Mike Costa has lived his whole life in The Strip, Pittsburgh's warehouse and factory district. His father's large Italian family runs a food wholesale business, and Mike is used to the sounds and smells of men working all night to unload the trains that feed the city. But it's 1933, and the Depression is bringing tough times to everyone. Money problems only add to Mike's worries about his beloved grandfather, who is getting forgetful and confused. Mike is being tormented at school by a loud-mouth named Andy Simms, who calls Mike "Macaroni Boy." But when dead rats start appearing in the streets, that name changes to "Rat Boy." Around the same time Mike notices that his grandfather is also physically sick. Can whatever is killing the rats be hurting Mike's grandfather? It's a mystery Mike urgently needs to solve in this atmospheric, fast-paced story filled with vibrant period detail. From the Hardcover edition.
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Chapter 1 - Macaroni Boy
Macaroni Boy is the story of Mike Costa, a boy whose family's food business faces hard times during the Great Depression. To make matters worse, Mike is being bullied at school, and his beloved Grandfather is becoming increasingly ill. Are you familiar with the events of the Great Depression? As you read, you will learn more about it.
Which of the following describes the relationship between Mike and Andy?
Pay attention to the highlighted passage because it reveals important information about the Great Depression.
Grandpap is often __________.
Chapter 2 - Out the Window
This story takes place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania along the Allegheny River. The Allegheny rises in Pennsylvania and flows north into New York, and south into Pennsylvania again joining with the Monongahela River in the middle of Pittsburgh. The image below shows what Pittsburgh looked like in 1933. (This annotation contains an image)
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?
Explain why Mike dislikes Andy and how their hostile interactions began.
Chapter 3 - The Carcass
As you read, think about the meaning of words and phrases in the text. For example, do you know the meaning of the highlighted phrase, "Another day, another dollar?" In addition to literal language, you will also see examples of figurative language in the text, such as metaphors and similes. The following video will explain how to distinguish between similes and metaphors. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following is an unusual occurrence during Mike's morning routine?
Chapter 4 - Rat Boy
Read the definitions for the highlighted words, "hobos" and "shantytown." The following image shows a shantytown during the Depression. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Andy tease Mike by calling him "Macaroni Boy"?
Chapter 5 - Klavon's
Mike and Joseph are fortunate that they are able to afford to buy ice cream during the Great Depression. Since their families have steady jobs, they are not starving like many others during this time. Watch the following video to learn more about the hardships of the Great Depression. (This annotation contains a video)
What does Mike learn about Grandpap while listening to Grandpap's conversation with Mr. Klavon?
Chapter 6 - Fish Don't Argue Back
Grandpap's behavior indicates that he likely has dementia, which is a condition that was not yet recognized in the 1930's. "Dementia" means that when people get older, some may start to have a problem with their brains. This problem means that they can't remember things and they get confused. It's like when you first wake up in the morning and you're not sure where you are or what day it is. People with dementia feel that way often.
Explain how Grandpap's history of wise money handling has prevented the Costa family from going broke during the Depression.
Chapter 7 - Empty Traps and Dead Rats
Why is the Costa family concerned about the closing of Sal's grocery store?
The highlighted passage is important because it reveals how the Costa family has some financial security during tough economic times. Do you think they will continue to have enough food and coal? Make a prediction.
Chapter 8 - The Fight
Why do Andy's comments about the Costa food business make Mike so angry?
Read the highlighted passage. The term, "Sister" refers to a Catholic nun. A nun is a woman who belongs to a religious congregation devoted to active service and living under vows of poverty and religious obedience. Mike thinks the clothes the Sisters wear make them look spooky. The image below shows what Catholic Sisters wear. (This annotation contains an image)
Describe the punishments students receive at Mike's school and explain how discipline is different in modern times at your school.
Chapter 9 - You've Got to Be Tough
As you read, you will sometimes have to draw inferences to support your comprehension of the events taking place in the story. The following video will explain how to draw inferences. (This annotation contains a video)
When Grandpap vomits blood, you can infer that ________.
