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When Marcus moves to a new town in the dead of summer, he doesn't know a soul. While practicing football for impending tryouts, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with an older man. Charlie is a charismatic prankster—and the best football player Marcus has ever seen. He can't believe his good luck when he finds out that Charlie is actually Charlie Popovich, or "the King of Pop," as he had been nicknamed during his career as an NFL linebacker. But that's not all. There is a secret about Charlie that his family is desperate to hide.

When Marcus begins school, he meets the starting quarterback on the team: Troy Popovich. Right from the beginning, Marcus and Troy disagree—about football, about Troy's ex-girlfriend, Alyssa, but most of all about what's good for Charlie. Marcus is betting that he knows what's best for the King of Pop. And he is willing to risk everything to help his friend.

Curriculet Details
69 Questions
58 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in 8th grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining literary devices like point of view, allusion, and irony. The subject matter of frequent concussions and a possible link to Alzheimer's disease is also examined through annotations and video. Other interactive videos explore the types of conflict, elements of plot, and making inferences and predictions. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of conflict, character, and plot. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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Chapter One

The Twilight Zone was a television series created by science fiction writer Rod Sterling. The series was really just a collection of unrelated sci-fi, horror, thriller, and mystery and suspense stories. It was hugely popular in America during the 60s. The stories always had either an element of surprise, a plot twist, or something eerie and strange. So when the narrator makes this reference, it implies that the main character may think of this place as very weird and different, like he's "just entered a different dimension." Click below to see the opening theme for the The Twilight Zone.  (This annotation contains a video)
This part of the plot is called the exposition, where the reader is introduced to the characters, setting, and any important background information. What two things have we learned about Marcus Jordan so far? 
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)
To show how powerful this throw is, the writer uses figurative language. Which type is used in this sentence? 
Do you think this has something to do with the title? 
What can you infer the expression "textbook hit" means here? 
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?  
Hyperbole is a type of figurative language where the writer uses exaggeration to make a point. This sentence is a good example of hyperbole. Watch the video for a further look at hyperbole and its uses.  (This annotation contains a video)
Has your impression of Charlie changed with this last event? Explain. 

Chapter Two

This chapter has already given us a lot more background information. We now know that Marcus is sixteen years old. His mother will be working for the local newspaper, and she's writing a book about megalithic boulders. We also know that so far this novel is set in a town called Kennesaw in New York state. The time period is clearly present day. Can you think of a few details that reveal the time period? 
Joseph Stalin was a Communist leader of the Soviet Union from the mid 1920s until his death in 1953. Under his harsh regime millions of people in Russia were starved, imprisoned, or killed. What qualities of his dad does Marcus reveal by calling him "Stalin"? 
This is a bit of an exaggeration, isn't it? What type of figurative language does this sentence contain? 
It seems Marcus is encountering his first major conflict in this novel. Since he is the "new kid," he must struggle to be accepted and find his place. Trying to join an undefeated football team with no openings is a tough challenge, and it seems to be the event that will really get this story going. Watch the following video on the many different types of conflicts. Then see if you can correctly label the type of conflict Marcus is now experiencing.  (This annotation contains a video)
Most readers can infer from this scene that not only is the "cheerleader" trying to annoy Troy, but that she also will be an important character perhaps to Marcus. Making inferences is what strong readers do all the time. They use the clues in the text, their understanding of the text, and their background knowledge to draw conclusions. Watch this short video about making inferences.  (This annotation contains a video)
Can you make an inference here? What are the other players doing to Marcus? 
So we know now that Marcus left a note on the car. We can assume the note explained to the owner that Marcus was responsible and how he could be reached. What quality does this action reveal about Marcus? 
In your own words, explain what the coach is telling Marcus here. 
Alyssa is using a play on words. A "Harley Davidson" is a famous brand of motorcycle. Clearly, she's making fun of Marcus' Vespa. Below is a picture of a Vespa.  (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter Three

What is Marcus afraid of? 
An allusion is a literary device where the writer makes a reference to something well known in history, literature, art, or culture, and uses the reference to make a point about something else. The writer doesn't explain the reference because he expects the reader to understand and make the connection. Here, the allusions to Mozart, a famous musician, and Edison, a famous inventor, show how naturally talented Charlie is at football. 
Charlie is a man who is around fifty years old. List several details from what you've read so far that seem to contradict his age. 
What can you infer about Charlie from this sentence? 

