In the beginning of this novel, the author, Gail Carson Levine, establishes important parts of the main character's history, setting and establishes point of view. Watch the video below to learn more about point of view and cultural perspective. Through what lens will this story be told? (This annotation contains a video)
Based on his behavior in school, we can infer that David is
Notice that the story is changing time periods. This is the beginning of what is called a "flashback," where the forward movement of the plot stops to tell an important event from the past.
What clue tells you that the flashback is over?
Do you think this is a realistic way for a seven-year-old to react to a parent's death?
To whom is Dave talking in the highlighted passage?
Visit the link below and click on the "Listen" button underneath the book cover illustration. Listen to part of the first chapter, then answer the question that follows. (This annotation has embedded rich content)
Does the audio version of the text change your perception of Dave and his family? What do you picture differently when listening to the text than when reading it yourself?
What do the boys mean by saying "it should be raining"?
This is a hint to the setting of the story. Coolidge was president from 1923-1929.
A rabbi is a Jewish spiritual leader. This tells us that Dave and his family are Jewish.
The city of New York is made up of five boroughs--Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island, and Queens. Dave and his family probably lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which had a large population of immigrant Jews in the 1920's. (This annotation contains an image)
A jump seat is additional seating in a car that has to be unfolded in order to be used, as in the image below. (This annotation contains an image)
The word "el" is short for "elevated train."
Here we see the start of conflict in the story. Watch the video below to learn more about conflict. What will happen to the boys if Ida doesn't keep them? (This annotation contains a video)
What reason does Ida give for wanting someone else to take the boys?
The Jewish High Holy Days include the holidays of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement).
What details does the author use to let the reader know that Dave is unhappy about Gideon leaving without him?
Salonika is a city on the mainland of Greece, as pictured below. (This annotation contains an image)
In tenement buildings like the one Dave lives in, it would have been normal not to have a bathroom in each apartment. Take a virtual tour of a tenement building by following the link below. (This annotation contains a link)
What human quality is being given to the ball in the highlighted phrase?
The highlighted phrase is an example of a type of figurative language called personification. Watch the video below to learn more. (This annotation contains a video)
Knickers are short pants that buckle below the knee and were worn by younger boys in the olden days. It was considered one of the marks of becoming a man to wear full-length pants. (This annotation contains an image)
Gail Carson Levine's father actually grew up in an orphanage in New York. See the image below of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum. (This annotation contains an image)
Here we see the beginning of a theme in the novel: overcoming obstacles. If Dave is unhappy at the Home, he'll need to find a way to make it through that challenge. Watch the video below to learn more about theme. (This annotation contains a video)
Why is Ida holding on to Dave?
The highlighted phrase is an example of a type of figurative language called a simile. A simile is a comparison of two unlike things with a quality in common using the words "like" or "as." A close relative of the simile is a metaphor. Metaphors also compare two unlike things with a quality in common but do not use the words "like" or "as."
The words "swooshed," "thudded" and "clicked" are all examples of a type of figurative language called onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is a word that represents a sound.
John D. Rockefeller was the founder of Standard Oil Company and became extremely rich. He was also a philanthropist, which means he gave a lot of money to charities. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Dave return for the suitcase?
The highlighted phrase is an example of what type of figurative language?
This paragraph contains lots of figurative language! The highlighted phrase is an example of hyperbole. A hyperbole is a figure of speech that uses extreme exaggeration to make a point.
Vicks VapoRub is still around today. It's a cream that feels icy hot when you rub it on your skin. It helps clear up chest and nasal congestion. You can discover more about Vicks at the time of this story by visiting the interactive timeline below. (This annotation contains a link)
Based on what you already know about this class and teacher, why do you think the boys who were given permission to use the toilet are grinning?
"Consumption" is an old-fashioned term for tuberculosis, an infectious disease that affects the lungs. Find out more about the symptoms in the visual below. (This annotation contains an image)
What do you learn about the other orphans in this scene as they leave class?
Mike comparing the pot of stew to a coffin is an example of a
From the boys' reactions, you can tell that getting a letter is an important occasion.
What does Dave learn about Gideon and Uncle Jack from the letter?
In the 1920s when this novel is set, someone would have to shovel coal into the furnace to burn it for heat. Nowadays, most furnaces run on natural gas.
An almanac is a book that gives long-range weather predictions as well as advice on cooking, gardening, fishing, and a few other topics. Farmers would use the information to determine when and what crops to plant that year. (This annotation contains an image)
The highlighted passage is evidence of the theme of
Before electric refrigerators, people kept food cool using an icebox, as pictured below. One of the chambers in the chest would hold a block of ice (which would get delivered every few days), and that would give off enough of a chill to cool the food in the other compartments. (This annotation contains an image)
Here we see the beginning of the adventures that will give this book its name, "Dave at Night."
After reading about the purpose of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, how does that compare with the experience Dave has had so far?
Visit the link below to learn more about the real-life Hebrew Orphan Asylum then answer the question below. (This annotation contains a link)
Robin Hood is a fictional character in adventure stories. He and his group of outlaws lived in Sherwood Forest, where they robbed from the rich and gave to the poor.
