novel, but some of the statistics noted in the book are frightening. Let me read three research notes provided by the author; "Five percent of students say they've seen another student with a gun in school. Twelve percent of students say they know another student who has brought a gun to school. Nationwide in 1996 more than six thousand students were expelled for bringing guns to school." While this novel is fiction, the issue of school shootings is all too real.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Bullying and Bullies
High School
School Shootings
School Violence
Teenage Misfits

Awards & Reviews:
American Library Association Popular Paperbacks For Young Adults, 2006
Kansas state Reading Circle Ten Selection for Middle School/Junior High, 2001
Maud Hart Lovelace Award Master List (Minnesota), 2002
New York State Charlotte Award (Young Adults), 2002
Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award Master List, 2002
Voice of Youth Advocates Top Shelf Fiction for Middle Schoolers, 2001
Washington Irving Children's Choice Book Award (New York), 2002

"In this powerful documentary novel, Strasser presents a passionate indictment of America's gun culture and the equally pernicious, pervasive caste system that has created a society of disaffected outsiders in America's secondary schools." -- Booklist, October 1, 2000

"Important, insightful, and chilling." -- Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2000

Publishers Weekly, September 2000

School Library Journal, September 2000

 "[This] book stands apart, and has already inspired widespread discussion among librarians and teachers." -- VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, October 2000

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Did you feel any emotions while reading this novel? If so, what?
  2. Do Gary and Brendan seem like average students?
  3. Obviously, Gary and Brendan had problems at school. Was violence their best option in dealing with their issues? What other options did they have?
  4. Unquestionably, Brendan and Gary were tormented in school; however, it does appear that Brendan in particularly was somewhat out of control by the 9 th grade. Can his attitude be totally blamed on the bullying?
  5. Why were some students, such as the jocks, so cruel and intolerant of others?
  6. Does the format of interviews, emails, and suicide notes add realism to the story?
  7. Does the format of the book enhance or detract from the subject?
  8. How true are the young adult voices in the novel? Are the voices of the characters realistic throughout?
  9. Can you identify with any of the characters in the book? If so, who and why?
  10. In the introduction, Denise Shipley states "violence comes in many forms - guns, fists, and words of hate and contempt." Can words be as hurtful as guns and fists?
  11. In any school, who decides which students are cool or popular and which students are outcasts?
  12. If it's so great to be one of the popular kids, why do you suppose they feel a need to harass others?
  13. Before reading this book, what type of person did you think would commit this type of crime? Have your views changed since reading this novel?
  14. Does the number of school shootings footnoted in the book surprise you?
  15. What is the procedure at your school for an emergency situation such as an intruder or student with a weapon?
  16. If another student told you that they wanted to commit a violent act for revenge on other students, what would you do?
  17. Who would you go to for help if you thought you or someone else at the school was in danger?
  18. In the real world, which are young adults influenced more by, their parents or their peers?

Related Websites:
The Coventry Courier (Editorial Viewpoint by Matthew Spring) - http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?BRD=1720&dept_id=74551&newsid=9559905&PAG=461&rfi=9
National Youth Violence Prevention Campaign - www.violencepreventionweek.org

Teaching Tolerance - www.tolerance.org

Read-a-Likes:
Fiction
After by Francine Prose, 2003
Breaking Point by Alexandra Flinn, 2002
Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland, 2003
The Last Domino by Adam Meyer, 2005
Monday Redux
by Robert Favole, 2003
Point Blank
by Mark A. Rempel, 2002
School Days
by Robert B. Parker, 2005
School Shooter: In His Own Words
by Mark Edward Frye, 2005
Shooter by Walter Dean Myers, 2004.

Non-Fiction
Bullying, Peer Harassment, and Victimization in the Schools: The Next Generation of Prevention by Maurice J. Elias and Joseph E. Zins, 2003
No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death at Columbine by Brooks Brown and Robert Merritt, 2002 (2005 RITBA Nominee)
Rampage: The Social Roots of School Shootings by Katherine S. Newman, et.al., 2005
School Shootings and School Violence: A Hot Issue by Barbara C. Cruz, 2002

