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Bo Brewster has been at war with his father for as long as he can remember. Following angry outbursts at his football coach and English teacher that have cost him his spot on the football team and moved him dangerously close to expulsion from school, he turns to the only adult he believes will listen: Larry King.

In his letters to Larry, Bo describes his quest for excellence on his own terms. No more coaches for me, he tells the talk show icon, no more dads. I'm going to be a triathlete, an Ironman.

Relegated to Mr. Nak's before-school Anger Management group (which he initially believes to be populated with future serial killers and freeway snipers), Bo meets a hard-edged, down-on-their-luck pack of survivors with stainless steel shields against the world that Bo comes to see are not so different from his own. It is here he meets and falls in love with Shelly, a future American Gladiator, whose passion for physical challenge more than matches his.

Ironman is a funny, sometimes heartbreaking story about growing up in the heart of struggle. It is about standing up, getting knocked down, and standing up again. It is about being heard--and learning to listen.

Curriculet Details
46 Questions
53 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for high school students contains interactive videos exploring tone/mood, protagonists/antagonists, character development, and literary tension, as well as annotations clarifying obscure references, analyzing key moments, and providing background context and even music mentioned in the novel to help scenes come alive. Students will explore the themes of child abuse, anger management, and coming-of-age. The Common Core aligned questions, answers, and quizzes in this free online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

The curriculet is being added to your library

Title Page

Chris Crutcher was born in 1946 in Idaho. In addition to being a well known fiction writer, he has also worked as a teacher and as a therapist specializing in child abuse and neglect. Click the link below to check out a funny and well written biography about Crutcher! (This annotation contains a link)

Chapter 1

You might already be familiar with Larry King: a television and radio host, actor, and comedian most known for his show "Larry King Live" on CNN.  (This annotation contains an image)
As we will soon learn, this letter is written by Beauregard Brewster himself, the novel's protagonist. 
This novel has a unique structure! Part of it is written as an epistolary novel. Based on the structure so far, an "epistolary novel" is 
Notice how the narrator often inserts Larry King's first name into his letter, making the tone of the letter more informal and conversational, as if he knows Larry King personally. Please watch the video below to refresh your memory on tone and mood. Watch for any changes in tone as the story goes on! (This annotation contains a video)
What do the highlighted lines suggest about the narrator (Beauregard)? 
Does this name look familiar? This is the journalism teacher that Bo seems to get along with well. 
As you can see, at this point in the chapter, the structure of the novel changes from an epistolary structure to a more traditional one. Please watch the video below on structure in preparation for the question that follows in a couple pages. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on this chapter, the novel's structure alternates between an epistolary structure and what other structure? 

Chapter 2

As you can see, Bo continues to address his letters to Larry King. Why do you think he chooses Larry King, as opposed to any other public figure? What does this tell you about Bo as a character? 
An Ironman competition is considered one of the most grueling athletic competitions ever conceived. As Bo mentions, the run section alone is a full marathon! Even the very best athletes in the world take over eight hours to complete the race. (This annotation contains an image)
What do we learn in this letter about Bo's family life? Please respond in 4-6 sentences. In your answer, please include at least one quotation from the letter that provides evidence for your answer. 
Notice how this sentence seems to be "in the head" of Redmond himself, rather than the thoughts of the narrator? Well, it is in Redmond's head! This author's technique is called free indirect discourse. It is a style of third-person narration that includes a first-person element. Authors use it to give the reader a glimpse into the thoughts of various characters. 
Bo's (highlighted) response suggests that 
Don't worry, this is still Bo writing the letter! He signs it "John Dillinger" as a joke. John Dillinger was an American gangster and bank robber who lived from 1903-1934 (the Depression era). His gang robbed at least two dozen banks and four police stations, and Dillinger even escaped from prison twice. Bo is probably making a joke about how he is a gangster now that he is joining Mr. Nak's anger management group of "bad boys." Below is Dillinger's mugshot. (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter 3

