Stranger Next Door
by Peg Kehret and Pete the Cat
About the book: Alex’s only friend in his new neighborhood is his pet cat Pete. When a new boy, Rocky, moves in next door Alex has hopes of getting a new friend. But Rocky is mysterious about his past and avoids Alex’s invitations to come over. After Rocky moves in street signs are destroyed and arson fires destroy homes in the development. Is it the bullies at school who resent their dirt-bike trails being destroyed or is it the new neighbor? Is there another, more mysterious explanation?
About the guide: This guide includes discussion questions and projects appropriate for children’s book clubs, literature circles, and classroom discussions. It is intended to provoke thought and insight into the themes of this book which include bullying, fear, bravery, friendship, blame and pet relationships.
- Describe Duke and Henry. Why are they bullying Alex and Rocky? What is the best way to deal with bullies? What does Rocky do to the bullies? Would you have done that? Why or why not.
- Clifford is yanked away from everything he has known all his life. What do you think this must be like? How would you feel if it were you? Who and what would you hate to leave behind?
- Why do you think the author decided to add Pete’s perspective to the story? What does it add to the book? What do you think your pet thinks? Do pets know more than we give them credit for?
- Why do the Kendrills think that the Morris family is wealthy? Do people have preconceived ideas about rich families? Do you think people with money are really happier than people with less? Why? Is Rocky happier?
- Benjie is a little brother with an active imagination! What types of things does he wish for? Why do you think some people are very imaginative while others aren’t? How does a person develop and keep a vivid imagination?
- Both Alex and Rocky are new to Valley View Estates. What types of things are difficult about moving into a new home and school? Have you ever moved? What can be good about moving?
- Who do you think cut down the signs in the neighborhood? Why is this more dangerous than it seems? Has there ever been vandalism in your own neighborhood? What happened? Did the vandals get caught?
- What is arson? Why do people commit this crime? What type of evidence can be gleaned from a fire scene?
- Do you think Alex should have told his parents about the threat that Duke and Henry made? Would you have told? What would it have prevented?
- Why did the Lexton family need to change their identity and move so suddenly? Would you agree to testify? Why or why not? How did Rocky feel about learning about his biological father?
- Summarize how the arsonist was caught. Who recognized him first? What happened as a result of his brave actions?
- Will Alex and Rocky become friends? Do you think Rocky will ever disclose the truth about his past to Alex?
Write a goodbye letter from Clinton to his best friend, Nathan but don’t reveal why he must leave.
Write an additional scene after the close of the novel through the eyes of Pete.
Study the element of fire. Develop at least five questions about the topic and then research the answers. Be sure that if you use the internet as a resource that you check the reliability of the source. Turn in all your notes with titles of resources (and websites). List any interesting facts you learned that weren’t on your original list.
Create a collage based on the book. You can use images from magazines or create them yourself. Explain your piece in a brief journal.
Create sound effects to go with one scene in the novel. Record them and explain how you created the different sounds.
Website for arson prevention by age group
UK based but great information