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As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him. So begins a coming-of-age masterwork full of equal parts comedy and tragedy from Newbery Honor winner Gary D. Schmidt. As Doug struggles to be more than the “skinny thug” that his teachers and the police think him to be, he finds an unlikely ally in Lil Spicer—a fiery young lady who “smelled like daisies would smell if they were growing in a big field under a clearing sky after a rain.” In Lil, Doug finds the strength to endure an abusive father, the suspicions of a whole town, and the return of his oldest brother, forever scarred, from Vietnam. Together, they find a safe haven in the local library, inspiration in learning about the plates of John James Audubon’s birds, and a hilarious adventure on a Broadway stage. In this stunning novel, Schmidt expertly weaves multiple themes of loss and recovery in a story teeming with distinctive, unusual characters and invaluable lessons about love, creativity, and survival.
Curriculet Details
68 Questions
72 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for middle school students contains interactive videos exploring symbols and conflict, as well as annotations describing character development, point of view, and historical context. Students will explore the themes of recovery and self-worth. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

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Watch the interview below with the author of the book, Gary Schmidt.  (This annotation contains a video)
Joe Pepitone played for the New York Yankees from 1962-1969. This detail is an example of how the author can establish setting without saying it. We know this story takes place at some point in the 1960s, and we know it must be near New York City.  (This annotation contains an image)
The story about the hat reveals what information about Doug Swieteck? 
As you read, keep in mind that you are able to look up any words you do not know. You can select a word in the text and choose the "Define" option to get the definition. 
What word best describes Doug's tone in the highlighted portions?  
Watch the video below about imagery, which the highlighted sentences contains examples of.  (This annotation contains a video)
The description of the father's "quick hands" is a stylistic choice the author makes to describe how he hits Doug. Word choice can make a moment more interesting and have a greater impact.  
The highlighted phrase is an example of _______. 
Watch the video below about symbolism. Keep symbolism in mind as you continue to read the novel.  (This annotation contains a video)
Think about symbolism. How does the picture of the bird relate to Doug? 
Horace Clark was also a baseball player for the New York Yankees around the same time.  (This annotation contains an image)
At this moment Doug wishes to be _______. 
Watch the video below about character development and think about how the characters in this book develop as you continue to read.  (This annotation contains a video)
Which adjective best describes Lil? 


"Sterna arctica," which is Latin, is the biologically accurate name for the Arctic Tern. 
Mr. Powell is being _________ towards Doug.  
The details in this highlighted portion tells us 
Watch the video below about tone and mood. Pay particular attention to mood, and think about how the author develops the mood in the highlighted paragraph. (This annotation contains a video)
What do the details about Mrs. Widermere's house tell you about her? Use one piece of textual evidence to support your answer.  
Below is an image of Elizabeth Taylor, a famous actress during this era.  (This annotation contains an image)
Watch the video below about motifs. Could the Artic Tern be a motif in the story?  (This annotation contains a video)
Who most likely left the pencils for Doug? 
The highlighted phrase has an example of _____. 
Since this story is told in first person point of view, the reader can only rely on Doug's perspective. He hides his feelings at times, but this is a moment where he reveals his interest in Lil. The reader is not able to know what Lil is thinking, however, and must use her actions to guess how she is feeling. 
What does this moment reveal about Doug's feelings towards Lucas?  
Below is an image of a Red-Throated Diver.  (This annotation contains an image)


Doug has to live in fear of his brother and father's judgement of him; however, he still tries to be himself. What does this tell about his relationships with them? What does this tell the reader about Doug's motivation?  
The drawing of the tern represents which of the following themes? 
The details about Doug's mom reveal that 
"Dittos" are copies of a paper. The machines that made copies during the time in which this book takes place were called ditto machines. You can see an image of a ditto machine below.  (This annotation contains an image)
Why is it important that Doug looks up at the moon?  
Remember how Doug acts towards the principal when he has students read from the ditto. Also recall that Doug never looks at the books at the library. The author has been giving the reader clues that Doug does not know how to read.  
How does Doug feel at this moment? 
As more problems develop, tension increases in a story. This part of a story's plot structure is called "rising action."  
Watch the video below about static and dynamic characters. What kind of character is Lil?  (This annotation contains a video)
One thing that is very important to Doug is _________. 
What does the phrase "I felt the horizon settle" mean in this sentence? 
Doug often describes himself as a chump. He assumes most people are judging him because of the abuse he gets from his father. Doug is insecure about himself, so he is defensive around people, and he is afraid to express his true feelings.  
Quiz #1 Chapters 1-3 


Who is speaking here? 
The author uses dialogue here instead of narration to start off the chapter. The reader has become familiar enough with the story by this point that he/she can understand the context and know what is going on.  
Mrs. Merriam's tone is best described as 
Audubon refers to John James Audubon, who did an extensive study of American Birds. Below is an image of his painting of a flamingo.  (This annotation contains an image)
Some of the original Audubon prints sell for around $200,000 today.  
How does this image of the gull reflect Doug's mood at the moment?  
Doug is _______  Otis Bottom. 
Watch the video below about parallel plot. How is the story of Jane Eyre similar to what is going on in Doug's life?  (This annotation contains a video)
Mr. Ferris is most like 
Below is an image of what Mr. Ferris is teaching to Doug.  (This annotation contains an image)
Often in the book, Doug addresses the reader directly; however, it appears he is writing to a certain person. As you read, see if you can figure out who Doug is writing to.  
Why are Doug's relationships with the adults in this book important? Use textual evidence to support your answer.  
The original Jane Eyre was published in three volumes in 1847. The author Charlotte Bronte published the book under a gender neutral name of "Currer Bell" because it was difficult for female authors to get their books published back then.  
The description of Lil in this sentence contains an example of  
In this context, "apparatus" is another word for equipment or machine.  
This moment contains a great deal of  
Why do you think Doug refuses to take his shirt off? (Hint: Remember how Doug reacted when he was in a situation where he needed to read.)  
Watch the video below about themes emerging. Consider how this crucial moment is developing the theme of recovering from abuse.  (This annotation contains a video)


Doug's attitude toward Coach Reed is 
Apollo 7 launched in the fall of 1968, which gives you a more specific time period of the book.  (This annotation contains an image)
Their watches are similar to the one in the picture below.  (This annotation contains an image)
This moment indicates that 
What can the reader predict will happen to Doug during the trivia game?  
Watch the video below about tension. Consider how this moment builds tension.  (This annotation contains a video)
This decision reveals that Doug 
The author has chosen to structure his book with these moments in which Doug tells us statistics about his life. It is an effective way for you to understand the difficulty he is facing in life, especially at school.  
What is clear by the way Doug inspects the picture? 
The library is a ____________ for Doug. 
This is one of the first moments that we see Doug and his brother bond. They may not get along, but they both share the pain caused by their father.  


The description here contains a ________. 
Reread the highlighted portion and pay attention to the use of sensory details. Describing the rain and the cold is an example of imagery, and it helps you imagine the moment from Doug's point of view.  
Below is a scene of Orson Welles in the film adaptation of Jane Eyre.  (This annotation contains a video)
Why do you think the town is becoming more accepting of Doug again? Use textual evidence to support your answer.  
Who is making Doug retake the course? 
Coach Reed is developing into an antagonist for Doug. He only creates conflict for Doug, and he is still only a flat character.  
Doug feels this way at this moment because 
Notice the sensory details in this sentence. Doug describes the smell and sounds of the setting.  
Has your opinion of Doug's brother, Christopher, changed at all? Explain your view with textual evidence.  
Jim McKay is a sports journalist who is best known for hosting Wide World of Sports.  (This annotation contains an image)
This is a reference to the My Lai Massacre in 1968 during which between 350-500 South Vietnamese civilians were killed. What is being revealed about the coach and his behavior? 
Why does Coach Reed draw these pictures? 
The President's Council on Physical Fitness started in 1955 by the Eisenhower administration.  
Why does Doug stop by Coach Reed's office? 


What characteristic does Doug demonstrate by going out in this weather? 
Watch the video below about making textual connections. Why is Jane Eyre central to the book?  (This annotation contains a video)
This is a reference to Robert Frost's famous poem "The Road Not Taken". Below is a copy of the poem.  (This annotation contains an image)
Why do you think Coach Reed reacts this way? 
Over 300,000 U.S. soldiers were wounded in Vietnam.  
The description of the petrels here is a metaphor for 
Below is a video of a performance of an Aaron Copland composition. The performance contains a flute with strings.  (This annotation contains a video)
In this sentence, the word fuss means _______. 
Giuseppe Verdi was an Italian composer who was primarily known for his operas.  (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Doug decide not to show the Aaron Copland Manuscript to Mr. Powell?  
The book is a symbol of Doug. As he adds another page to the book, making it more whole, Doug is making himself more whole. The abuse from his father and judgment that he has faced from others is lessened by adding pages to the book.  
Leonard Merriam is most likely Mrs. Merriam's ______. 
Quiz #2 Chapters 4-7 


Now that a more caring side of Christopher has been shown, the reader is more likely to believe that he did not rob the store. The author is providing clues as to who may have done it. With the details provided, who do you think is stealing from the store?  
In this paragraph, Doug behaves at school this way because 
To Doug, the pages from the book are stolen. He believes they belong in one place. While everyone is focusing on Christopher stealing, Doug is still determined to collect the Audubon pages.  
These lines are from the poem "Ozymandias".  (This annotation contains an image)
Doug's horseshoe performance shows that  
Errol Flynn was best known for his swashbuckler roles, such as Robin Hood.  (This annotation contains an image)
This moment with the flight jacket and Lil ties into the theme 
Watch the video below about internal and external conflict. Which kind is Doug facing at this moment in the book?  (This annotation contains a video)
Do you believe Doug and Lucas are similar? Explain your answer with textual evidence.  
The author is able to build tension here by having short sentences that repeat. It helps create the mood of the moment for Doug.  
What's most important about this moment? 


An author will often use weather to depict the mood of the story. Spring gives the idea of new beginnings and happiness.  
Mr. Gregory is a _______. 
Helen Burns and Bertha Mason are both characters from Jane Eyre.  
Which of the following would be an antonym, or a word whose meaning opposite of, "mauled"? 
Below is an image of the Audubon Snowy Heron.  (This annotation contains an image)
This is an example of dramatic irony because we know that Ronald Regan, a former actor, becomes president of the United States later. Watch the video below about dramatic irony.  (This annotation contains a video)
What does the change in Coach Reed's behavior reveal about him as a character and about people in general?  
Watch the video below about hyperbole, which the highlighted sentence contains an example of.  (This annotation contains a video)
We know that Doug is learning how to treat Lil because 
Jocasta is the mother of the title character in the Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex.  (This annotation contains an image)
At this point, the reader believes Lil is behaving this way out of _________. 
Why can't Doug perform in front of Joe Pepitone? 
A moment like this shows how Doug often expects the worst in a situation. Though things have improved for him, he still expects people to judge him negatively.  
Lowood Institution is based off of Cowan Bridge where Jane Eyre's author, Charlotte Bronte, attended. Bronte depicts the school in a very negative light in the book.  
Doug's request here represents the theme of 
Questions like these that don't expect an answer are called rhetorical questions.  
Why do you think Doug lies to Joe Pepitone about the cap?  
This is a reference to the Beatles' song "The Yellow Submarine".  (This annotation contains a video)


This change of view on stats relates to which theme? 
The idea of community is important in the book. Doug is learning to trust people. He is demonstrating this by delivering the groceries for free.  
The Arctic Tern is a ______. 
This statement from Doug is clear evidence of his growth as a character. He has felt incomplete for so long, but now he is finding himself in Marysville.  
At this moment, Lucas shows ________. 
The Artic Tern no longer just relates to Doug, but his brother Lucas as well. The Arctic Tern represents survival to Doug.  
Why do you believe Lucas is hesitant to take the job offer from Coach Reed?  
In many ways, Mr. Powell acts like a father figure for both Doug and Lucas. He does not pass judgment like the boys' real father does, and he offers words of encouragement.  
This moment most strongly supports the idea that  
This is an example of situational irony. Watch the video below to learn more about this type of irony.  (This annotation contains a video)
Doug's father is most likely acting this way because of the ________. 
This moment is an example of tension. An important conversation took place between Doug's mother and father. The silence indicates that it is uncomfortable at the table.  
Doug's father behaves this way because 
This is a moment of hope for Doug's family. Even his father, who has been a central antagonist in the book, is capable of changing.  
How is the idea of community tied into the scene about the garden? Use textual evidence to support your answer.  
This statement not only refers to the book, but to Doug as well. He has put the book back together, and he has added his own painting to it. He may not be perfect, but he has come a long way.  
The details in this paragraph indicate that Lil has ________. 
For much of the book other people have been there for Doug to give him strength. Now it is Doug's turn to be there for Lil.  
Quiz #3: Chapters 8-10