by Gordon Korman
by Gordon Korman
About the book: Capricorn (Cap) Anderson has never watched television. He’s never tasted a pizza. Never even heard of a wedgie. Since he was little, his only experience has been living on a farm commune and being homeschooled by his hippie grandmother, Rain.
But when Rain falls out of a tree while picking plums and has to stay in the hospital, Cap is forced to move in and attend the local middle school. While Cap knows a lot about tie-dying and Zen Buddhism, no education could prepare him for the politics of public school.
Right from the beginning Cap’s weirdness makes him a moving target at Claverage Middle School (dubbed C-Average by the students). He has long, ungroomed hair; wears hemp clothes; and practices tai chi out on the lawn. Once Zach Powers, big man on campus, spots Cap, he can’t wait to introduce him to the age-old tradition at C-Average: the biggest nerd is nominated for class president…and wins. Will Cap turn out to be the greatest president in the history of C-Average? Or the biggest punch line?
About this guide:
This guide includes discussion questions intended to provoke thought and insight into the themes of the book which include school life, bullying, friendship, and acceptance.
About the author:
Gordon Korman is the author of more than fifty popular young adult and middle-grade novels, including Born to Rock, Son of the Mob, No More Dead Dogs, The 6th Grade Nickname Game, and Maxx Comedy: The Funniest Kid in America.
Gordon lives with his family on Long Island. You can visit his website at www.gordonkorman.com
- Explain the type of life Cap has been leading at Garland. How is his life about to change dramatically? Have you ever daydreamed about being homeschooled? What do you think it would be like?
- Where does Cap land while his grandmother, Rain, recovers? What do you think would be the most difficult thing to understand about middle school life?
- How is Cap treated by Sophie, Zach, Hugh, and Naomi? How do people decide whether to be cruel or kind to someone who is new? Do you blame Sophie for her reaction to him? Would you want Cap to be living in your house?
- Hugh realizes that if it weren’t for Cap he would be low man on the totem pole. “Better him than me.” (p.30) Do you think this is a theme of middle school? Do students put up with bullying a lot because they’re afraid it might be them next?
- What prank does Zach plan for Cap? Do you think this could happen at your own school? Why do people go along with it? In your opinion who is worse- Zach or Naomi? Why?
- Cap is full of hippie wisdom like “When you’re unkind to others, it’s usually because you don’t believe that you, yourself, deserve kindness.” (p.46) Do you agree with this statement? What about his other philosophical statements?
- What is the turning point event for Cap that changes how people perceive him at school? Have you ever known someone who acted heroically?
- Why does Hugh think, “I was a worm, but at least I had the strength of character to be ashamed of it.” (p. 75) Does Zach realize that he’s being a worm too?
- How does Cap make a connection with Sophie? What do common interests do they share? How does he try to make up for her dad’s thoughtlessness? Does it work? Have you ever acted anonymously on someone’s behalf?
- Mr. Kasigi admits, “I had long suspected how the kids went about picking their eighth grade president. And when I chose to look the other way, I was sort of putting a stamp of approval on it.” (p. 154) How does this decision blow up in his face? Can adults sometimes be complicit in the bullying that can happen in schools? Do you think he deserved what he got? Why?
- What happens at the pep assembly? Would this happen at your own school? Have you ever experienced other examples of group mentality? What do the students at school ultimately believe happened to Cap? How is it resolved?
- Despite his experiences in middle school and his longing to go home to Garland once he is there Cap suddenly misses his classmates and the chaos he has come to understand. How can some experiences change who you are? In the end, what do they decide to do? Do you think it is the right decision for Cap’s future? Why?
Write the ten rules of survival for middle school. What should every student know before entering the doors of your school? After you’ve written the rules write a brief journal about your experience coming to understand the rules.
Tie-dye, of course. Experiment with this fun art form with a variety of techniques. Wear your art proudly!
Explore the music of the 60’s and 70’s. What artists were your parents (or grandparents!) favorites? Which songs have lasted through several decades to become classics or anthems of the period? Create a playlist of must-know songs of the period.