Synopses & Reviews
Bobby loves spiders and is called "Spider Boy from Illinois" by a bully at his new school. At first Bobby's content with writing in his journal and caring for Thelma, his pet tarantula, but now he's stuck working on a school project with Lucky, another student. Bobby finds that Lucky's not bad for a girl, and things look even better when he sees a chance to get revenge on Chick Hall, the school bully. But Bobby's not ready for Chick's retaliation.
About the Author
Ralph Fletcher has written many award-winning books for children.
Reading Group Guide
BULLYING: A GUIDE
Macaroni Boy by Katherine Ayres
Blubber by Judy Blume
Spider Boy by Ralph Fletcher
True Blue by Jeffrey Lee
Feather Boy by Nick Springer
The books in this guide all deal with bullying. Use the questions to open discussion with your students on this important topic. Additional themes include challenges, friendships growing up, peer pressure, and self-discovery.
Bullying isnt a new problem in schools. Almost all adults will say that they either encountered or knew a bully in their childhood. Some will say they were victimized, and others will admit to being innocent bystanders. And, some may even reveal that they were bullies themselves.
No one wants to be called names or teased and taunted. No one wants to be left out of a ballgame or a school activity. No one wants their personal belongings ruined or their secrets revealed. New kids in school, and children who are different, especially mentally and physically challenged kids, are often the targets. These kids are already on the outside, and therefore vulnerable. Bullies are seeking attention and want to feel important. They feed their low self-esteem by being mean to others.
Newspapers, magazines, television and radio news are filled with incidents of schoolyard bullying. Why has bullying become such a worldwide issue in schools today? Is bullying the beginning of school violence? Whatever the reasons, schools and parents must develop ways of helping children cope with the local school bully. Children who are being bullied are often quiet about it. The bully may have threatened them if they “tattle” or they may feel embarrassed.
HOW TO RESPOND
Observant adults will notice if a child is quieter than usual, suddenly afraid of going to school, shows a drop in grades, and doesnt want to play with friends or participate in after school activities. Ask questions. Engage them in conversation about the way they are feeling. Role-play a hypothetical incident. Encourage them to talk with someone they trust. Suggest they write about their feelings in a journal. Give them books to read.
1. Bobby Ballenger is the new kid in school and isnt adjusting well. Miss Davenport, the guidance counselor, calls Bobbys parents to the school and uses words like “closed off,” “unstable identity,” “at-risk adolescent” to describe Bobby. Discuss why Miss Davenport feels that Bobby is at-risk. How do Bobbys teachers try to help him adjust?
2. Butch Fostick tells Bobby, “Whatever you do, dont let Chick Hall get under your skin. Hes just testing, you know. “ (p. 34) How isChick Hall testing Bobby? Contrast the way Bobby deals with Chick Hall at the beginning of the novel and at the end of the novel.
3. Miss Terbaldi, the English teacher, introduces the elements of a short story and gives a lecture on conflict and resolution. Identify the conflict and resolution in Spider Boy. Conflict resolution is a term used by educators in solving behavioral problems in the classroom. Discuss ways of resolving conflicts with bullies like Chick Hall. How does Chicks father contribute to the resolution?
4. Bobbys school adopts an honor system. Why does Mr. Niezgocki question Bobbys honor when he reports that he saw someone cheating? Explain what Mr. Niezgocki means when he says, “You did the right thing, young man. But sometimes doing the right thing puts other people in a tough spot.” (p. 127)
5. Bobby and Chick Hall get into a fight. How might this fight be considered the climax of the novel? Bobby refuses to accept Chicks apology, because he cant bring himself to forgive Chick for killing Monk, his pet tarantula. Discuss the difference between acceptance and forgiveness.