In the Middle of the Night
Eight years before Denny Colbert was born, his father was involved in a tragic accident that killed 22 children. Now Denny is 16, and all he wants is to be like other kids his age. But he isn't allowed to answer the telephone or have a driver's license, and his family is constantly moving from town to town--all because people can't forget what happened long ago. When Denny defies his parents one afternoon and answers the telephone, he finds himself drawn into a plot for revenge which may prove deadly.
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The narrator reveals some details about "my sister and me." Which is not true of these two characters?
"I Love Lucy" was a popular TV comedy that aired from 1951 to 1957. The main characters were a couple named Lucy and Ricky. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the rosary? The rosary is a string of prayer beads, held in the hand of the person praying, that follows a pattern of repeated verses. Catholics pray the rosary for various reasons with some devout believers making it a daily practice. (This annotation contains an image)
"Blue Christmas" is a unique holiday song by Elvis Presley. This video clip captures a live performance. (This annotation contains a video)
The narrator of this section lives with his Aunt Mary and his sister Lulu. How did he become an orphan?
Foreshadowing is an interesting and effective technique; when used well, the hints provided keep readers engaged and interested. This short video reviews the definition of this versatile technique. (This annotation contains a video)
This section marks a shift in the narrative point of view from first person to __________________________.
Based on what you've read so far, predict the meaning of the highlighted sentence. Record your notes and return to them later to check your accuracy.
Assessing the relationship between these two characters will prove interesting as you read. Be sure to consider both direct characterization which includes the author's direct statements about a character, as well as indirect characterization in the form of the character's speech, action, and appearance.
Biblical allusions are used to tie in themes from a literary work to a story from the Old or New Testament. Here, Lulu's words echo themes from the Book of Exodus. What do you think it means? Write a few sentences about your prediction. As you read on and learn more about Denny and his father, keep this reference in mind.
A percolator is a small coffee pot that is warmed over an open flame. (This annotation contains an image)
Compare and contrast the physical descriptions of Denny versus his father.
The dialogue on this page helps provide a sense of realism as the characters use their own voices. Watch this video to consider how characters develop throughout a narrative. (This annotation contains a video)
In this sentence, what word would be the best replacement for maverick?
The Wolfman is a 1941 horror movie in which the man becomes a werewolf. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does the girl on the bus mention civility?
Normal Prep is all of the following except for __________________________________.
What image comes to mind when you think of a "prep school"? Below is a photo of the school that appears in the movie "Dead Poets' Society." (This annotation contains an image)
This series of novels enjoyed great popularity for 50 years as the series ran from the mid-1950s to 2005. (This annotation contains an image)
Evaluate what Denny means in this sentence. How does this conversation with Jimmy Burke help the reader understand his feelings about his new school?
Writers use similes and metaphors to create vivid descriptions in the mind of the reader. Instead of just stating that Tommy stared at Denny, the author uses a simile to show Tommy's detailed reaction. The highlighted phrase works well to recreate the mood of the scene for the reader.
What are Denny's motivations for picking up the phone on this particular day?
Explain Denny's reaction to breaking his father's rule on this particular day.
Loneliness is certainly a deeply explored theme in literature, from poems to plays to novels about a wide variety of topics. Being able to identify and explain the theme of a novel is an important skill. This brief video offers some important tips about determing how a theme is emerging in a literary piece. (This annotation contains a video)
Using a flashback in which sixteen-year old Denny is a seven-year old boy is an effective method for helping the reader gain a better understanding of Denny's growth. Imagine being in the third grade and encountering the phrase "Your father is not a murderer." How would you react?
Based on your reading and study of other works of literature, do you agree with the statement, "There are strange people in the world, Denny. Crazy people who do things that are hard to understand." In several sentences, provide two or three examples of characters from other books you've read who match this description.
When Denny observes his father in the middle of the night, he has all of the following reactions except
Keening is a "vocal lament associated with mourning that is traditional in Ireland and Scotland." Mrs. Denehan is Irish.
Readers are often fascinated by tales which include near death experiences. Imagine this scene from Lulu's perspective. What might Lulu be thinking or feeling in this moment?