Chapter 10 - Bananas
The cause of the explosion at the banana factory is a mystery. Do you have any ideas as to what could have caused it? As you continue to read, think about this mystery.
Mike's mother is very angry that he got in a brawl with Andy. Which of the following describes Mike's father's attitude about Mike getting in fights?
Mike is an only child who wishes he had brothers. Do you have siblings or are you an only child? Can you relate to Mike's feelings of loneliness?
Chapter 11 - Hobos
Which of the following words has the same meaning as the highlighted word, "stickup"?
Have you determined who the narrator of the story is? As you read, think about how the narrator or speaker's point of view influences how events are described. For example, in the highlighted passage, Mike is having suspicious thoughts that hobos could have caused the explosion at the banana factory. However, he rationalizes that the hobos aren't bad guys who would commit a dangerous crime. Do you agree with Mike's point of view, or do you think hobos caused the explosion?
The cause of the explosion at the banana factory remains a mystery. Summarize the findings that the investigators have uncovered so far and explain their plans for furthering the investigation.
Chapter 12 - Costa Brothers
Macaroni Boy falls under the mystery genre, as well as the historical fiction genre. The following video will show you how to solve the mystery before the author reveals the solution. As you read, try to figure out the cause of the explosion at the banana factory. (This annotation contains a video)
Why does Mike get blamed for the banana mess at school?
When Mike is blamed for making the banana mess in the schoolyard, his father believes that Mike is telling the truth and he is not to blame. Think of a time when you were blamed for something that you didn't do. Did others believe you when you explained that you didn't do it?
Chapter 13 - Dead Men
In addition to the cause of the explosion at the banana factory, which of the following is another mystery the cops are trying to solve?
Are you familiar with the infamous gangster, Al Capone? He is referred to as America's best known gangster and the single greatest symbol of the collapse of law and order in the United States during the 1920's. Capone had a leading role in the illegal activities in Chicago. The image below shows Al Capone's mug shot. (This annotation contains an image)
Explain why Mike is suddenly running home from school. Include quotes from the text to support your answer.
When Mike rushes home to alert his family that Grandpap's symptoms match those of the dead hobos, he could possibly be responsible for saving Grandpap's life. Now there is another element that has been added to the mystery! What has caused the dead hobos and Grandpap to vomit blood?
Chapter 14 - Late Night
The prospect of having to go to the doctor sends Grandpap into a state of _________.
Chapter 15 - The CCC
As you read, think about how the chapters of the story fit together. Have you noticed how the chapter titles give you a clue as to the events that will take place in the chapter? What do you think "The CCC" stands for?
What does it mean to go on "relief"?
Watch the following video to learn about the type of work Anthony will be doing if he enlists in the Civilian Conservation Corps. (This annotation contains a video)
Chapter 16 - No Recess
Describe the relationship between Mike and his Uncle Tony and explain why Mike is so sad that Tony is leaving. Include quotes from the text to support your answer.
The highlighted passage reveals that Mike thinks there is a connection between the dead rats and the stomach illness that caused Grandpap and the hobos to vomit blood. Do you think the illness is also connected to the explosion?
Chapter 17 - Cap Billy
Which of the following sentences contains an example of a simile?
'Macaroni Boy" is a historical fiction book that contains real facts, people and events. For example, St. Patrick Parish was founded in 1808 as the first Catholic church in Pittsburgh. During the Great Depression the church was led by Father James Cox, a pro-labor activist who ran for President as the "Jobless Party" candidate in 1932. The image below shows what the church looked like during the Depression. (This annotation contains an image)
Who is Cap Billy?
Chapter 18 - In Shantytown
Father Cox's full name is James Renshaw Cox. He lived from 1886–1951. (This annotation contains an image)
When Mike and Joseph speak to hobo Pete attempting to get information about Cap Billy, Mike feels awkward and uncomfortable while Joseph feels _________.
