Cousins of Clouds

Cousins of Clouds
Tracie's NEW BOOK!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Tofu and T. Rex

Tofu and T. rex
by Greg Leitich Smith

About the book:
Militant vegan Frederika Murchison-Kowalski is back at the Peshtigo School after a brief stink in Texas (where she torched an artificial turf field to save Angus the Fighting Angus from the “rabid and inhumane cult” of football). The bad news is that now Freddie has to live with her cousin, Hans-Peter, a die-hard carnivore, and her grandfather, who happens to own a butcher shop and sausage deli. Having never had a sibling Freddie and Hans-Peter are soon at odds with each other over bathroom sharing, dinner menus, and more. To complicate matters, Hans-Peter needs Freddie’s insider knowledge to get accepted into the Peshtigo School himself.
In the adventures with fire, fossils, and kielbasa, Hans-Peter and Freddie come upon the true meaning of “survival of the fittest”- and come away whole (almost). Greg Leitich Smith delivers more with and hilarity in this companion to Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo.

About the guide:
This guide includes discussion questions and projects appropriate for book clubs, literature circles, and classroom discussions. It is intended to provoke thought and insight into the literary elements of this book including the themes of personal beliefs and values, animal welfare, family relationships, self-identity, and sausage. [TOO FAR???!!!]

About the author:
Greg Leitich Smith grew up in a German American neighborhood on Chicago’s North Side. He drew on his own heritage and experiences at a science magnet high school (much like the Peshtigo School) in writing Tofu and T.rex. He holds degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Texas at Austin, and a University of Michigan degree in law. He now lives with his wife, children’s author Cynthia Leitich Smith, and their four cats in Austin, Texas. Greg’s website is

Pre-reading Activity:
Predict what possible connection tofu and T. rex could have.  What is a vegan? What issues would they have with what you eat, where, and live? How hard would it be to transition your life over to a vegan one? What would be a vegan’s nightmare living situation?

Comprehension Check:

1.      Compare Freddie and Hans-Peter.
2.      What is Hans-Peter’s main goal in the novel? What must he endure to reach it?
3.      Who is Opa? What does he do?
4.      Who influences the other more Freddie or Hans-Peter? Support your answer with examples.
5.      Describe The Peshtigo School.

Discussion Guide:

1.      Why has Freddie landed in Chicago at The Peshtigo School after recently moving away? What warning is she under there?
2.      Freddie and Hans-Peter have a complicated relationship. How do they irritate each other? Do they ever get along? How do they influence each other?
3.      Opa is tolerant of a great deal but doesn’t put up with disrespect either. Give examples of his punishments for particular crimes. Do you think he’s being fair? Why or why not? Would you like to live with Opa?
4.      Being Vegan isn’t just a way of eating but a lifestyle. Do any parts of it appeal to you? Could you be as dedicated to your beliefs as Freddie is? Would you like living with Freddie? Why or why not?
5.      Why does Hans-Peter want to attend the Peshtigo School so desperately? Would you want to attend this nontraditional school? Why or why not?
6.      What is the setting for the novel? What does it add to the texture of the story? How does it compare to your own neighborhood?
7.      What does USCACA stand for? What things would they protest at your own school? Do you agree with their tactics to raise awareness? Do you feel this strongly about any issue?
8.      Freddie says on p. 32 “How can people be expected to treat other people okay if they don’t treat those who most need to be treated okay okay?” What does she mean by this? Can you give another example? Do you agree with her? Why or why not?
9.      Hans-Peter is so concerned with being accepted at Peshtigo that he doesn’t really consider whether he should accept it for himself. Have you ever been caught up in belonging like this? How do you keep yourself from being caught up in the competition that you forget about its purpose?
10.  What did you think of the entrance exam? How would you have done on it? Is it a fair assessment? Can tests be fair? When? How? What did you think of the boy who was immediately dismissed for his comments?
11.  Consider the homecoming float incident. Were you surprised to learn who was involved? Did you suspect that Freddie might be too? Would you be willing to take the blame as Freddie did for Hans-Peter? What did this reveal about their relationship?
12.  Hans-Peter comments,” Everyone Pestigoan seemed to be brilliantly eccentric. Or eccentrically brilliant. Or both.” (p. 82) Would you thrive around these standards or be too intimidated to work? What would you study if given free reign?


Language Arts:
Create a mnemonic device for any test you’re currently studying for in any subject. Turn in a copy of your notes and the device you create.

Write an essay on the same topics that Hans-Peter had to complete for The Peshtigo School:
What do you do for fun?
Discuss an item representative of your cultural heritage.
Describe something you’ve built.


Vegan Math: Create two shopping lists, one vegan one a typical American family, being sure to have the same number of items on each. Then, visit your local grocer and compare prices and nutrition labels. Turn in your findings and a brief journal about the experiment.

Hans-Peter is very interested in The Peshtigo’s School Paleontology expeditions. What recent scientific expeditions do you wish you could join? Turn in at least one article about the findings of the expedition and your reaction to it.

Or, research and list at least 30 a-typical jobs in the sciences and highlight any you’d be interested in exploring further.

Research and create a pamphlet or computer presentation on one of the following topics from the novel:

Animal welfare and rights
Recent dinosaur discoveries

Design your own homecoming float that makes a political or cultural statement important to you.

Create your own piece of music to commemorate an occasion like Johann Ambrosius and Christoph Brandenburg did for their parent’s anniversary. If this is above your skill level, then at least plan what music would inspire it (like Steveie Ray Vaughn and Bach did for the Brandenburgs) and which instruments you would choose for your own concerto.