A Peerless was a very fancy car like the one seen below. (This annotation contains an image)
The phrase "a laughing trumpet" is an example of
A gonif is a person who tricks other people out of their money.
Based on context clues, what can you infer the phrase "ante up" means?
The party-goers are wearing fashions like the ones below. It would have been near scandalous for women to show their legs in public. The "flappers" were young women who wanted to break away from the conservative ideas of the Victorian era. They were known for wearing shorter dresses, smoking, wearing makeup and (gasp!) driving cars. (This annotation contains an image)
This story is taking place during a period in time called Prohibition, which lasted from 1920-1933. During Prohibition, it was illegal to sell or drink alcohol. It would have been difficult to get hold of real gin, so the people in the story have mixed up various alcoholic liquids that weren't meant to be used as beverages in order to get the effect of drinking alcohol. However, people could be seriously injured by drinking these non-edible mixtures, resulting in blindness and even death.
How does Dave know that the apartment gets both hot and cold water?
"Alrightniks" is a Yiddish word that means someone who has made a lot of money or reached great success but is not very cultured and has poor taste.
What clues in the highlighted section indicate that Solly and Irma Lee already know each other?
The literal translation of "mazel tov" is "good luck." However, it is used as an expression of good wishes and congratulations.
What do Dave's reactions to the fortune-telling scheme tell you about the kind of person he is?
This is an important piece of characterization. Dave realizes that Solly is clever and manipulative enough to make up a fortune on the spur of the moment that Mrs. Smith will believe.
The highlighted phrase shows us that Dave
Here we see evidence of the overcoming obstacles theme again. Dave vows to overcome whatever obstacles are in his way to see Irma Lee again.
The highlighted phrase is an example of what type of figurative language?
This is an allusion, or reference, to a story in the Bible. According to the story, an army of Israelites marched around the city of Jericho blowing trumpets, which caused the thick, defensive walls to collapse. (This annotation contains an image)
Watch the video below to learn how to dance the Charleston! (This annotation contains a video)
Identify the simile used in the highlighted passage.
A trolley is an open car that runs on tracks along the street, similar to a train but much smaller, and they run on electricity. The video below shows actual footage of a trolley ride through New York City a hundred years ago! There is no sound because movie cameras back then had none. (This annotation contains a video)
Before reliable refrigeration, people had milk delivered daily to their homes by a milkman, as in the picture below. (This annotation contains an image)
Notice how the author often ends a chapter with a cliffhanger, a scene where the reader is left in suspense and wants to keep reading to find out what happens next.
This scene shows the growing ________ in the conflict between Dave and Mr. Bloom
The highlighted phrase is an example of what type of figurative language?
Everything going black would indicate that Dave lost consciousness for a moment.
How can you infer Mr. Meltzer is feeling about taking Dave to Mr. Bloom?
Why do you think the nurse says that she doesn't know who beat up Dave?
In the highlighted section, what does the phrase "hamming it up" mean?
Maybe Mr. Meltzer isn't so bad after all.
What does the simile "Mr. Meltzer would be watching me like a hawk" mean?
Notice how the author creates tension between Dave and Mr. Bloom by writing a moment-by-moment description.
Why do all the boys suddenly pay attention to Mr. Hillinger?
Negative space is the space around and between parts of an image. There are very famous illusions, like the one below, that make use of negative space to trick the eye. (This annotation contains an image)
Which phrase in the highlighted text tells you that Dave is enjoying drawing with the charcoal?
What do you think Mr. Hillinger means by saying, "Courage, Dave"?
What clues tell you that Mr. Hillinger is afraid to be seen teaching like he is?
We're starting to see a bit of a shift in Dave's attitude about the Home.
How is Mr. Hillinger's class changing Dave?
Here we can see that Dave values compassion in a friend.
Why does Dave call Ed's snoring "beautiful music"?
Doing laundry was hard work before modern washing machines. You'd have to boil water on a stove for the washing, toss your clothes into the soapy mixture, scrub each piece of clothing on a washboard, wring it out by hand, swish each garment in the clean rinse water, and then pass it through the wringer once or twice to get enough water out to hang it on the line to dry. (This annotation contains an image)
What type of figurative language does Dave use to describe Ed walking?
Here we can see that Dave is quick-thinking when he's in a jam.
The importance of friendship is another theme of this novel.
What examples can you give for the importance of friendship as a theme in the novel?
Even though Dave is furious at his brother, we can see here that some part of him is still glad he's got family outside of the Home.
Solly's treatment of Dave is an illustration of what theme?
"Bubeleh" is a Yiddish word used to show affection.
How do we know that being invited to a party at Odelia Packer's is a big deal?
Notice what Dave sees as a mark of real luxury-- bathrooms inside the house!
The highlighted phrase is an example of which type of figurative language?
Here we see the kind of impact that art can have on a person, another of the novel's themes.
