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Ben Wolf has big things planned for his senior year. Had big things planned. Now what he has is some very bad news and only one year left to make his mark on the world.

How can a pint-sized, smart-ass seventeen-year-old do anything significant in the nowheresville of Trout, Idaho?

First, Ben makes sure that no one else knows what is going on—not his superstar quarterback brother, Cody, not his parents, not his coach, no one. Next, he decides to become the best 127-pound football player Trout High has ever seen; to give his close-minded civics teacher a daily migraine; and to help the local drunk clean up his act.

And then there's Dallas Suzuki. Amazingly perfect, fascinating Dallas Suzuki, who may or may not give Ben the time of day. Really, she's first on the list.

Living with a secret isn't easy, though, and Ben's resolve begins to crumble . . . especially when he realizes that he isn't the only person in Trout with secrets.

Curriculet Details
53 Questions
46 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for students in grades 9-10 contains interactive videos exploring references made to items that may be obscure to students (such as 45 RPM records) and literary devices (such as dramatic irony). There are also annotations explaining unusual vocabulary words (like non sequitur), and notable organizations and people (such as the ACLU and Malcolm X). Students will explore the themes of truth and honesty and brotherhood. 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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This novel is written in first person point of view. Watch the video below to understand the difference between first and third person point of view. As you read the novel, think about why Crutcher chose to use first person point of view and the impact that perspective has on you as the reader. (This annotation contains a video)
Using context clues, what do you think the word "gravity" means the way it is used here? 
It is likely that Ben's mother has a condition called bipolar disorder. Read more about this condition by clicking the link below. Then read more about Ben's mom to see if she shows any of the signs or symptoms of this illness. (This annotation contains a link)
A metaphor is when two normally unlike things are compared to each other by saying that one is the other. A simile does the same thing except the words "like" or "as" are used to make the comparison. Which line from the text is an example of a metaphor? 
Using the information given, with what illness do you think Ben has been diagnosed? What makes you think he has this disease? Use details from the text to support your answer. 


Look at the image below to see an example of some of the equipment Ben will have to wear in order to play football. (This annotation contains an image)
The literary device dramatic irony occurs when the audience (in this case, the reader) is aware of a situation but the characters in the story are not. How is the highlighted statement from Cody an example of dramatic irony? 
This is an example of dramatic irony. Watch the video to gain more understanding about what dramatic irony is. (This annotation contains a video)
Ben was right to be concerned about permanent damage from playing football. The risks from playing football and other contact sports is getting a lot of attention in the media. Click the link below to learn about how dangerous playing football can be. (This annotation contains a link)


Sigmund Freud is considered the father of psychoanalysis, using dreams and the subconscious to analyze people's behaviors. Many of his theories are still popular today, and many of them are controversial as well. Click the link below to learn more about Freud's life and his impact on psychoanalysis. (This annotation contains a link)
What is Ben's attitude toward life right now? 
Ben's car, while old, is probably considered cool by many of his classmates. His truck probably looks similar to the one shown in the picture below. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on what Ben says about Hey-Soos, what role do you think Hey-Soos will play in Ben's life? 


The Pleistocene era was an ice age that happened 2.5 million years ago. What is Ben implying by calling this particular play "pre-Pleistocene?" 
Why do you think Ben is asking this question? 
Translated from Spanish, "en fuego" means "on fire". What synonym could be used in place of this term here? 
A pugilist is a professional fighter, often a boxer. What is Dallas trying to ask Ben when she uses this word? 
How is Ben trying to get Dallas to pay attention to him? 
The "William Tell Overture" is a famous piece of music. It is often recognized as the musical theme for the movie "The Lone Ranger." (This annotation contains a video)


Which of the following words would NOT be used to describe Sooner Cowans, based on Ben's description of him? 
This is one example of a 45-rpm-record jukebox. They actually played records as opposed to digital music. Why would having one of these machines in the diner make Ben refer to his home town as "hick city?" (This annotation contains an image)
What could be the cause of the slight swelling Ben sees on Sooner's face? Use evidence from the text to explain your theory behind the swelling. 
If comparing what you have learned in school to information in other books sounds interesting to you, click the link below to read more about this book. (This annotation contains a link)
What do you think Dallas finds attractive about Ben? Use specific examples from the book. Then explain why those behaviors, qualities, or characteristics are attractive. 


