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Discussion Module

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie
by
David Lubar

Publishing Information: Dutton Children's Books: New York, 2005
ISBN: 0525473114 / 0142407801 (PB) / 1933322519 (Audio)
Pages
: 279 p.
Ages: 13 & Up

Summary:
While navigating his first year of high school and awaiting the birth of his new baby brother, Scott loses old friends and gains some unlikely new ones as he hones his skills as a writer.

Book Talk:
Ah, 9th grade. Freshmen year. New beginnings. Scott is looking forward to it and yet he is a bit nervous. As he readies himself for his big year, his home life seems to get complicated by the return of his older brother and the announcement that his mother is having another baby. Scott's year doesn't go as planned and through a series of hilarious misadventures, we see him change and grow. Throughout it all, he writes a series of letters to his yet unborn sibling as a manual for how to survive your freshmen year. These include lessons in lost friends, unattainable girls, new friends and unexpected secrets from the family.
 --This booktalk was written by Nancy Keane from Nancy Keane's Booktalks Quick and Simple. (http://nancykeane.com/booktalks/lubar_sleeping.htm)

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Brothers
Conduct of Life
High Schools
Interpersonal Relations
Self-Confidence
Writing

Awards & Reviews:
Michigan's Thumbs-Up Award, 2006
YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2006

Gr. 8-11: Scott Hudson chronicles the ups and downs of his eventful freshman year in high school, as he joins the newspaper, works as a stage manager for the spring play, learns a lot from his outstanding English teacher, tries to help a student who attempts suicide, is beaten up because of a girl, and goes to the spring dance. Along the way, he discovers that his mother is pregnant, and he writes a series of insightful letters to his soon-to-be sibling. By the end, Scott has outgrown his freshman insecurities, realizing that he has carved a place for himself in the high-school world. The story delivers too many messages as Scott learns one important lesson after another. Still, most readers will find plenty of amusing, accurate observations about freshman life, from the insecurities of first dates to the dangers of walking the hall between classes. -- Todd Morning
Booklist, May 15, 2005, p1652

Scott's wacky life always plays out in totally unexpected ways. His excitement to be a freshman, finally, is overturned by the horrible reality where he's whacked on the head on the bus, his spare change is stolen, he's totally ignored by all females and he constantly suffers being the lowliest of the low. Even at home, things have turned upside down with older hunky brother's return to base and Mom's surprise announcement of a new sibling to come. Scott nicknames the new arrival Smelly -- a combo of Sean and Emily appropriate for either gender, and writes a "NOT a diary" journal with advice and tips for the future. Lubar's gift is in his presentation of the horrors of daily life and the humor that sneaks in as real-life lessons are inadvertently learned. The mystery is who the true friends turn out to be, and the comedy is inherent in how hard it is to learn to go with the flow. Fresh, funny and perfectly plausible as a demonstration of various writing exercises for classroom use, but only if you like laughter.
Kirkus Reviews
, June 15, 2005

Gr 7-10 Scott Hudson is the quintessential freshman. He's small, he's lost, and seniors yoke him for spare change. His honors homework keeps him up all night and his gym teacher is trying to kill him. He joins the paper, runs for student council, and tries out for the play, just to be near a girl he likes. This all backfires. He turns out to be the least athletic sports reporter in school history, and freshman lackey to the sadists on stage crew. Meanwhile, his mother is pregnant. The plot is framed by Scott's journal of advice for the unborn baby. The novel's absurd, comical mood is evident in its entries, like Scott Hudson's List of Good Things about Getting Beat Up, and jabs at the fetus (I hope we can recover our investment [in baby furniture] when I sell you.). The author brings the protagonist to three-dimensional life by combining these introspective musings with active, hilarious narration. This format also breaks up the story for slower readers. Scott's character arc is extremely satisfying as he develops his true strengths over the nine months of school and the pregnancy. His interactions with the school delinquent and the heavily pierced new girl are fresh and subtle. Though Scott purposely peppers his journal with SAT words, Lubar's language use and writing style are deceptively simple. The teen's physical and emotional tumult is as clear, familiar, and complex as high school itself. --Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library
School Library Journal, July 2005, p105 (Starred Review)

Scott Hudson's life is busy enough-avoiding lunch-money-stealing upperclassmen, finishing loads of homework on time, and impressing an old kindergarten pal turned hot; the last thing he has time to deal with is a baby. Unfortunately, there's not much he can do; his mother is expecting a child who will be fifteen years younger than Scott. How's a guy to deal?
Scott takes the reader humorously through his freshman year of high school, recording his thoughts, fears, and wisdom in a "journal" he plans to give to his new sibling. Little does he know that in the process of trying to get by, he is learning what it means to be a friend, an honorable man, and a brother.
Through an uplifting story, David Lubar shares a true teenager's perspective. The familiarity and honesty of the characters allows the narrative to unfold with startling realism. Sleeping Freshmen Never lie is a recommended read for those searching for laughs and a genuine voice in young adult literature. -- Rebecca Aicher , Algonquin, IL
ALAN Review, Winter 2006