According to the Mayo Clinic, concussion is "a traumatic brain injury caused by a blow to the head or violent shaking of the head or body." Concussions take time to heal; the patients often complain of headaches and fatigue for weeks after the injury.
Lazurus is a man in the New Testament who is brought back to life by Jesus of Nazareth. (This annotation contains an image)
The end of this chapter helps fill in some details about the day of the accident. Putting them all together, the reader now has a more complete, but still sketchy, vision of the tragedy. Which of the following explanations best completes the current story?
Why does Mr. Zarbor sympathize with John Paul and his family?
Canada is divided in to provinces. This map shows the name of each province and its location. (This annotation contains an image)
Describe the condition of the theater balcony. Why does being up in the balcony make John Paul nervous?
As the children arrive for the performance, what is John Paul's role?
Have you ever seen a magic act in person? Visual effects and dramatic set ups are part of the excitement. The darkness of the theater and the buzz of the expectant audience can create an electric mood. (This annotation contains an image)
How does the fire start and what happens to John Paul as it spreads?
Intravenous (or IV) medication is delivered to a patient through a needle in his or her arm. The fluids flow down a tube in to the needle, providing steady pain relief or hydration. (This annotation contains an image)
Why is John Paul afraid to speak to Adam Polansky?
Maintaining a feeling that tragedy cannot happen in one's own city is a common coping mechanism. When horrible events take place, it's normal to want to place some distance between the event and the neighborhood where one lives. Consider an unfortunate or tragic event that has recently taken place. Where did it happen? If far away, how did you react? If closer to you, what was your understanding of the impact?
Summarize the account of the disaster in several sentences. What details about the balcony have been brought to light in the newspaper articles?
Consider this haunting image. Cormier has used description and repetition effectively to help the reader see this woman. This short clip provides a review of the importance of imagery in literary works. (This annotation contains a video)
What reason does Ellie, the kind nurse, provide for the woman's behavior?
In the past, individuals of short stature were often referred to as dwarfs or midgets. Little people is now the more appropriate and more widely used term.
Suicide is always tragic and difficult to comprehend. Suicide is often driven by depression or other underlying mental issues. Based on what you know about Mr. Zarbor, what do you think drove him to take his own life?
Protestors such as the Westboro Baptist Church or groups of paparazzi are increasingly common fixtures around controversial people or sensationalized events. Make a connection between John Paul's experience of leaving the hospital and a recent event in the news that involved intrusive protests or photo taking. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does John Paul not have a feeling of security?
While tragedy brings pain and loss, the events afterwards can provide healing and hope. Consider this article about a special memorial to honor those who died in the Boston Marathon bombing. What are some ways that the aftermath provided healing for those impacted? (This annotation contains a link)
What were Nina's motivations for writing the letter?
Letter writing is not as common in 2015. This link demonstrates the proper format for a basic letter to someone not well known by the writer. When is the last time you wrote a letter? To whom was the letter directed? (This annotation contains a link)
Speculate on the differences between the nightmares experienced by John Paul and those experienced by Nina. What role would responsibility and guilt play for each?
What is the overall impact of this editorial on John Paul?
As John Paul returns to school, the reader is able to witness his interaction with new people. His actions and reactions help the reader to see how John Paul has grown and changed. Watch this short clip to understand the difference between a dynamic character who demonstrates change and a static character who does not. (This annotation contains a video)
Who do you think left this note? Why would someone leave this type of note?
Barstow is another small town where Denny's family has recently moved. Which statement best explains why the family relocates frequently?
In our digital age, afternoon newspaper delivery has been all but eliminated. However, before most people got their news from television and the internet, it was quite common for cities to publish both morning and afternoon editions of the newspaper.
Using the Define feature, learn the meaning of notoriety. What word below would be the best replacement in the given sentence?
What does Dave mean by "The Big One"?
Getting a part time job can be an important rite of passage for a teenager. Read these interview tips for teens and determine two tips that would help you or a friend prepare for a job interview. (This annotation contains a link)
Read this passage and offer your analysis. Does this passage show a change in Denny? How do you think his relationship with his parents will change?
