The Schernoff Discoveries
Harold Schernoff, 14-year-old science whiz and social nerd, has a theory for every problem, from dating, to bullies, to making money, to sports, to how to buy a car when you're underage. When he and his buddy team up to put his theories to the test, nothing goes according to plan. A ski lesson becomes: Mass x Acceleration x Slope of hill = eeeAAGGHHH. As for first dates, only Harold could mastermind such disaster. Only Harold could go fishing and get caught by the fish. And only Gary Paulsen could write such a wonderfully funny story of friendship.
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1. On Discovering the Benefits of Electricity
The narrator's statement here is an example of a paradox, or an idea that at first seems to contradict itself but still contains truth. How is it possible for someone to feel lonely while he is in the middle of a crowd? What does this paradox quickly illustrate about the narrator and his friend, Harold?
The author uses imagery and figurative language to describe Harold's physical appearance. Hyperbole, or an extreme exaggeration, is included when the author says that Harold "had enough ballpoints in his shirt pocket to supply an entire classroom." How does this description help you understand more about the character? Look at the graphic below to help you differentiate between different types of figurative language while you're reading. (This annotation contains an image)
What type of figurative language does the author most clearly use in the highlighted passage?
Based on the narrator's previous descriptions of Chimmer, which of the following is most likely the reason why he doesn't walk home until Chimmer has left school?
The author uses both direct and indirect characterization to make the character of Harold come to life. For example, the author directly states that Harold looks "goofy" and that he is "smiling." Beyond an author's direct statements about a character, however, the reader can also use details to form inferences about a character. This is called indirect characterization. Based on his reaction to the failed experiment (and near-death experience) what can you infer about Harold's personality? For more information on indirect characterization, watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
Why does the narrator react this way to Harold's experiment?
2. Brain over Brawn
By suspending the current conversation and returning to an event which evidently took place in the past, the author is choosing to use a type of plot structure called a flashback. Why might an author choose to sequence events this way, rather than to simply tell a story chronologically?
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. Try it now with the highlighted word and then answer the question that follows.
Which of the following words is an antonym for "proximity" as it is used in the text?
What is the effect of using a metaphor in this sentence?
When describing what could have been a scary situation in which Harold is choked by a much bigger boy, the narrator tells the story in a way that makes it seem humorous rather than frightening. When a writer chooses words that indicate a particular attitude, such as humor, this is called the author's tone. In order to really appreciate tone, it's important to think of a list of adjectives that could describe it. Watch the video below to improve your vocabulary of "tone words." Then, as you continue reading, look for other details that indicate the author's tone. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on the picture below, why do you think Harold carried a slide rule? How does the destruction of this object affect him? (This annotation contains an image)
The narrator probably should have guessed by now that Harold put something in the cake, since the author gave several clues that foreshadowed it. What previous details from the text foreshadow Harold's decision?
Based on evidence from the text, which of the following best describes Harold's motivation for his actions in this chapter?
3. On Discovering Interpersonal Relationships
You've probably seen an image of Elvis Presley before, but you may not have heard of Pat Boone and his song "April Love." How do both of these allusions, or indirect references to things the reader is just expected to know, help establish the setting of this novel? (This annotation contains an image)
Since this novel is told from a different character's first person point of view, Harold's thoughts are "a mystery" to the reader as well. An author uses careful consideration when deciding who the narrator of a story should be. If Harold were the narrator, how would this particular story be very different?
The narrator has mentioned before that he likes "outdoor" things. Which of the following details from the paragraph does not support this description of the narrator?
Based on the allusion to Sir Walter Raleigh, shown below, how do you think Harold's date went? (This annotation contains an image)
Quiz One, Chapters 1-3
4. On Discovering Gravity
You may have noticed by now that this book's structure is not exactly chronological, which means events are not necessarily told in continuous order. Days, weeks, and even months may be reordered or even left out entirely. Like in many TV shows, each chapter serves as its own episode within the larger work. For more about how authors choose to structure a plot as a series of events, watch the video below. As you continue reading, think about how each smaller episode fits into the book's larger picture. (This annotation contains a video)
How does the narrator's statement in this passage show most likely include foreshadowing about what will happen later?