Discussion Questions and Ideas:

  1. Scott Hudson faces many changes and challenges his first year of high school. In what ways were your first days of high school like Scott's? In what ways were they not?
  2. Scott's mother is having another baby. How does Scott handle the emotions that everything in the house and his parent's affections for him will change?
  3. How would you describe Scott's relationship with his older brother Bobby? How does this relationship change after Scott discovers Bobby's secret?
  4. At one point in the book, Scott tries to get his mother to read Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. She states that the movie was so good, that the book couldn't be better. Do you agree with this statement? Has there been a book-to-movie that the movie was better than the book?
  5. Among Scott's many changes, he finds he's losing his close friends one-by-one. How does this experience affect Scott? Did you notice that high school changed relationships you had?
  6. Think about the teacher's you have liked and disliked - how do they fit into Scott's "List of Teacher Types"?
  7. Throughout the book Scott promotes reading to his friends, and family. Do you think the people around you read or don't read? Why?
  8. Lubar mentions a trove of books in the story. How many of these have you read? Were they assigned or for pleasure? Would you recommend them to your friends and family?
  9. In Chapter 26, Lubar switches persons to illustrate Mr. Franka's teaching literary devices. Did you find this interesting, funny, confusing, jolting, annoying, etc? What other literary devices did you recognize in the book?
  10. What "Tom Swifites" did you come up with?

Here is a list of books, authors and poetry mentioned in Sleeping Freshman Never Lie:

  • Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
  • On the Naming of Cats by T.S. Eliot
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
  • Tom Swift by Victor Appleton
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Sideways Stories from the Wayside School by Louis Sachar
  • Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
  • Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
  • A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony
  • Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Related Websites:
David Lubar 's Web Site - http://www.davidlubar.com

Freshman Year: Understanding How High School Works - http://www.princetonreview.com/college/research/articles/prepare/understandHS.asp

Tom Swifties - http://www.fun-with-words.com/tom_swifties.html

Tom Swifties II - http://thinks.com/words/tomswift.htm

Read-a-Likes:
Alt Ed by Catherine Atkins, 2003
Conditions of Love by Ruth Pennebaker, 1999
Freshmen: Fiction, Fantasy, and Humor by Ninth Grade Writersby Christine Lord (ed.), 1997
Heavy Metal and You by Christopher Krovatin, 2005
The Makeover Club by Suzanne Weyn, 1986
New Rules of High School by Blake Nelson, 2005
The Pistachio Prescription by Paula Danziger, 1978
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot, 2000

The True Meaning of Cleavage by Mariah Fredericks, 2003
Wanted: Date for Saturday Night by Janet Quin-Harkin, 1985
What gloria Wants by Sarah Withrow, 2005

Other Books by the Author:
Kidzilla & Other Tales, 1997
The Unwilling Witch, 1997
The Vanishing Vampire, 1997
The Wavering Werewolf, 1997
The Witch's Monkey & Other Tales, 1997
The Gloomy Ghost, 1998
Hidden Talents,1999
Monster Road, 1999
Dunk, 2002
Flip, 2003
In the Land of the Lawn Weenies and Other Misadventures, 2003
Wizards of the Game, 2003
Dog Days, 2004
Invasion of the Road Weenies and Other Warped Creepy Tales, 2005
Punished!, 2006
True Talents, 2007

About the Author:
But, believe it or not, I'd rather write books than games. I especially like to write stories that are scary, strange, or funny. I also write humor articles for magazines. And I just started writing a humor column for VOYA, a magazine about YA books. Some day, I'd like to write a movie or a cartoon show. The most important thing I can say about writing is that I really enjoy it. I get to create whole worlds, and those worlds can be as weird or strange or magical as I want.

Beside my books, I also have short stories in several collections. In 2000, I had stories in Ribbiting Tales, which is a collection of stories about frogs that was edited by Nancy Springer, and in Lost and Found, a collection edited by M. Jerry Weiss and Helen Weiss. In 2002, I had a story in a collection called Shattered, edited by Jennifer Armstrong. It's a very different story for me. It's not scary or funny. But I think it's one of the best things I've ever written. In 2003 I had the honor of appearing in one of Don Gallo's collections. For serious story writers (not to be confused with writers of serious stories), this is the Holy Grail of anthologies. I'll also have stories in Don's anthologies for 2004 and 2005.

I've had a chance to speak at tons of writing and reading conferences. That's a lot of fun. I've traveled to places like Nashville, New Orleans, San Francisco, and Hershey. But, to tell the truth, I'm just as happy to stay home where I can play with my cats and write books. --From the author's website http://www.davidlubar.com/

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