What is a petition? Why do citizens use petitions? How do you write a petition? Read this short explanation of what, why, and how to understand this popular method of publicizing causes. What would you like to start a petition for? (This annotation contains a link)
This allusion -- or reference to another literary work -- introduces the reader to a character with a split personality. In the novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the reader meets a character with a hidden dark side. (This annotation contains an image)
Denny is described as "tripping and stumbling as he made his way back to the school, trying to decipher Lawrence Hanson's expression." How might this scene be different if told directly from Denny or Lawrence's perspective? This quick clip helps review the difference between first and third person. (This annotation contains a video)
Denny does not help his classmate who is getting punched. After school, as he boards the bus to return home, he reflects on his lack of action. What is the main reason why he does not take action?
Do you remember the children's tale of The Three Little Pigs? The wolf uses this line to intimidate the surprised pigs. Consider the connection between that story and this action in the novel. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Les Albert want to talk to Denny?
Why does Denny's father go to the cemetery to pray instead of praying in church?
Molly Malone is a figure in an Irish folk song. Her name represents a hard working and spunky young woman. The statue below is a typical image of Molly. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Denny ask, "Are you the same person who calls my father during the night?"
Limbo, a place where unbaptized children and any person not cleaned of original sin waited to enter heaven, was part of Catholic teachings. This image depicts Jesus visiting souls in Limbo. (This annotation contains an image)
Denny chooses to clean up the mess he finds on his front steps. What does this action demonstrate about him?
Flirting, whether in person, via phone, via text, or via social media, is certainly a big part of the teenage experience. As teens become interested in romance, they may make decisions based on emotion rather than reason. Think about Denny's feelings in this situation. How is this unlike regular flirting?
Why does Lulu say, "I hope you think I'm September, Denny"?
James Cagney was a well-known American actor with a memorable voice. He's shown here delivering an impassioned speech. (This annotation contains a video)
Why does Denny feel uncomfortable at the perfume counter?
What does the use of the word "thingamajig" show us about the point of view? (This annotation contains an image)
If you were able to switch the narrative point of view in this scene, how might Denny react to Lulu's admission that she knows what he looks like? Is he surprised? Scared? Intrigued?
In addition to Lulu, Les Albert can be considered another antagonist. His appearance in the story brings up conflicting emotions for Denny. (This annotation contains a video)
Was the Spanish-American War really a war? This link provides a concise explanation. (This annotation contains a link)
Lawrence Hanson and Denny work through what happened on the day that Denny saw him getting punched. In a few sentences, summarize on how this conversation helps them understand each other better.
Identify the literary term used in this sentence.
Evaluate the quote: "So I confess my guilt, do my penance." What information does the reader learn in this exchange between Denny and his father that explains how his father has dealt with his guilt over the last twenty-five years?
If you've never seen a phone booth, this picture will be helpful. (This annotation contains an image)
Why is Halloween night a significant time to meet?
Imagine how this looks in an actual paper. Perhaps there are old photos? Perhaps the headline font is bold? Maybe there is a recent photo of Denny? Journalists reach for maximum impact with a lead story and use various means to stimulate a reaction in the audience.
What alibi does Denny use to leave the house that night?
Lulu is not a typical "bad guy" or "outcast," but she certainly fits various qualities of these archetypes. Consider the information in the video in light of the characters in the book and the situations in which these characters find themselves. (This annotation contains a video)
How does Lulu plan to kill Denny?
A hypodermic needle has the capacity to be hidden easily in a pocket and to contain a set amount of liquid. (This annotation contains an image)
Many stories express the notion of "there's no place like home." Think about another book that you've read, play that you've watched, or movie you have viewed with a similar theme.
Examine this quote: "Maybe the act of praying itself was the answer to prayer. The thought caught him by surprise." How does the quote help the reader understand why Denny goes to the church with his mom?
As the book comes to a close, the author echoes the earlier idea of "you've got a lot to learn." Consider how this idea of learning from the good and bad aspects of life is one of the central themes of the novel. (This annotation contains a video)