by Laurie Halse Anderson

Review from teenreads.com

Review from CNN.com

The author's web site

An interview with the author

"A fat white seed sleeps in the sky" (133).

(These plans were revised October 2006).

Unit Plans

| Objectives | Literary Terms | Activities | Motifs | Vocabulary | Literary Analysis | Discussion Questions | Journal Topics | Interdisciplinary Connections | Mr. Freeman's Wisdom | Help: if YOU need to Speak! |


Unit Objectives:

  • Read and discuss the novel (follow reading schedule)
  • Practice reading strategies: anticipatory and during reading strategies
  • Define and learn unfamiliar vocabulary
  • Introduce basic elements of literature; work towards mastery of literary terms
  • Introduce literary analysis and expository essay
  • Use Word for peer review
  • Discuss the idea of free speech, study the Pledge of Allegiance
  • Review traits of writing (voice, word choice, organization & conventions)
  • Create a fictionalized journal entry from one character's point of view (voice and point of view)
  • Engage in an online discussion about the novel

Literary Terms:

  • plot: exposition, conflict, crisis/climax, resolution
  • character: static/developing, flat/round
  • setting
  • theme
  • point of view
  • tone
  • figurative language: metaphor & simile
  • irony
  • symbol/symbolism
  • motif


  • Reading strategies: Tea Party; Rereading; Think Aloud
  • Choose and define fifteen vocabulary words from the list given
  • Word choice: great verbs, going beyond the ordinary
  • Word choice: what are we really saying? An analysis of the Pledge of Allegiance and writing our own pledges.
  • Online discussion
  • TB: Fictionalized journal entry
  • Literary analysis: expository essay


  • mirrors
  • mouths
  • trees


Choose 15 words from this list. Give the part of speech and define the word using synonyms. Then, write one paragraph in which you use 10 of the words. This assignment is to be done on one sheet of paper and does not have to be typed.

Inconspicuous, 7 voila, 11 wan, 20
pseudo, 22 vague(ly), 27 simultaneous(ly), 30
mayhem, 30 blathers, 33 interim, 35
degrade (ing), 41 irony, 43 batter(ed), 43
harried, 57 obligation, 58 imperial, 69
vermilion, 78 oriented, 80 demented, 84
conundrum, 98 imbecile(s), 103 vespiary, 104
asylum, 117 vulnerable, 127 obsess, 133
gargoyle, 136 momentum, 150 delinquency, 163
indoctrination, 172 symmetrical, 196  

Defined Terms:

  • overbearing Eurocentric patriarchs, 49: a patriarch is the male head of a family; Eurocentric is to believe that only ideas/values/people from Europe (even those who settled in America, basically white people) are important; overbearing means to be too pushy, too possessive, or always right
  • xenophobic, 56: to be afraid of strangers or anything foreign
  • Hanukkah, 69: an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem
  • Kwanza, 69: An African-American cultural festival, celebrated from December 26 to January 1.
  • wombat: burrowing Australian marsupial
  • Titans, 113: mythical monsters whom Greeks believed to inhabit the earth before human beings came to be
  • suffragettes, 154:women who fought for the right to vote
  • self incrimination, 157:giving evidence or testimony that shows one's own guilt
  • bichon frise, 149: a breed of dog
  • indentured servitude, 177: servants would bind themselves to an "owner" to work for a period of time until they were freed, generally as a way to finance their voyage to America

Discussion Questions:

  • For online discussion
  • Optional directions: Choose three of the following questions to answer in writing. Each response is to be a full paragraph. Support your answers with facts, examples from the book, and/or personal stories. This assignment must be typed. Use Falcon Skills and Style Handbook for format. Rubric.
  1. (14) Family communication: How does communication break down in Melinda's family? What could each person do to improve it? If you were a parent, how would communication be in your family?
  2. (15) What does Melinda's room say about her? How does your room express who you are?
  3. (20) Why do we sometimes not like people who are really good at things, like sports, music, art, or school? Is this fair? Are adults like this?
  4. (23) What clubs, sports, or activities are you involved in? Is it true that 9th graders "hang back" and don't join groups? Why?
  5. (32) Are we sometimes different people on the outside than we are on the inside? Which characters from the novel fit this description? Why is this true about people, do you think?
  6. (39) Melinda's parents tell her that she's too old to go trick or treating and she pretends to be mad. Why do you think Melinda is both relieved and sad not to go trick or treating? What does it feel like to leave childhood traditions behind?
  7. (42) Who are the Marthas and how is their club both good and bad? What qualities should a service club have? How would you "fix" the Marthas?
  8. (54) Who is a "real" American? What do you think of Mr. Neck's opinion? Going by his definition, are some of you not really Americans? How does that seem to you?
  9. (82) Why is it that people sometimes "like us" more when they can get something out of us? Are the Marthas good friends to Heather? Why or why not?
  10. (83) What should we value in other people? What qualities are important in a person? What do you usually notice first about someone? Does that matter or not?
  11. (99) Was being a child better than being a teenager? In what ways? In what ways is it better to be older? Why is it hard to be in-between childhood and adulthood?
  12. (109) Melinda wishes her science teacher would teach them about love and betrayal instead of about the birds and the bees. Where do we learn about things like that? Can we learn about love from a book? Explain?
  13. (118) Mr. Freeman tells his class, "You must walk alone to find your soul." What does this mean? Is it true? What is a soul?
  14. (122) Mr. Freeman also says that "art is about making mistakes and learning from them." What else is like this? Explain.
  15. (153) Mr. Freeman, again! He tells Melinda that "nothing is perfect. Flaws are interesting." He's literally talking about a drawing of  tree, but what do you think he really means?
  16. (159) David is a true friend to Melinda, but he tells her something she may not want to hear. He says that people have to speak up for their rights, referring to the suffragettes. What should his words mean to her?
  17. (187) Melinda's father explains to her that the arborists are cutting off disease and damage to make it possible for the tree to grow again. How can the pruning of the tree be compared to Melinda's life?

Journal Topics (with page references):

  • First day of high school (3)
  • High school clans (4)
  • Lies they tell you (5, 148)
  • Humiliations, embarrassing moments (8)
  • Being cool: when is being cool really "un-cool"?
  • What should we value in people? what's important?
  • What do report cards really say about students?
  • Is school a place where you can really say what you think, or not? (55)
  • Have you ever felt like there were two "yous" fighting inside you? (132)

Interdisciplinary Connections:

Mr. Freeman introduces Melinda to the following artists and artistic concepts.

In biology class, Melinda studies plants, dissects a frog, and learns about the history of genetics.

  • Gregor Mendel
  • terms: pistil, stamen, hypothalamus, arborist, dominant and recessive

Social Studies
Mr. Neck doesn't understand Free Speech as David Petrakis does, but through this part of the novel, the reader can think about what it means to have the freedom to say what one believes.


Mr. Freeman's Wisdom:

  • (118) "You must walk alone to find your soul."
  • (122) "Art is about making mistakes and learning from them."
  • (153) "Nothing is perfect. Flaws are interesting."

Help: If YOU need to Speak!

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