Gesture drawing is a way for artists to focus on the physical movement of a subject, the way the muscles and body parts interact. Generally these sketches take less than two minutes to complete. They are often used as a type of "warm up" for an artist before more detailed drawing is attempted. Below is a gesture drawing by the artist Rembrandt. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Dave lie about not being hungry?
Why might Irma be crying about her own parents?
Langston Hughes, pictured below, wrote poems, plays, novels, and worked for social justice. He is known as being a leader in the great artistic movement of the 1920's known as the Harlem Renaissance. (This annotation contains an image)
Watch Langston Hughes read this poem in 1958, then answer the following question. (This annotation contains a video)
How did seeing the poet himself recite this poem change your understanding of it?
W. E. B. Du Bois and the other names highlighted were all major figures in the Harlem Renaissance. Visit the link below to learn more. (This annotation contains a link)
Dave is seeing caviar for the first time. (This annotation contains an image)
How can you tell that Irma Lee is not excited to go talk to the people in the corner?
This is the painting Dave sees in the house. (This annotation contains an image)
Which sentence personifies the sound of the trumpet?
Make a prediction: how will Irma Lee and the party-goers react to seeing all the food fall out of Dave's clothes?
Why is Irma Lee so happy to be asked to play hide-and-seek?
This is a reference to the story of Cinderella, who had to leave a ball by a certain time or all her beautiful clothing will turn back into rags and her coach will turn back into a pumpkin.
What does the phrase "our room came alive" mean?
Once again we see how important friendship is to these boys, many of whom have no family of their own.
Why is Mike turning on all the faucets and flushing the toilets?
How do the twins escape the notice of Mr. Bloom?
How does Solly know that Dave lives here?
What does Dave mean when he asks if Solly had to "shmeer" Mr. Meltzer again?
People used to think that playing cards was immoral.
This is a strong Yiddish insult meaning an ugly, revolting, and evil person.
Why does Aunt Sarah turn red?
Why does Dave not trust most adults?
Since Dave can see Jeff, it must be Fred on the cot getting medical attention.
Why did Harvey skip recess?
Do you think Dave's brother, Gideon, would have taken such a risk?
What evidence of the importance of friendship do you see in the boys' reactions to Jeff and Fred's experience with Mr. Bloom?
Why is Moe willing to believe that Eli is a wizard?
What is Dave drawing in his picture?
Why wouldn't Dave tell Harvey that he likes his picture?
How has Dave's attitude about the Home changed since he first arrived?
Do you think the current elevens will bully the younger kids when they get older?
Why is Dave nervous when Mike has to eat the stew?
Here we can see Dave wrestling with an internal conflict: should he leave the Home as he swore he would, or should he stay and look out for his buddies?
How does Dave work through his conflicted feelings about staying or leaving the Home?
Why do you think Dave doesn't answer Harvey?
The Tree of Hope was a real good luck charm to artists during the Harlem Renaissance, a tradition that continues even to this day. The tree was cut down in 1934 when the city was expanding roads, but pieces were sold as souvenirs. A large section of the tree was rescued and resides at New York's Apollo Theater, where amateur performers rub it for good luck as they head on stage. (This annotation contains an image)
Here is the remaining section of the tree on the Apollo stage. (This annotation contains an image)
How did the maid know where to find Dave?
Remember that it's probably midnight or later. Is that a usual time for eating dinner?
How do you know that Irma Lee is upset about something?
Dave thinks Mrs. Packer doesn't want him. What reason might she have for offering to help his relatives?
Why does Dave agree to play checkers if he hates it?
Notice all the luxury details in the Cadillac.
Why does Dave say, "I touched Papa"?
Which type of figurative language does Dave use to describe his attempt to get past Mr. Bloom?
Notice how Dave's experiences have changed his perspective.
Which type of figurative language does Aunt Sarah use to describe Dave's appearance?
Why is Dave yelling, "Tell for you your fortune" all along Stanton Street?
The highlighted phrase is an example of
Dave is finally in a place where he feels safe enough to let his grief out.
Why doesn't Solly adopt Dave?
We can see the resolution of Dave's conflict with his brother. He has finally gotten over his bad feelings and is willing to pursue a relationship with Gideon.
Solly puts his arm around Dave's shoulder
Odelia Packer's character is based on the real woman A'Lelia Walker, pictured below, the daughter of the first woman to become a millionaire through her own efforts. Like Mrs. Packer, Mrs. Walker was very interested in the arts, and held legendary gatherings of artists during the Harlem Renaissance. (This annotation contains an image)
This is the climax of the story, where the reader isn't sure if Dave will get Mr. Bloom in trouble for being cruel, or if Mr. Bloom will get away with it.
What clues tell you that Mr. Bloom is nervous?
Did you expect this to happen? Why didn't any of the adults turn in Mr. Bloom sooner?
The phrase "I saw stars" means
Why end the story with this phrase? How does the phrase connect to Dave's experience?
Changing your name to sound more "American" was a common practice among new immigrants.
Behind the Book with Gail Carson Levine
Would it have made a difference to the story to have met Solly's son?
What historical topics did Gail Carson Levine have to research to write this novel?