Bo's dream suggests that he harbors what emotions toward his father? 
Bo writes that the one thing his dad wouldn't do was hit him. Hitting Bo could be considered child abuse, but physical abuse isn't the only kind of child abuse. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, updated in 2010, defines child abuse as "any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, [or] sexual abuse or exploitation," or "an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm." Keep this definition in mind as you continue to read. 
Please read "My Papa's Waltz," a well-known poem by Theodore Roethke, in preparation for the question that follows.  (This annotation contains a link)
Some people think that the poem "My Papa's Waltz" hints at the father being abusive toward his son. What do you think? What kind of father-son relationship do you see portrayed in the poem, and how does it relate to the father-son relationship you see portrayed in Iron Man so far? Please respond in 4-6 sentences. 
One of the themes emerging in the novel is punishment and abuse. Do you think Bo's father's seven-month punishment of Bo as a nine year old is justified and appropriate? Why or why not? Do you think it fits the legal definition of child abuse that you read in the last annotation? Please explain in 3-5 sentences. 
It's interesting that Bo thinks the room with Mr. Nak is "too much like his dream," especially because on the surface, it seems to not have much in common with the dream where his dad is looming over him and forcing him to quietly shut a large steel door. But maybe it is the power dynamic that reminds Bo of his dream -- the dynamic of a man (in this case, Mr. Nak) having control over him. 
Bo describes Elvis as having "the permanent expression of a pit bull about fifteen seconds before a fight." This metaphor suggests that Elvis 
"Blue suede shoes" is an allusion to a song of that name by Elvis Presley. Please watch the video below of Elvis performing this song in preparation for the question that follows. (This annotation contains a video)
Compare the song by Elvis you just watched to the scene you just read. What does the concept of "stepping on my blue suede shoes" seem to mean in Elvis's song? Does it mean the same thing in Bo's story? Please explain your answer in 3-5 sentences. 

Chapter 4

Structurally, what is unique about this chapter? 
What kind of narrator do we have in these third-person narrative sections? We know it isn't Bo himself, because Bo clearly isn't present at this conversation between Lion and Nak (they're talking about HIM!). The narrator seems to be an impersonal, "all-knowing" narrator, which is the type we refer to as "third-person omniscient." This type of narrator can be anywhere at any time and is privy to the thoughts of many different characters. 
Mr. Nak is suggesting that anger at others is an act that hides 
Have you noticed that Bo signs his name differently in most of his letters? Here it's "The Mighty B." He has also used "The Brew," "The Big B," and "Beau-re-gard." These names make him seem more tough and "cool" than he actually seems to feel. 

Chapter 5

Why do you think Bo refuses to let Wyrack win, even after Wyrack slaps him and threatens him? Is this consistent with Bo's character as seen so far in the book? Please use an example of an incident from earlier in the book that supports your opinion on whether Bo standing up for himself to Wyrack is consistent or inconsistent with Bo's character portrayal so far. 
Bo is most likely referring to his little brother, who we know he has a very low opinion of. We haven't heard about him in a while (not since Bo discussed his parents' divorce). 
Bo makes a "buzzer sound" and says, "Wrong, Dad. Hit the showers" as if he is a coach and his dad is a player on his team. This sets up a 
The sire is the adult male dog (father), and the dam is the adult female dog (mother). Siberian Huskies are large dogs (pictured below) who can thrive even in cold, harsh environments like their original one, Siberia.  (This annotation contains an image)
The highlighted section is an example of  
Quiz Chapters 1-5 

Chapter 6

"Blazer" refers to a Chevy Blazer, a mid-to-large-sized car (below is a photograph of the 1994 version).  (This annotation contains an image)
What does Bo mean? Why would he need Shelly by his side escorting him around? 
"Pillars of salt" is a biblical reference. It comes from Genesis 19, and the story begins with two angels who arrived in Sodom, at eventide, and were invited to spend the night at Lot's home. As dawn was breaking, Lot's visiting angels urged him to get his family and flee, so as to avoid being caught in the impending disaster for the iniquity of the city. Lot delayed, so the angels took hold of his hand, his wife's hand and his daughters and brought them out of the city. The command was given, "Flee for your life! Do not look behind you, nor stop anywhere in the Plain; flee to the hills, lest you be swept away." Lot objected to the idea of fleeing to the hills and requested safe haven at a little town nearby. The request was granted and the town became known as Zoar. Traveling behind her husband, Lot's wife looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt. 
Please watch the video below on protagonists and antagonists to help you with questions ahead. I think we can all agree that Bo is the main protagonist in the story, but who is the antagonist? Is there more than one? How many antagonists do you think there are? Keep this in mind as you read on. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following people is an antagonist in the story? 
Do you have this same question? Explore this website, and you should get a pretty good idea! (This annotation contains a link)