Other Books by the Author:
Angel Dust Blues, 1978
Friends Till the End, 1981
Rock 'n' Roll Nights, 1982
Workin' for Peanuts, 1983
The Complete Computer Popularity Program, 1984
A Very Touch Subject, 1985
The Mall from Outer Space, 1987
The Accident, 1988
The Family Man, 1988
Beyond the Reef, 1989
Home Alone, 1991
The Diving Bell, 1992
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, 1992
The Beverly Hillbillies, 1993
Free Willy, 1993
The Good Son , 1993
Help! I'm Trapped in My Teacher's Body, 1993
Rookie of the Year, 1993
Summer's Promise, 1993
Help! I'm Trapped in the First Day of School, 1994
Miracle on 34th Street, 1994
The Pagemaster, 1994
Peter Pan, 1994
Please Don't Be Mine, Julie Valentine, 1994
Richie Rich, 1994
Street Fighter, 1994
Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill, 1994
Walt Disney's Lady and the Tramp, 1994
Abe Llincoln for Class President!, 1995
The Amazing Panda Adventure, 1995
Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home, 1995
Help! I'm Trapped in Obedience School, 1995
How I Changed My Life, 1995
Howl-a-ween, 1995
Jumanji, 1995
Man of the House, 1995
Wordsworth and the Cold Cut Catastrophe, 1995
Wordsworth and the Kibble Kidnapping, 1995
Wordsworth and the Mail-Order Meatloaf Mess, 1995
Wordsworth and the Roast Beef Romance, 1995
The Boys in the Band, 1996
Girl Gives Birth to Own Prom Date, 1996
Help! I'm Trapped in My Gym Teacher's Body, 1996
Hey, Dad, Get a Life, 1996
Playing for Love, 1996
Wordsworth and the Lip-Smacking Licorice Love Affair, 1996
Wordsworth and the Tasty Treat Trick, 1996
Chopped-Up Birdy's Feet, 1997
Free Willy 3: The Rescue, 1997
Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts, 1997
Help! I'm Trapped in My Sister's Body, 1997
Help! I'm Trapped in Obedience School Again, 1997
Help! I'm Trapped in Santa's Body, 1997
Help! I'm Trapped in the First Day of Summer Camp, 1997
Mutilated Monkey Meat, 1997
Grizzly Attack, 1998
Help! I'm Trapped in a Movie Star's Body, 1998
Help! I'm Trapped in an Alien's Body, 1998
Help! I'm Trapped in My Principal's Body, 1998
How I Spent My Last Night on Earth, 1998
Kidnap Kids, 1998
Shark Bite, 1998
Buzzard's Feast, 1999
Gator Prey, 1999
Help! I'm Trapped in My Lunch Lady's Body, 1999
Here Comes Heavenly, 1999
Star Wars, Episode I Journal: Anakin Skywalker, 1999
Y2K-9: The Dog Who Saved the World, 1999
Don't Get Caught Driving the School Bus, 2000
Help! I'm Trapped in a Vampire's Body, 2000
Pastabilities, 2000
Don't Get Caught in the Girls Locker Room, 2001
Don't Get Caught in the Teacher's Lounge, 2001
Don't Get Caught in the Lunch Lady's Hairnet, 2001
Help! I'm Trapped in a Supermodel's Body, 2001
Con-fidence, 2002
Thief of Dreams, 2003
Can't Get There From Here, 2004 (2006 RITBA Nominee)
Cut Back
, 2004
Impact Zone: Take Off, 2004
Impact Zone: Cut Back, 2004
Impact Zone: Close Out, 2005
DriftX: Battle Drift, 2005
DriftX: Slide or Die
, 2006
DriftX: Sidewayz Glory
, 2006
Summer Share
, 2006
Boot Camp
, 2007
Cheap Shot, 2007

About the Author:
Todd Strasser was born on May 5, 1950 in New York City. As a young boy he was an underachiever. He liked math and science, but never did well in English. Spelling was difficult for him and he was a poor writer. Growing up on the 1960's, he was influenced by the anti-establishment social movement that was sweeping the country. He dropped out of college and spent time backpacking in Europe and the U.S., eventually living on a commune. During these years, he filled journals with thoughts and notes from his experiences. He began writing poetry and short stories drawing ideas from his journals. With a new enthusiasm and direction in life, he went back to school and graduated from Beloit College where he studied literature and creative writing.

Todd Strasser sold his first novel Angel Dust Blues in 1978. With the money he earned, he started-up the Dr. Wing Tip Shoo fortune cookie company that helped support him as a writer over the next twelve years. In 1990 he moved to Larchmont, New York and kept busy writing novels adapted from movies such as Home Alone, Free Willy, Jumanji, and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Strasser's controversial book for adults and young adults Give a Boy a Gun won him many awards including the 2001 Rhode Island Teen Book Award. Recently he has been writing the humorous series, Help! I'm Trapped in and the Don't Get Caught series of books for middle school students. In all, Todd Strasser has written over 100 books and numerous articles for periodicals. He lives with his wife and two children and loves to ski, play tennis and surf. (Courtesy of Todd Strasser homepage www.toddstrasser.com and Scholastic.com at www.scholastic.com)

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair