Alligator Bayou

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Talullah, Louisiana. 1899. Calogero, his uncles, and cousins are six Sicilian men living in the small town of Tallulah, Louisiana. They work hard, growing vegetables and selling them at their stand and in their grocery store. To 14-year-old Calogero, newly arrived from Sicily, Tallulah is a lush world full of contradictions, hidden rules, and tension between the Negro and white communities. He's startled and thrilled by the danger of a 'gator hunt in the midnight bayou, and by his powerful feelings for Patricia, a sharpwitted, sweet-natured Negro girl. Some people welcome the Sicilians. Most do not. Calogero's family is caught in the middle: the whites don't see them as equal, but befriending Negroes is dangerous. Every day brings Calogero and his family closer to a a terrifying, violent confrontation. From the Hardcover edition.
Curriculet Details
70 Questions
90 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This free digital curriculum for middle school students contains interactive videos exploring the elements of plot and characterization as well as annotations describing point of view, historical fiction, and the different types of conflict. Students will explore the themes of intolerance and racism. 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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Chapter One

There are several things you may have picked up from these first three paragraphs. This novel has a first person narrator. We know that because the pronoun "I" is used. We also know that the narrator use to live in Sicily, but is now in Louisiana. He is proud that he speaks English and works. Watch the video on point of view and think about how this novel might begin if it was in a different point of view.  (This annotation contains a video)
This novel is based on the true story of a family of immigrants in Louisiana in 1899. Our narrator is fourteen and comes from Sicily. Sicily is a large island right at the tip of Italy. Look at the map below to see its location.  (This annotation contains an image)
A slaughterhouse is where animals are killed for meat. The fact that this slaughterhouse is in the woods at the edge of town makes it even more sinister. 
Cougars are sometimes called panthers or mountain lions.  (This annotation contains an image)
You've just been given a lot of background information about the main character. He lives with Cirone who is close to his age and Cirone's brother Rosario. There are also Francesco, Carlo, and Guiseppe. All are from Sicily. We also found out that Calo, our narrator, lost his mother, but has a younger brother back in Sicily. 
This part of the plot so far in this novel is called the exposition. We are being introduced to the main characters, the setting, and getting some background information. Plot typically follows a pattern in most novels. Watch this video to review the different parts of plot. Keep these in mind as we read.  (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter Two

Tallulah is a city in Louisiana. This is the setting at the beginning of the novel. 
This paragraph gives important details about the time period of this novel. Can you make an educated guess? 
What advice is Carlo giving to Francesco? 
The Mafia is a name for an Italian organized crime group. They conduct business on the black market, steal, bribe police and officials, and intimidate other businesses until they get their way. The Mafia is known for its violence and code of silence (omerta) among members. Although there are many different groups worldwide who consider themselves mafioso, the term and original organization began in Sicily. 
Which word best describes what we know about Willy Rogers? 
There is an important term just mentioned that gives readers another clue about the time period in America of this novel. What is it? 
Francesco is ______________ while Carlo is __________________. 
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up? 
Racism seems to be an emerging theme in this novel. The main characters are dealing with prejudice and stereotypes of Sicilians. They are living in a town that is extremely racist towards African Americans. Watch the video below about emerging themes in literature. Keep this theme in mind as you read and notice how it is further developed.  (This annotation contains a video)
Frank Raymond must be Calo's tutor. He is probably teaching him English as well as teaching him about the culture of America. 
This sentence is a metaphor, suggesting that because people often look out of their windows to see what is going on, that windows are eyes. The writer uses a great deal of figurative language. Figurative language is found in all types of writing. It helps readers understand things, events, and people in unique ways. It's important to be able to recognize the different types of figurative language. Watch this video for a review and see how many you already know.  (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter Three

Broken English means poorly spoken English. Most foreigners speak broken English until they have had a lot of practice. 
Calo says he feels like he "swallowed sand." What can you infer from this sentence? 
List two things Mrs. Rogers says that show she is prejudiced against Calo and other Sicilians. 

Chapter Four

Patricia is African American and Calo is Sicilian. What do these two characters have in common? 
Catholicism is the primary religion of Sicily. 
What do these boys have against Calo? 
Alligator meat tastes something like chicken or fish. Most of the meat is taken from the tail. Why do you think Patricia's family eats alligator meat? 
An invitation to go gator hunting could be viewed as a threat... or a challenge. 

Chapter Five

Pappardelle is long, thick pasta. (This annotation contains an image)
People in the South used to eat possum. Some still do.  (This annotation contains an image)
Most Europeans eat dinner later than Americans. Have you noticed anything else different about the family's dinner? 
Francesco is telling Joe that people like Willy Rogers want to keep immigrants like himself and his brothers, as well as ___________________ like Joe, poor and dependent on white people. 
The swamps of Louisiana are home to many alligators. Alligators can live around seventy years and grow to be fourteen feet long.  (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following words best describes how Francesco is feeling here? 