Chapter 7

This scene is similar to the story we heard earlier in the book about 
Luke doesn't mean the cartoon! A "Tom and Jerry" is a traditional Christmastime cocktail similar to eggnog (with added brandy or rum) and served hot in a mug or bowl. Below is a photograph of the drink in festive mugs. (This annotation contains an image)
What does this quotation from Luke suggest about his reasons for being so hard on Bo? 
Here we see Bo acting with real maturity, even while his father is not. Luke makes a "dig" about Shelly being "beefy," and rather than respond in anger, Bo takes the high road and stands up for Shelly (and himself) without escalating the tension or starting an argument. 
Homosexuality has already come up once before in the book. How? 
Here we have an example of the kind of trauma that the students in Mr. Nak's anger management group have been through. Interestingly, though, his mother's suicide isn't even the main point of Elvis's story: it's just background detail, and he dismisses the group's concern by saying, "No matter. Happened a long time ago."  
Please watch the video below on character development in preparation for the question that follows. (This annotation contains a video)
This story from Elvis makes his character a lot more complicated. How do these new details about Elvis's life change your perception of him as a character? In what way(s) has his character developed since the first anger management group? 

Chapter 8

A microfiche is a sheet of film, usually the size of a filing card, on which books, newspapers, documents, etc, can be recorded in miniaturized form. You don't see them much these days now that we have the internet!  (This annotation contains an image)
This __________ suggests that Lion's coach created something beautiful and cohesive out of his team of swimmers. 
The Iditarod is an annual, long-distance sled dog race. The current record is over 8 days long, which gives you an idea about how long and grueling the races is. Below is a photograph of Susan Butcher with her sled and dogs.  (This annotation contains an image)
Shelly's stories are another example of the book's theme of child abuse. What kinds of abuse have Shelly and her sister endured? How is Shelly's experience similar to or different from the other types of abuse we have heard about so far in the novel? Please respond in 3-5 sentences. 
Bo is probably referring to the "prostitution" part of what Shelly's adoptive mom told her she would become. 
Please watch the video below on irony in preparation for the question that follows. (This annotation contains a video)
This sentence is an example of  
This is a clever variation on the expression "water under the bridge," which is an expression used to describe events that happened in the past and are no longer important. "Sewage under the bridge" suggests that there is still a CURRENT problem! 
What is a (possible) theme of the story that you notice coming up at the end of this chapter? Name the theme you come up with, and then write 2-3 sentences about what you think the book is suggesting about that theme so far. 

Chapter 9

To "yuk it up" is to goof off, horse around, or joke around idly. 
Bo seems to be very uncomfortable about Mr. S being gay. Is this consistent with what we know so far about Bo's character, or does it surprise you? Explain, using 3-5 sentences. 
Notice how Bo uses a less "mighty" signature here than usual. Instead of "The Big B" or the "The Mighty B," he says he is "sincerely drowning" and signs his name as if he is saying it from underwater ("Bo Blub-Blub"). Consider: why would this revelation from Mr. S seem to be more upsetting to Bo than the truly traumatic experiences he has had recently with his family and with Wyrack? 

Chapter 10

Jordan's exclamation is a somewhat comical __________ to the line "Free at last!" from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. 
"Fratricide" refers to the killing of one's brother or sister. But Bo is joking ... at least he seems to be joking! 
Elvis calling Bo a "wuss" (for not becoming angrier) and calling Shelly a "dyke" (possibly because she is strong) suggests that 
Notice how Nak changes the ending to this popular saying. Instead of "but words can never hurt me," he uses "but names will break my heart." This is a very different attitude toward the power of words and name-calling than what is expressed by the original saying. 
The author's choice to let the reader see Elvis's cruel behavior first and then later to show where it comes from sends the message that 
Remember who told Bo to "be careful" around Mr. S? Bo's father. This is a tricky statement: on the one hand, it seems like Bo's father is looking out for him and trying to protect him, but on the other hand, saying "be careful" implies that there is danger in interacting with someone who is gay. This might be where Bo picked up his prejudice. 

Chapter 11

What does this section suggest about how best to deal with people who exhibit cruel or controlling behavior? (Is it better to stand up for oneself or to give in to the person?) What is another example of a scene or section in the book that has a similar message? Please respond in 3-5 sentences total. 
"Pleistocene" refers to a geologic period about two million years ago. "Neo" is a prefix meaning "new" or "recent." Overall, this phrase suggests that Bo's father had a period of great cruelty that seems to have happened both a long time ago and just recently. 
What is it that Bo says Shelly can hear? 
"Old Yeller" is a very popular 1957 film about a dog named "Old Yeller" who dies protecting his family. Below is a screenshot from the film. (This annotation contains an image)
Quiz Chapters 6-11 

Chapter 12

It certainly is hard to imagine the students in Nak's group carrying around boxes like the one below. But perhaps for Nak and the group it is symbolic: they are putting effort into not only giving love (Valentines) but receiving it as well.  (This annotation contains an image)
The story about Hudge's dog is another example of the book's theme of 
Keep this idea in mind as you continue to read (you might even want to keep it in mind in your personal life!). Remember when Bo's father told Bo that it hurt him to isolate Bo for seven months when he was young but that he felt he had to do it to prepare Bo for the real world? That is another example of the kind of love Mr. Nak is talking about: the kind that doesn't make you feel better about yourself but instead brings you down. 
How would you answer Bo's question? Based on what you know so far about Bo's father, why would he be willing to pay so much to help Wyrack and his buddies beat Bo in the race? Please think carefully and respond in 3-5 sentences. 
Alice Miller was a well-known psychologist and author who specialized in understanding child abuse. She lived from 1923 to 2010. Below is a photograph of Miller. (This annotation contains an image)
Who is Bo most likely talking about? 

Chapter 13

Notice how this section suggests that Shelly is more in tune with Elvis's feelings than Bo is. Even though Bo means well by inviting Elvis to stay, doing so only makes Elvis uncomfortable. 
The first two times Redmond asked to speak to Bo, he said, "Could I see you for a moment?" Now, he says, "See me after class." This change in diction shows 
Bo has learned a very important lesson here. It might seem like a paradox (contradiction) that being aware of your own fear and feelings of inadequacy could make you feel MORE comfortable and adequate, but sometimes this is how it works with emotions. Notice how it has taken Bo a while to let Mr. Nak's advice and ideas sink in. 
If Redmond's reasons for acting harshly toward Bo are the same as Luke's reasons, then Redmond is acting harshly because  
Ultralight bikes like the Merlin shown below are so expensive because they are made with titanium, a more expensive, lighter, and stronger metal than others used in bikes. This allows the rider to go faster, which is why they are often used as racing bikes. (This annotation contains an image)
This description of the dinner shows the ________ in Bo and Luke's relationship. 

Chapter 14

This expression suggests excitement and eagerness. It comes from the world of horses, who will chomp (chew) on the bit (part of a harness that goes in their mouths) when restless or excited. (This annotation contains an image)
What do you think Bo means by the sentence, "That would separate the men from the goddamn astronauts"? Consider the context, and explain in 2-3 sentences. 
It's strange that Luke wants his son to lose Yukon Jack's in order to teach him "about quitters," especially because Bo is training extremely hard for the race and hasn't quit training even when he has faced extreme obstacles. Luke is clearly talking about Bo quitting football, but this seems beside the point. The author is inviting the reader to think, "Hmm ... what is really going on here? What is this REALLY about?"  
What is the difference between an agenda and a crusade? What do you think Nak's "crusade" is exactly, and what does his crusade have to do with the story of his childrens' deaths? Please respond in 3-5 sentences. 
It sounds like Luke is talking about Redmond. 

Chapter 15

The highlighted line hints at another of the story's themes, which is  
Racing bikes made of titanium, like this one, can weigh as little as 15 pounds! 
Please watch the video below on tension in stories in preparation for the question that follows. (This annotation contains a video)
What tension has been building in this story up until this point? 

Chapter 16

The Moonlight Sonata is a classical piece by Beethoven. Definitely not "pump-up music"! Click the video below to hear a sample (you don't need to listen to the whole thing -- thirty seconds will give you a good idea). (This annotation contains a video)
Why would Bo's support team include this quotation from Redmond, even though it is anything but supportive? 
If you're not a swimmer, you might not be familiar with the flutter kick. This is just the basic kick that one does while swimming the freestyle (also called "the crawl"). Your legs move up and down almost like flippers, and this does make your calves prone to cramping. (This annotation contains an image)


An epilogue is a section of a play or story that comes at the end and is separate from the rest of the book. It often provides a conclusion to the book or provides a different perspective on it. 
What is revealed to Bo's father during the last session that makes him unwilling to continue the therapy? What does Bo's overall experience with his father in therapy suggest about where harsh (or even abusive) parenting comes from? Please respond in 3-5 sentences. 
Mr. Nak seems to be referring to Bo and Bo's father in this section. Interestingly, the way this sentence is written (with the parallel construction of "it allows for ... an' it allows for") makes it seem like both Bo's actions and his father's actions are equally deserving of mercy. 
What is the difference between mercy allowing for all things and excusing them? In your own words, what is Nak trying to say here in his final message to the group? Please respond in 2-4 sentences. 
Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer are infamous convicted serial killers. Manson is pictured below. (This annotation contains an image)
This book has been banned in many schools across the United States. Why do you think some schools ban it? (What subjects or themes do you think they would be worried about?) Do you think this book should or should not be read in high schools? Why? 
Quiz Chapter 12 - Epilogue