Chapter Four

Lepers are people who suffer from the infectious and contagious disease of leprosy. Leprosy can cause dramatic dis- figuration and many people who contract this disease are avoided by society to the extent that special leper colonies are created for them to live among themselves. So the metaphor used here shows that Marcus is ignored and completely abandoned by his teammates. Below is a picture of members of leper colony.  (This annotation contains an image)
What has changed for Marcus as far as tackling is concerned? 
Does something bother you about Charlie? Do you think something is wrong with him? Explain your thinking. 
By this point in the novel, you've probably realized that we have a third-person narrator. This narrator so far only lets us know what Marcus is thinking. Watch the video on the different types of point of view. Soon we should be able to determine if we have a limited or omniscient third-person narrator.  (This annotation contains a video)
It seems the third-person narrator has changed focus and is no longer just following the main character, Marcus Jordan. We've also just discovered that Charlie has children: fifteen-year old Chelsea and a son named Troy. Could this be the same Troy from the football team? 
Read this sentence again. Chelsea calls the dog Silky. What does that tell us? 

Chapter Five

What type of conflict would you call what just happened with the girls? 
Charlie keeps getting names wrong. Do you have any predictions about what's going on? 
What do you think Charlie plans on doing? 
What is odd about Charlie doing this prank? 

Chapter Six

Mrs. Jordan is referring to the famous character Rip Van Winkle, a lazy man who falls asleep for one-hundred years. What is this literary device called? 
Remember, Marcus refers to his father as Comrade Stalin, a past leader of the Soviet Union. The Kremlin is a famous enclosed complex in Moscow from which the government operates.  (This annotation contains an image)
What is the writer's main purpose in this paragraph? 
How do you think Troy would feel if he knew his dad was working so hard with Marcus to improve his game? 

Chapter Seven

What two details about Charlie mentioned in this newspaper article will Marcus immediately recognize? 
The narrator in this novel tells us the thoughts of only one character, Marcus Jordan. What do you call that type of point of view? 
Is something starting to change for Marcus? Explain using details from the description of this day's practice. 
What is an unexpected trait about Alyssa? 
This is important information: Something has changed between Troy and his dad. They used to be close, according to Alyssa. 
Which literary device does the writer use at the very end of this chapter? 

Chapter Eight

The writer uses italics to indicate what? 

Chapter Nine

Marcus can't quite figure out what is going on with Charlie. In fact, neither can we as the reader. This is why in most fiction readers feel compelled to keep reading to find out what happens. Ever hear the expression "the plot thickens"? This is the part of the plot where complications keep piling up and readers come along for the ride. Watch this video on the elements of plot and figure out which part makes up the bulk of a novel.  (This annotation contains a video)
What has deepened the conflict between Troy and Marcus? 

Chapter Ten

If a player loves to tackle, what might be some negative side effects? 
Use the Define feature on the word "dubious." Which of the following words is an antonym (opposite in meaning)? 
Have you ever broken or dislocated a bone or been around someone who has? Making connections to the story comes naturally to strong readers. 
The description of the collage and the fact that Troy still takes it out every day to look at shows what about him? 
Let's try to make a prediction about what is wrong with Charlie from what we know so far: 1. He played pro football for many years and loved to hit. 2. He frequently forgets names and loses track of time. 3. He acts like a teenager. 4. His family is worried about him. 5. His family doesn't want him to drive. Watch this video about making predictions and then make an educated guess about Charlie's condition.  (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter Eleven

Quiz #1 
Vince Lombardi is a famous football coach. This is another example of which literary device? 
Explain why the writer uses the term "McMansions." In your own words, what is he trying to say about the newer neighborhoods in contrast to Seneca Hill? 
Explain why both Ron and Luke are worried because Marcus is at the party. 
Why do you think Troy is so angry? 
Where do you think Charlie might be? 

Chapter Twelve

Explain how this novel would be different if all along the third-person narrator told us Charlie's thoughts, too. 
Isn't it odd that Charlie can't remember recent events, but seems to remember his childhood easily? 
A concussion is a type of brain injury where the brain is literally shaken against the skull by a hard hit to the head. Even though football players wear helmets, they suffer many concussions if they play often. 
This sentence conveys how worried Marcus is about Charlie. Which literary device is used to show how great this worry is? 
Here is a picture of the Gunks in New York.  (This annotation contains an image)
Do you think Marcus should tell Officer Deluca and his mother about Charlie? 