Chapter Six

Decoration Day is the holiday we now call Memorial Day, a day to remember those Americans who died fighting for our country. 
To show how large the courthouse is, the writer uses which type of figurative language here? 
Because this novel is based on a true story it belongs to the genre of historical fiction. Watch this video on historical fiction. What are some historical facts you've learned from this book. (This annotation contains a video)
What is Calo realizing here? 
Because the alligator population in the southern United States has flourished in the past few decades, it is legal to hunt them during certain times. Hunters are limited to one gator per hunting trip, and hunting almost always goes on at night.  

Chapter Seven

The cathedral in the picture below shows two features that Calo remembers about the cathedral in Cefalu. What are they? 
What important historical fact is relayed in this first paragraph? 
In an effort to prevent minorities from voting, legislators in Louisiana passed voting laws that required literacy tests and property ownership. Legislators knew this would eliminate most African Americans and Sicilians. However, it also eliminated some poor, uneducated whites, so they added what they called the "Grandfather Clause." If you had a father or grandfather who was registered to vote, then you could too. None of the African Americans or Sicilians in 1867 would have had a father or grandfather who voted. 
Think of the questions Calo has for Frank Raymond. What do they all have in common? 

Chapter Eight

This is a picture of a steamboat on the Mississippi River. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the description, what nationality is Joseph? 
One of the main conflicts so far in this novel involves prejudice and racism. This conflict would be considered "man vs. society." Watch the video about the different types of conflict that occur in fiction. Are there any other types present in this story?  (This annotation contains a video)
Yellow Fever is a infectious virus spread to others by mosquitoes. It began in Africa and spread through the slave trade. The disease killed many before a vaccine was developed. 
Making pottery with clay takes time and patience. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Frank Raymond bring Calo to visit Joseph? 

Chapter Nine

Quiz #1 
Cottonmouth snakes get their name because the insides of their mouth is white. They are poisonous and very common in the southern United States, especially in swampy regions.  (This annotation contains an image)
This is a picture of canebrakes. (This annotation contains an image)
Pizza was originally made in Naples, Italy, not all over Italy as many would believe. 
In this picture of a Louisiana swamp, you can see the Spanish moss hanging from the cypress trees. The moss must be what Calo refers to as "gauze." (This annotation contains an image)
Below is an alligator nest.  (This annotation contains an image)
List three things Calo and Cirone have learned on this hunting trip about Louisiana and its culture. 
Look at the cover of one publication of the novel Alligator Bayou. It is Calo in the swamp. He's in a boat with a lantern and a pole.  (This annotation contains an image)
This is an alligator eye. At night, you can see only the alligators' eyes shining in the water. (This annotation contains an image)
San Giuseppe is Saint Joseph, the patron saint of workers in Catholicism.  (This annotation contains an image)
What is the main conflict for Calo and Cirone on this night in the swamp? 
This is an idiomatic expression Rock uses to suggest that Ben is useless. Think about it. Why would a milk bucket under a bull be useless? 
What will Ben and Rock sell from the gator? 

Chapter Ten

Praying to the saints to intervene during times of trouble is a historic part of the Catholic church. You've probably noticed that Calo and Cirone often call on the divine help of different saints. 
Which of the following are dangers of the swamp? 
Which type of figurative language is used here to describe the swamp? 
"I understand that. A man who has to bow too low never gets up again." Which character trait is Francesco referencing?  
Which of the following does Calo not receive as punishment? 

Chapter Eleven

Why do Ben, Rock, and Charles go gator hunting? 
Salting and smoking meat have both been used for centuries to preserve meat. 
Think about the following: how many students today have to work several hours before and after school? Do you think Charles appreciates his education? 
What do you think Calo made that he is referring to? 
Why is Mr. Coleman so angry? 
What two things is Mr. Coleman accusing Francesco and Calo of doing? 
Which of the following words best describe Francesco in this last event? 

Chapter Twelve

Should Calo be going off alone without asking permission? 
Why does Calo want the pot he made? 
In folklore, cultures have stories that explain things in nature such as why there are seasons and how people were created. All tribes of Native American culture are also closely tied to nature. They believe man must live in harmony with the natural world. (This annotation contains an image)
Click on the link below and listen to the Native American Myth. Then answer the following question: What event in nature does the myth explain? 
Joseph's childhood story reflects which social conflict? 
Explain what you think Joseph means here. 
Use the Define feature to look up the word "glower." Which of the following words could replace glower and still keep the same meaning? 