Why does Ben feel like it is better to live his life in short moments, like a day at at time or an hour at a time? 
To get an idea how a suicide drill is run, watch the video below. To get a feel for the difficulty of the drill, try going to a football field and running the drill the way Ben described it! (This annotation contains a video)
A common way to determine if behavior can be considered bullying is to use the acronym RIP; "R" stands for repeated action; "I" stands for intentional behavior; "P" stands for power-based behavior. How does the way Sooner behave show he is a bully according to this acronym? Use examples of his behavior from the text. 
How could the highlighted sentences also act as the theme for this novel? 
Ben refers to this movie more than once. Watch the trailer for the movie and consider what similarities you see in the story in the movie and in this book. (This annotation contains a video)


Ben will refer to Malcolm X many times throughout the book. Read a short biography of him below. Consider why Ben might find Malcolm X so interesting. (This annotation contains a link)
Based on what you know about Ben's work in Mr. Lambeer's class so far, what kind of project do you think Ben will choose to do? 
Quicksilver is another name for the liquid metal mercury. It is also used in similes or metaphors to describe someone or something that moves or changes very quickly. How is the word being used in this sentence? 
A double entendre is when a phrase has more than one meaning -- one is a straightforward meaning; the other meaning is often ironic or even inappropriate. How is Ben's statement to Cody that he won't be on the football field with him in college a double entendre? 
Unusual or unexplained broken bones is a common sign of child abuse. Read more about signs and symptoms of child abuse below, then use that understanding to see if you notice any signs of abuse in Sooner Cowans. (This annotation contains a link)
In your opinion, how did Sooner break his collarbone? What makes you think this? Be sure to use clues from the text to write your answer. 


We have met two characters in this book who appear to be alcoholics -- Rudy McCoy and Boomer Cowans. Read more about alcoholism below and use that information to help you gain insight into these two characters. (This annotation contains a link)
What effect does it have on the reader when the author includes so many details about what is happening on the field during the football game? 
The reference to "Sneezy" in this sentence is an allusion. Read the definition of allusion below and review the examples. Then decide what this particular allusion is referring to and how it is appropriate. (This annotation contains a link)
What literary device is being used in the highlighted text? 
Review Chapters 1 - 8 


"Moonlight Sonata" is one of Beethoven's most famous pieces of music. You can hear it below. What is Ben trying to say about the music being played at the dance by making reference to "Moonlight Sonata?" (This annotation contains a video)
Based on what you have seen of Cody so far in the book, which one of the following words would NOT be used to describe him? 
Sadly, Dallas's story is not uncommon. Look at the statistics about sexual abuse and see how many of the categories Dallas falls into. (This annotation contains a link)
What is Dallas saying happened to her? Why do you think she told Ben about this? Explain your answer, using details from the text to illustrate your response. 


What might happen to Ben's mother if his father decided to leave her once her sons were off to college? 
It is likely that Ben's mother has bipolar disorder. To understand more about how Ben's mother must feel, read the account below written by a person who has bipolar disorder. (This annotation contains a link)
The ACLU is the American Civil Liberties Union. They are dedicated to defending the rights and liberties set forth in the Constitution. Why does Ben jokingly ask if he can contact the ACLU in Idaho? (This annotation contains a link)
Why might Marla not be able to talk with Ben? Think about the conversations they have had so far. Use clues from her note to Ben. Make specific references to the text in your response. 
Allusions to Mecca are not uncommon in literature and everyday speech. The pilgrimage to Mecca is called Hajj. Read more about it and its history by clicking the link below. (This annotation contains a link)


What things are being compared in this extended metaphor? 
Idaho is not a state that many people think of as a vacation spot, so it is easy to understand why Ben might forget the beauty his home state has to offer. You can learn more about Idaho at the website below. (This annotation contains a link)
This exchange between Ben and Joe Henry contains puns. A pun is a play on words that is humorous because there is often a double meaning to the words being used. If you enjoy puns, you can read puns at the site below as well as see their "Pun of the Day." (This annotation contains a link)
Which of the following might NOT be something Ben likes about Joe Henry? 
Write a paragraph that would show a realistic response from Ben's mom if she knew about his illness. Use what you know about her already to develop your response. 


Book burning as a form of censorship has been around for centuries. You can learn more about the history of book burning at the website below. (This annotation contains a link)
What is Sylvia supporting without actually saying she is supporting? 
Should Ben tell Dallas he is sick? Why or why not? Be sure to use details from the text to support your opinion. 


The Nez Perce Reservation is located in northern Idaho. The website below has more information about the past and present Nez Perce tribe. (This annotation contains a link)
Imagining a blue football field can be difficult. Here is what the blue turf looks like at Boise State. (This annotation contains an image)
Apparently, Sooner did something wrong. What did he do to make Timothy and Shoat Brown so angry? 
The vow of celibacy is the vow that most people think of when they hear about the vows taken by Catholic priests. However, they also take other vows. Learn more about their vows and process of becoming a priest at the site below. (This annotation contains a link)
How can Ben apply this advice from Rudy to his own life? 
Earlier, you were asked if Ben should tell Dallas about his illness. Think back to what your opinion was. Now consider the new information Dallas has shared with Ben. She has shared some very big secrets with him. She has put a lot of trust into Ben. Has your opinion from before changed? Should Ben tell Dallas he is sick? Explain why he should or should not tell Dallas the truth. 