Chapter 19 - Old Sneaky
Have you been taking note of the character traits and personalities of the characters in the story? As you read, think about how the characters respond to challenges and how they interact with each other. For example, how would you describe the friendship between Mike and Joseph? What personality traits do they possess that make them good friends who can work together to solve a mystery? The following video will show you how to identify character traits. (This annotation contains a video)
Mike and Joseph are studying a rat to see if their theory for the cause of the mysterious stomach illness is correct. Explain the theory that they are investigating.
Do you think the rat that Mike and Joseph are studying is dead or sleeping? Make a prediction before you continue reading.
Chapter 20 - A Noisy Desk
Based on the rat experiment, Mike and Joseph conclude that ________.
Andy continues to bully and torment Mike. Have you ever been bullied? What do you think Mike should do to get Andy to stop tormenting him?
Chapter 21 - On Herr's Island
What is "moonshine"?
In the 1930's, Herr's Island was famous for its stockyards, slaughterhouse and stench. Today it has been cleaned up and redeveloped with houses on one end of the island and a few commercial buildings on the other. The image below shows what Herr's Island looked like in the early 1900's. (This annotation contains an image)
Explain why Mike and Joseph travel to Herr's Island.
Chapter 22 - Caught
The story takes place during Prohibition, the period between 1919 and 1933 in the United States when the manufacture, purchase, transportation, import, export, and sale of alcoholic beverages was against the law. Since Jacko makes alcoholic beverages, he is breaking the law. When he first catches Mike and Joseph, he thinks they are spying on him with plans to report him to authorities.
How do Mike and Joseph convince Jacko that they are not spying on him?
Chapter 23 - Drunk as a Skunk
Think about the challenges Mike has faced throughout the story. Have you identified a theme or themes in the story? The following video will show you how to identify a theme in literature. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following is not one of the good omens that Mike is experiencing?
In the highlighted passage, Mike is feeling disappointed and frustrated because he still has not solved the mystery. Think about a time when you were feeling disappointed. What advice would you give to Mike? Do you have any theories as to the cause of the stomach illness?
Chapter 24 - Andy Simms
What does it mean to "get reinforcements"?
In Chapter 24, a new development in the mystery has been revealed...Andy now has the stomach illness. Do you think he will talk to Joseph and tell him the things he has been eating?
Chapter 25 - Interrogation
Read the highlighted passage. Joseph believes that they should beat up Andy until he talks, and Mike thinks that fighting is not the answer. Explain which approach you think will be effective in getting Andy to talk. Explain why you feel this way.
Pay attention to the description of the setting of Andy's home. It is obvious that his family is very poor. Think about how the theme of financial hardship is evident in the story.
Pay attention to the highlighted passage. Which of the following themes are evident in Mike's reflective thoughts about his troubles with Andy.
Chapter 26 - Fair Trade
Catfish and carp are freshwater fish found in rivers. Have you ever tasted these types of fish? The following image shows what they look like. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the highlighted passage, you can infer that Mike is feeling ______ about stealing food from his family.
In the highlighted passage, Mike summarizes all of the desperate measures he has taken to try to help Grandpap get better. What character traits has Mike revealed? Have you noticed the importance of family as one of the story's themes?
Read the highlighted passage and describe the ways in which Mike's father is being fairer to Mike than he deserves. Include quotes from the text to support your answer.
Chapter 27 - Catfish
Do you think Mike and his dad will find that the catfish has poisoned and killed Old Sneaky? Make a prediction before you continue reading.
Analyze Pop's words in the highlighted passage. How does he feel about his son's actions?
Think about the highlighted passage. Are you surprised that Andy still wants to be enemies with Mike? Mike's actions could've potentially saved Andy's life since the catfish may have ultimately killed him. What character traits do Andy's actions reveal?
Summarize what you have learned about the Great Depression while reading this novel.