Chapter Thirteen

Pasticcia rustica is a type of Italian pie made with cheeses, meats, and vegetables.  (This annotation contains an image)
Explain in your own words what important conflict Francesco, Rosario, Giuseppe, and Carlo are overcoming here. 
We can tell by the way Calo describes Patricia how much he likes her.  
The graduation party is an important event in this novel because it represents a mixing of cultures. Patricia and Ben's family and friends represent the African American culture and Calo and his cousins and uncles represent the Sicilian culture. They sample each other's food, but more importantly, they come together to celebrate and enjoy each other. Overcoming racial barriers is an ever-present theme in this novel. 
What does Calo regret not saying to Patricia? 

Chapter Fourteen

Limoncello is a Italian liquor that is made with fresh lemons, sugar, and vodka. (This annotation contains an image)
A tenant farmer is a farmer who works someone else's land and part of his pay is a shack to live in on the land. The shack Patricia lives in may look like the one below.  (This annotation contains an image)
What do we already know about this? How does Dr. Hodge feel about the goats on his porch? 
What does Patricia mean here? 
This is good life advice for every student. In your own words, explain what Patricia's teacher means here? 
We've known since the beginning of the novel that Calo has a crush on Patricia. Now they are "hand in hand." What theme does this first love help develop? 
This sounds like it could be important. It has multiple meanings, doesn't it? Explain what you think Patricia's mother means when she says this. 
What is Calo feeling here? 
Here the writer is following a really happy scene with anger and the threat of danger. Which line most strongly predicts that another conflict is coming? 

Chapter Fifteen

You can tell these boys are just repeating what they've heard from white adults or their parents. They are afraid the Sicilians will sell things cheaper and run the white owned stores out of business. They also don't want the Sicilians and the African Americans to be friends because they are afraid they will join forces and fight together for better treatment. 
Lila is an African American and she works for Mrs. Rogers. Which word best describes her actions here? 
It's should be clear to you that Calo is the main character, or protagonist, of this novel. But who is the antagonist? Is it one person or many? Watch this video about protagonists and antagonists. Try to determine who the real antagonist of this novel is.  (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter Sixteen

This is a tough issue for parents: How much of the real world should they allow their child to know? Do you believe Calo and Cirone, although both young, should know about a violent incident against other Italians? 
Keep in mind that Calo doesn't tell anyone about the incident with Dr. Hodge. He also doesn't tell his uncles that the boys were angry that the Italians attended Patricia's party. Calo tries to avoid trouble.  
This is a true story. The lynching of 11 Italians in New Orleans in 1891 was the largest mob lynching in U.S. history. 
So now we know that Francesco, Carlo, Rosario and the others came to Tallulah because they were running from what happened in New Orleans. They hoped they could make a new start. This explains why Francesco tries so hard to make friends and get along with everyone. 
It's hard to believe now that a law could be passed that forbids one group of people from mixing and befriending another group of people. 
Why do the men decide to try and forget about this incident and "let this pass"? 
Quiz #2 

Chapter Seventeen

This shows that Francesco knows that telling the ladies directly about the limoncello would be offensive and insulting to them. But he also knows that they may buy some if they "overhear" it. Francesco is a very smart businessman.  
What does this act reveal about Calo? 
Which phrase reveals Mr. Johnson's racism? 
Why do you think this woman asks Calo if anyone saw them come up to the house? 
She must be referring to whipped cream or meringue, but it sure doesn't sound good using the phrase "calf slobbers." 
Here Mr. Wilson is insulting Francesco and his family based on what? 
America's economy has always been based on the system of capitalism. This means that companies may compete in the free market. This drives businesses to be competitive with one another. So the business that has the best product with the best price will probably get the most customers. Do you think Francesco's business practices are "dirty" like Mr. Wilson claims? 
It is true that you must have a liquor license to sell alcohol. The limoncello is an alcoholic beverage. 

Chapter Eighteen

Santa Rosalia is a patron saint of Italy and was a devout Catholic. Below is a statue of Santa Rosalia.  (This annotation contains an image)
Do you sense that the climax of this novel is approaching? What part of the plot builds suspense that leads to the climax? 
Explain if you think Cirone and Calo's new resolve to try and be more American is wise. Is there another option? 

Chapter Nineteen

Remember Calo read about Dago Joe being lynched by a crowd without a trial. The paper mentioned his "low" birth because his father was a Sicilian and his mother was African American. Many people who are racist are strongly against any kind of interracial relationships between men and women. 
Which of the following words best describes Patricia? 
Patricia uses a lot of Southern, idiomatic expressions. What does this sentence mean about Mr. Coleman? 
You should be able to tell that Patricia enjoys learning about the world around her. Will she be returning to school in the fall? 