Professional football has been played on Thanksgiving Day since 1920. The Dallas Cowboys started playing on every Thanksgiving in 1966. (This annotation contains a link)
How does Ben illustrate that bigotry and racism are still very present in our society? 
Hurricane Katrina was particularly devastating to New Orleans. The way the aftermath of the storm was handled stirred up huge controversy, including controversy surrounding race. You can learn more about the effects of Hurricane Katrina and see aerial footage of the damage caused by the hurricane at the site here. (This annotation contains a link)
Which one of the following statements might NOT be a reason Ben feels like he has to save people like his mother, Rudy, and even Dallas? 
Allusions to Don Quixote are not unusual. Read a summary of Don Quixote below if you are not familiar with the story. Then think about why Hey-Soos wanted to know if Ben knew who Don Quixote was. (This annotation contains a link)


What is the meaning of the word "groomed" as it is used here? 
The way Rudy uses the word "blunt" here means to weaken or dull. It is significant to note that he said "blunt," not "eliminate." His urge to molest young boys is not gone; he has merely lessened his feeling of it by being under the constant influence of drugs and alcohol. 
What does Ben mean when he says he's not understanding the fundamental difference between right and wrong anymore? Use specific examples from the text to explain your answer. 
What is the danger that Ben fears Rudy might be in? 


If you don't understand the pun Ben is making here, read about the Patty Hearst case to make more sense of it. (This annotation contains a link)
What is the reason given by Mr. Lambeer that Ben cannot do his Malcolm X project? 
Review Chapters 9 - 16 


One possible theme for this novel could be, "The truth will set you free." How does Ben knowing the truth about Rudy let them be free to continue to work together? 
Great controversy has been stirred up over the way the Catholic Church has handled sexual abuse by priests. The video below highlights the scandal in Philadelphia but is relatively representative of cases around the nation and world. (This annotation contains a video)
What does Ben mean when he thinks, "It's starting?" 


Trying to understand God is a struggle for believers. It is often an act of faith. Below is a link to one website with a Christian perspective of who or what God is. Understanding God is a perpetual quest for those who believe in God. (This annotation contains a link)
Use the link below to watch this clip from The Wizard of Oz. Then decide what the movie clip has in common with the highlighted text. 
Ben never tells us specifically what his illness is. Saying he has a blood disease is the closest he comes. Based on the bits of information he has shared, it is now reasonable to suspect that he has some form of leukemia. Learn about the different types of leukemia at the site below. (This annotation contains a link)
Why did Ben decide to tell Coach about his illness before telling anyone else? 


Which word pair would best describe Dallas's reaction to Ben's confession about his illness? 
Gore-Tex is a special kind of fabric. Read a brief description of what Gore-Tex is below then decide why Ben would need to wear Gore-Tex if he is going out for a run. (This annotation contains a link)


Which most likely describes why Ben is feeling so crappy? 
Which word pair would best describe Cody's reaction to learning about Ben's illness? 
Ben decided not to pursue traditional treatment for his illness, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been doing anything to help himself. He has been using some alternative treatments, which you can read more about on the website below. (This annotation contains a link)
Which of the following is NOT a reason Rudy committed suicide? 


Peyote is a small cactus. It can be used as an illegal recreational drug that causes hallucinations similar to LSD. (This annotation contains an image)
What does Ben mean when he says, "Just because I don't have lots of time doesn't mean there isn't lots of time"? 


The common racial slur used in terms of African-American people is often now just referred to as "the n-word." Its use is controversial. Watch the short video below to hear two opposing views from two very famous people -- Oprah Winfrey and Jay-Z -- on use of this word. (This annotation contains a link)
Re-read the highlighted text then decide which of the following themes could be used based on this paragraph as it represents the book thus far. 
What does Ben think is the purpose of education? 
"Non sequitur" means a conclusion or statement that does not follow from the previously made statement. Why does Ben feel like he needs to "reintroduce Lambeer" to this term? 
Why does Cody think Ben's death is funny at this moment? Explain your answer thoroughly using details from the text. 


Why is Sooner's death so sad to everyone even though he wasn't very well liked? 


Here is the scene from Dumbo that Ben is referring to. What does this have to do with him and Cody? (This annotation contains a video)
What is Mr. Cowans really apologizing for? 


What did Ben probably mean by saying that dying wasn't for sissies? 
Here is the song Ben has mentioned more than once in the novel, sung by Ann Savoy and Linda Ronstadt. (This annotation contains a video)
Review Chapter 17 - Epilogue 
For the last few pages of the book, the point of view changes to third person. Why?