This novel is set in northwestern Minnesota. How does the topographical map below support the narrator's claim that skiing doesn't make a lot of sense in this setting? Are there other regions in Minnesota where this might be more feasible? (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the text, why does Harold most likely ask the narrator this question?
What does the cartoon below illustrate about skiing? How does this experience compare to the cartoon? (This annotation contains an image)
Based on Harold's previous actions, what does the narrator mean when he says, "I could see it coming"?
5. On Making Friends
Based on details from the text, which of the following is most likely what the narrator means when he says, "I could not remember a time when I was safe"?
Charles Atlas advertisements, such as the one below, were often included in comic books during this time period. Look at this ad and then answer the question that follows. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on details from the text and the Charles Atlas ad shown above, what are two specific reasons why this ad would probably appeal to the narrator?
What is the effect of the simile "like kissing a grenade" in this passage?
The picture below shows manual pinsetting like the author describes. How does this image compare to the author's description of this dangerous job? What does this job description help you better understand about the narrator? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following best explains why Harold takes a job setting pins?
Mickey Spillane was an American author who wrote popular crime novels featuring a detective named Mike Hammer. Based on the narrator's allusion here, along with the picture below, what kind of character do you think Detective Hammer is known to be? Why do you think the narrator uses this particular allusion? (This annotation contains an image)
Based on details from the text, which of the following is most likely the reason why Chimmer quits beating up the narrator?
Quiz Two, Chapters 4-5
The evolution of a character, or the change that the narrator is noticing in himself, is essential to making a book feel authentic. As people in real life experience events that cause them to grow and develop emotionally, so do some characters. When this emotional growth happens, we call this character dynamic. For more on dynamic vs. static characters, watch the video below. What characters in other books that you have read or movies you have seen could be considered static or dynamic? (This annotation contains a video)
6. On Angling
Which of the following is not a reason why the narrator agrees to take Harold fishing?
Harold calls the fishing rod he brings, similar to the one shown below, "this old thing." The narrator, however, recognizes the rod as something beautiful and valuable. When the reader is led to expect one outcome, and then the author surprises the reader with something completely different, this is called irony. Why is it ironic that Harold has this fly rod? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is not a reason why Harold has difficulty fishing?
The narrator supposes that Harold hooked a river sturgeon like the one shown below on his very first correct cast. Why is this ironic? (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is most likely a central idea, or theme, that the author is trying to prove by including this particular story?
While most of the "Schernoff Discoveries" have been humorous, the author makes sure that the reader understands that a larger point, or theme, is being illustrated through this story in which Harold's life is in danger. Watch the video below to help you better understand theme. Then, answer the question that follows. (This annotation contains a video)
7. On the Nature of Wealth
Watch a minute or so of the video below to get an idea of how Harold's ham radio works and to hear what Morse code sounds like. What does understanding this hobby help you further understand about both Harold and the narrator? (This annotation contains a video)
What is the narrator most likely foreshadowing with this statement?
The link below is to an article about a real-life golf ball retriever. Read the article, then read about Harold and the narrator's experience doing the same thing. Finally, use this comparison to answer the question that follows. (This annotation contains a link)
How does Dennis Reese's real-life experience diving after lost golf balls compare to Harold's scheme in the book? Use details from both texts to support your answer.
How does the author's use of imagery show irony when the narrator says that the car is "the most beautiful thing I had ever seen"?
The image below is of a 1934 Dodge sedan like the one the boys are inspecting. How do details from the text compare with details in the picture? (This annotation contains an image)
For Harold and the narrator, the car is a symbol, or an object which stands for a larger idea. For example, the Mockingjay from The Hunger Games, as shown below, symbolizes the need to fight to win freedom from a corrupt government. Read the narrator's description of how "everything had changed" carefully. Then, answer the question that follows. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is most likely to be an idea the car symbolizes to Harold and the narrator?
Read on after the final quiz to discover what happens to these characters after the story ends.
Based on the way that Harold reacts to the loss of the car, which of the following best describes his attitude about life?
Quiz Three, Chapters 6-7