Chapter Thirteen

Listen to this video as it explains why NFL players are at higher risk for Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's disease. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on this passage, how does Chelsea feel about football? 
Even though Marcus loves football and really wants to be quarterback, he's not going to badmouth one of his teammates. What quality does this reveal about Marcus? 
Just in case you haven't ever seen a bobblehead... here's one.  (This annotation contains an image)
Do you think Marcus should try and get in touch with James McTavish?  

Chapter Fourteen

What can we infer are Alyssa's true motives from this sentence? 
Most stories follow a typical plot pattern. As readers we are still in suspense as to what will happen with Marcus and Charlie. Next it seems that Marcus will try to find James and talk to him. What part of the plot are we currently reading in this novel right now? 

Chapter Fifteen

CPA stands for a Certified Public Accountant. Accountants deal with money and finances. 
Which type of figurative language is used here? 
Having your "bell rung" or getting "dinged" is a phrase coaches use to describe what we now know are concussions. Research in recent years has proved how serious repeat concussions can be for players and how they believe they can lead to serious brain conditions later in life. 
St. Bonaventure is a private university in Buffalo, New York.  (This annotation contains an image)
Read this paragraph again. In your own words, explain what Mac is saying about Charlie. 

Chapter Sixteen

What is Troy upset about? 
Use the Define feature to look up the word "prowess." Which of the following words could replace it and still keep the same meaning? 
This is another allusion to a classic Western movie starring Gary Cooper.  (This annotation contains an image)
Pit vipers are a very poisonous group of snakes that will strike if cornered or threatened. What type of figurative language is this comparison? 
Explain what you think Chelsea may be worried or frightened about. 
The prefix "syn" means together. The root "chron" means time. So synchronized means "at the same time." Below is a picture of a pair of synchronized swimmers.  (This annotation contains an image)
Mrs. Popovich loves her husband and has been in denial about the seriousness of his condition. Read the most common warning signs of Alzheimer's disease: Memory loss; Difficulty performing familiar tasks; Problem with words or language; Confusion with times and places; Poor or decreased judgement; Misplacing things; and Change in mood or personality. Do these things sound like Charlie?  
Knowing that the induction ceremony is on the same day as the big game, do you have a prediction about what may happen? 

Chapter Seventeen

It is "ironic" that Charlie is so connected to the sculpture Remembrance when he is losing his memory and living in the past. Irony is when something is opposite of what you would expect. 
Many people who suffer from Alzheimer's wander off and get lost because they cannot remember how to get back home. Watch this inspiring video about a teenager who has invented a device to detect when a patient with Alzheimer's wanders off.  (This annotation contains a link)
The writer seems to have a message about the physical toll the sport of football takes on a body. Think about this for a few minutes. Do you think if an athlete is talented he should continue playing football for an extended time? 
Read the poem "It was Blood and Gore" by Maurice Yvonne. Then answer the question that follows.It was war, blood and gore. One by one they lined up and took their designated places. They stood across from one another with their war faces. Battles are dark, I wear the mark. The General yelled for ammunition. Loaded and released without hesitation.  His aim is sure, But less than pure. The wounded are removed from the field. Both sides are determined and neither yield. Young Teenage boys, Playing with toys. One side will win this hard fought battle. Bodies will fall and treated like cattle.  Children maimed, No one blamed. The winners get one point for their effort But both teams leave covered in dirt.  Except for one youngster, Decides he's no soldier. Even in the worse of instincts lays hope Not every man smokes violence like dope. Our folly continues, With few breakthroughs. Playing high school football can be futile So many young boys lie on a broken pile. That is the crime, Cut in their prime. One boy will be forever called wimp,As he bravely leaves with a life-long limp. Just like war Blood and goreBoth the novel and the poem seem to focus on what aspect about football? 

Chapter Eighteen

The root "chron" refers to time. Remember "synchronize" means at the same time. "Chronic" pain means it occurs over and over again in time. Most stories, like this one, are are told in "chronological" order, meaning in the time order at which they occur. So any word you see that contains "chron" will have something to do with time.  (This annotation contains an image)
Because people with Alzheimer's have very little short-term memory, those who care for them must tell them the same thing over and over again. 

