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Discussion Module

Can't Get There from Here
by
Todd Strasser

Publishing Information: Simon & Schuster: New York, 2004
ISBN: 0689841698/0689841701 (PB)
Pages
: 208 p.
Ages: 13 & Up

Summary:
In Can't Get There from Here, Todd Strasser portrays the gritty and seemingly hopeless lives of teenage runaways and throwaways living on the streets of New York City.

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

AIDS
Alcoholism
Depression
Drug Abuse
Health and Social Problems of Homelessness
Malnutrition
Mental Illness
Sexual Abuse

Awards & Reviews:
YA
LSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2005
ALA Quick Pick for Best Books for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, 2005

BookList, March 15, 2004, p.1299
School Library Journal, June 2003, p.146

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Maybe, Tears, Rainbow, Jewel, 2Moro, Maggot, Country Club, and OG. These are the street names of the teenage characters in the book. What is the significance of these street names?  
  2. Describe the stereotypical homeless person. Do any of the characters in the book fit that description? Do you think stereotypes of homeless people are accurate?
  3. Look at the sympathetic adults in the book such as Anthony, the social workers from the Youth Housing Project, Detective Charles, and Officer Ryan. These adults try to help the homeless teens. Why do you think the homeless teens avoid and reject the offers of help and services available to them?
  4. Bobby, the library security guard, Jack from the Cradle Club, and Rachel the woman who wants to give the panhandling teens money, illustrate different perspectives adults have on homeless teens. Describe these perspectives.
  5. What was the effect for you as a reader when the author began chapters with a typed police report every time someone died? What purpose do you think the author intended by writing these reports?
  6. Examine the relationship between Maybe and Anthony and discuss how it changes. What were some of the crucial turning points?
  7. Share your thoughts about some of the homeless teens in this book. Do you feel sympathy for anyone? Are you angry at any of them?
  8. Compare the feelings of fear and isolation with the bonding and caring for one another that the homeless teenagersí experience. What is their view of family? How is it similar or different from your view of family?

Related Websites:
"General Information on the Homeless," Empire State Coalition of Youth and Family Services - www.empirestatecoalition.org/report.html
Institute for Children and Poverty's Home for the Homeless - www.homesforthehomeless.com/index.asp?CID=6&PID=36&NID=52
Kids Count - www.rikidscount.org/matriarch/d.asp?PageID=296&PageName2=2004Factbook&p=&PageName=Safety%5Fhomeless%5Fchildren%2Epdf
Psychology Today - hwww.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1175/is_n1_v22/ai_6213717
Senator Jack Reed Keynote Address at the National Alliance to End Homelessness Annual Meeting - reed.senate.gov/speeches/NAEHspeech.htm
Todd Strasser homepage - www.toddstrasser.com/

For information on the homeless in Rhode Island, contact:
Janice Stavros
Homeless Education Coordinator
Rhode Island Dept. of Education
Shepard Building
255 Westminster Street
Providence, RI   02903
Email: Janice.stavros@ride.ri.gov
Ms. Stavros has a free video on homeless children in RI available for educational purposes
.

Read-a-Likes:
Fiction
Almost Lost: The True Story of an Anonymous Teenager's Life on the Streets by Beatrice Sparks, 1996.
America
by E.R. Frank, 2002
Asphalt Angels
, Ineke Holtwijk, 1999
Begging for Change by Sharon Flake, 2003
Blue Mirror by Kathe Koja, 2004
Born Blue
by Han Nolan, 2001 (2002 RITBA Nominee)
Money Hungry
by Sharon Flake, 2001
Nothing to Lose by Alex Flinn, 2004
33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp, 2003

Non-Fiction
Homeless Children by Eleanor H. Ayer, 1997.
Homeless Teens. by Gail B. Stewart, 1999.
Lives Turned Upside Down: Homeless Children in Their Own Words and Photographs by Jim Hubbard, 1996
No Place to Be: Voices of Homeless Children by Judith Berck, 1992

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 Pagemaaster, 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 teh 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

Give a Boy a Gun, 2000 (2001 RITBA Nominee and Winner)
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
Cut Back, 2004
Impact Zone: Take Off, 2004
Impact Zone: Cut Back, 2004
Impact Zone: Close Out, 2005

About the Author:
StuckTodd 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 1960ís, 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! Iím 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 www.scholastic.com)

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