Chapter Twenty

Notice that every time Calo sees something he likes, he wishes he could buy it for someone he cares about, not for himself. This gives us more evidence that Calo has a big heart. Writers continue to develop their characters, especially the protagonist, throughout a book. Watch this video on characterization. Then try to notice each time a character does or says something to see if it further develops that character.  (This annotation contains a video)
Remember, this is what Mr. Wilson called making "ar-range-ments." He said that's the only way African Americans do business. Mr. Wilson was implying that this type of business arrangement, like bartering, is somehow bad. What do you think? Does this make for smart business? 
Many immigrants could not afford to bring their entire families over to America. It was also a big risk to do so. In many families, a man would come over and try to start a life. Once he had a good job and a place to live and money, then he would send for his family members. Remember, this is what Calo's father did. He came to America by himself, but then Calo and his mother never heard from him again. 
Maybe to Beppe it is better to be happy and honest with who he is than to be safe. 
This is the first time we've heard Calo's last name. 
Perhaps this area, Tangipahoa Parish, would be a safer place for Calo and his uncles and cousin. 
Do you think this is true? Think about some of the conflicts in this novel. If everyone traveled a lot, would that help solve any of these? Explain your answer. 

Chapter Twenty-One

A mink is a predatory animal similar to a weasel.  (This annotation contains an image)
Do you think Miss Clarrie, even though she's white, also suffers from the prejudice of the times? Could her character further develop the theme in this novel? 
Here is a picture of a conductor's lantern. (This annotation contains an image)
This sentence shows how comfortable Patricia and Calo feel around one another. Which type of figurative language is used? 

Chapter Twenty-Two

This is another example of a white character in the novel being affected by the racism and prejudice of the times. Many white people who were racist against African Americans and foreigners, shunned any whites who did not share their racism. 
This is a metaphor. What is Louisiana's disease? 
This is a picture of a surrey. People who had money rode in these. (This annotation contains an image)
What does Frank Raymond means when he calls Calo a genius? 
Jim Crow laws ensured that African Americans would remain separate from whites in all public facilities. Watch this video about the history of Jim Crow laws.  (This annotation contains a video)
Explain what is happening here. 
This is a picture of a steamship. (This annotation contains an image)
Who else in this novel advises Calo to travel as much as he can in life? 

Chapter Twenty-Three

Below is a picture of a loggerhead turtle. (This annotation contains an image)
Who has Calo been paying more attention to? 
The Pope is the head of the Catholic church. He lives in Rome. Below is a picture of Pope Leo XIII.  (This annotation contains an image)
Explain what you know about religion and education. Think of the difference between today's public schools and private schools. 
In Italy many minors drink wine with dinner. It is part of their culture. 

Chapter Twenty-Four

What has happened to the goats? 
Dr. Hodge expects Francesco's reaction will be one of 
What does Dr. Hodge call Calo and his uncles that night Bedda follows Calo into town? 
Remember, earlier Dr. Hodge told Francesco he thought he might come at him with a stiletto (knife). 
Joe Evans is the African American who often works for Francesco. He also works for Dr. Hodge. 
Do you remember how the novel opened with Calo and Cirone going to the slaughterhouse in the woods? 
Do you think that what happened is because Calo forgot to tie up Bedda? Explain your answer. 
Do you have a prediction of where Calo may go to hide? 

Chapter Twenty-Five

Think about what a slaughterhouse is used for. Explain why the writer has the climax of this novel take place in a slaughterhouse. 
This is so sad. We know, too, how often Carlo has made a sign of the cross when things get bad. We know how religious he is, and we know how he has always tried to avoid violence throughout this novel. It's because we know these things that we feel sympathy for Carlo now. 
Earlier in the novel, after bullies attacked Calo and Cirone, Giuseppe says, "We must stop this... or it will be New Orleans all over again." How has this statement come true?  
Why do you think Ben and Rock rip Calo's shirt and tie each half around their ankles? 

Chapter Twenty-Six

Notice how many of these sentences are short? This helps build suspense. Most readers will read through this section fast to see what happens. 
Damselflies are like dragonflies. One difference is that when damselflies rest, their wings are behind them in a vertical line; whereas, dragonflies' wings are horizontal at rest.  (This annotation contains an image)
Explain what Calo has done that shows that he, like Joseph, is unafraid of bullies and people who are racist. 
Joseph says the Tunica tribe helps orphans. How are immigrants in America like orphans? 
Do you remember how Giuseppe talked about true miracles? He said that raising the dead was a miracle.  
Joseph wants Calo to remember all the good people in life. There will always be bad, but you must focus on the good. This is an important lesson for all of us. 
Baton Rouge is the capital city of Louisiana. 
The river sounds like it could be a metaphor for life: It twists and turns and there are dangers along the way. 
Be sure to read the Afterward for the story behind this novel. 
Quiz #3