Chapter Nineteen

What effect does Charlie's being off schedule on this important morning create for the reader? 
Explain why Charlie is confused here. 
Explain how the "hawk" incident relates to the Charlie that Marcus knows. Be sure to use specific events from the story. 
Could you predict that something like this would happen? 

Chapter Twenty

One of the best things about reading is that you can learn a lot about different people, places, ideas, and experiences in the world-- all while enjoying a great story. List three things you've learned about Alzheimer's disease from this novel. 
Below is the melody and words of EBU's fight song.  (This annotation contains a video)
Do you think Marcus should call Mrs. Popovich and let her know that he is with Charlie and he's okay? Explain your answer. 

Chapter Twenty-One

Quiz #2 
Use the Define feature on the word "anomaly." Then choose the best word below that could replace anomaly without changing the meaning of the sentence. 
What is Chelsea now realizing? 
Do you think Marcus is doing something wrong and should be punished for it? Explain your answer. 

Chapter Twenty-Two

Writers use descriptive words to help readers visualize. They also further develop their characters with descriptive language. We know Charlie was a football hero in his youth. What words from these sentences help reaffirm that positive opinion of Charlie? 
What is surprising about Charlie's speech to the crowd? 
Explain why you think Charlie was "the way he used to be" for the few minutes during the ceremony. 
Have you ever been to a college football game? Most of the fans wear the school colors. Look at this picture. Could you find a man in red?  (This annotation contains an image)
Use the Define feature on the word "hypothermia." The prefix hypo means below or low. So hypothermia means that your body temperature (therm) is low or below normal. A hypodermic needle is a needle that goes below the skin (dermis). 

Chapter Twenty-Three

Based on what Troy says here, what bothers him about his father's condition? 
Do you think what Chelsea says here helps develop the theme of this novel? Think about it. 
Can you predict why Officer Deluca wants Marcus to hurry and get into his car? 
Officer Deluca means that the second perfect season may be slipping away from them. This highlighted sentence is an example of which type of figurative language? 
Use the Define feature on the word "blanched." You don't see this word too often. It shows that Marcus is feeling which of the following? 
What part of the plot do you sense approaching? Explain why. 

Chapter Twenty-Four

A "Hail Mary" is an expression used to describe a long, forward pass that is a "desperation" play and has little chance of success. It is usually executed either at the end of a half or the end of the game. 
What do you predict Marcus' injury will be? 

Chapter Twenty-Five

Putting Marcus back into the game after a hard hit to the head is exactly what should NOT be done. It is extremely dangerous to get hit in the head again if you have a concussion. 
Who do you think Troy is really doing this for? 

Chapter Twenty-Six

Explain how what the doctor is telling Marcus is relevant to this story. 
Football coaches teach players to keep their center of gravity (which is usually located around their navel) close to the ground. This makes it harder for the player to be spun around or knocked down in a tackle. Look at the picture for a typical stance in football. After all of those grueling workouts in the park with Charlie, Marcus has an excellent sense of balance.  (This annotation contains an image)
List three conflicts that Marcus faces in this novel that have been resolved at this point. 
This is a very emotional scene in the story. When we care about the characters in a novel, it means that the writer has done a good job developing them. 

Chapter Twenty-Seven

This is a metaphor. Who are coaches' "field generals"? 
From this passage what can you infer Charlie is feeling? 
Can you sense that the climax of the novel is approaching? 
Writers don't have paints or cameras to create an image. They just have words. Therefore, word choice is extremely important to a writer. Can you see this image even without the picture? Look at this hawk; it truly is a "majestic" bird.  (This annotation contains an image)
What can we infer this means? How did Charlie look onstage at the Hall of Fame Ceremony? 

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Do you really think the town did not suspect something was wrong with Charlie? Consider all the times he grabbed things from stores and left without paying. Later his wife would come in and pay. Famous people don't do that. Questioning a novel's plot is a sign of a strong reader. 
What does Marcus know that perhaps no one else but Charlie knows? 
Do you have a prediction here? 
In you own words, explain what is so admirable about Charlie. What message or theme is the writer creating through his character? 
Hopefully, you recognize this sentence as symbolic: "...the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds, and the rain seemed to be gone for good." Think about what it suggests for Marcus and the other characters in this novel. 
Read on for an interview with the author. 
Quiz #3