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The Battle of Jericho

(Part of The Jericho Trilogy)
By Sharon M. Draper

Reading Group Guide

    A Guide for Reading Groups
    THE BATTLE OF JERICHO
    By Sharon M. Draper
    About the Book
    Jericho Prescott and his cousin, Joshua, can't believe their good luck. They have been asked to pledge the most exclusive club at their school -- the Warriors of Distinction. The Warriors, known for their goodwill toy drive every holiday season, and their noble high ideals, seem just too good to be true -- perhaps they are. As the initiation process progresses, Jericho finds himself caught in a spiraling situation from which he cannot escape. "All of us or none of us" is just one of the vows the pledges must swear to, so if Jericho should fail in his attempts to pledge the club, the other fourteen pledges will not be accepted either. In addition, the pledges must swear absolute obedience, loyalty, and secrecy. They are asked to do things that make Jericho increasingly uncomfortable, but he is unable to take a stand. Should Jericho do what is right, or what is popular? And what about Dana, the bold young lady who defies the "boys only" rule of the club? Should he protect her, or let her struggle alone? As Jericho's internal battle rages within him, his cousin Joshua breezes through the pledge process, never thinking of the consequences, even when the fine line between fun and games, and life and death is crossed. This haunting novel of peer pressure and popularity spirals to a devastating conclusion.
    About the Author
    Sharon M. Draper lives in Cincinnati, where she taught high school English for twenty-five years. She was named National Teacher of the Year in 1997, is board certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and is active in the National Council of Teachers of English. Her books include Tears of a Tiger, Forged by Fire (winner of the 1998 Coretta Scott King Award), Romiette and Julio, Darkness before Dawn, and, most recently, Double Dutch. She can be contacted at www.sharondraper.com.
    Discussion Topics
    1. The Battle of Jericho begins with a chapter near the end of the book as an introduction. How does this method of telling the story affect the reader's response? What predictions can the reader make about Jericho and the situation he seems to have gotten himself into? Before reading all that preceded that night and understanding why Jericho was at that place in his life, what was your opinion of his decision?
    2. As you first meet Jericho, how is he like many young people today? How is he different? What seem to be his biggest insecurities? His greatest strengths?
    3. Describe the relationship between Josh and Jericho. Why are they so close? How are they alike and how are they different?
    4. What do you know of Douglass High School from the descriptions given in the text? How would you describe the building itself, the teachers, the students, the administration, the feel of the school? How does it compare to high schools in your community? Why is a high school a good location to discuss serious teenage issues?
    5. Jericho's great skill and source of pleasure is his trumpet playing. Trace the relationship between Jericho and his trumpet and how his love for music influences his decisions throughout the book. How is music important in the lives of young people? Why is music an easy way to explain complicated feelings? How can self-expression be used as a tool for helping or healing?
    6. Jericho parents are divorced, but it is clear that he is well loved. How do you think the divorce affected some of the decisions Jericho made in the story? Describe his relationship with Geneva, his father, his mother, and his two stepbrothers. How does the strength of his family make a difference in his life?
    7. Even though Jericho is fairly intelligent and mature, he is easily entangled in the desire to be accepted by the club. Explain how this occurs, and discuss whether you think Jericho's mistakes are realistic.
    8. Jericho's teachers seem to have his best interests at heart. Describe his relationship with Mr. Culligan, Mr. Boston, and Mr. Tambori, the music teacher, as well as the custodian and the principal. How does each of them influence his decisions?
    9. Describe the relationship between the friends in the book. Is friendship enough when situations become monumental and overwhelming to young people? Explain.
    10. Describe each of the nights of the initiation week. How could events have turned out differently? What would you have done in the same situation?
    11. What were your predictions about Kofi and his bad heart? What were your predictions about Dana and her success as a pledge?
    12. Discuss the character of Eddie and his complicated feelings for Dana. Does he have any redeeming qualities, or is he purely a negative character? What might have made Eddie the person he is? What alternate endings might you create for Eddie at the end of the book?
    13. Explain the title of the novel. Why does the title have more than one possible interpretation? Discuss the various "battles" within the story.
    14. Discuss the girls in the story. How do their personalities complement each other? How is each one unique? Explain why Dana is such a memorable character. What was your reaction to Arielle?
    15. Many people have asked the author why Josh was allowed to die at the end of the novel. What would have been the effect on the novel if Josh had lived? Why is tragedy more memorable and more powerful than happiness in a novel?
    16. Families often have difficulties and young people must cope with the situations that arise. Discuss the relationships between the following and discuss the strengths of their families:
    • Kofi and his parents
    • November and her mother
    • Eddie and his father
    • Eric and his family
    • Jericho and his family

    17. How does peer pressure affect the decisions that were made by the characters in the story? What lessons might the pledges have learned from Eric Bell?
    18. Many young people live with unbelievable amounts of pressure from their peers -- the way they dress, act, talk, and respond to the world around them is often controlled by the larger group. Discuss how realistic the lives of Jericho and the others are portrayed and how they can become a voice for young readers who are afraid to speak out. What character seems least susceptible to peer pressure? Why? Is this character successful as a teenager in spite of this?
    19. The club called the Warriors of Distinction brings about a number of plot developments. Explain how the club can be interpreted as a "character" that affects the rest of the characters and events in the book.
    20. Did the Warriors of Distinction have any positive effects in the story? Is it acceptable to do something bad (such as steal a Christmas ornament) if it is for a good purpose (such as to give to orphans)?
    21. Do you think the club should be allowed to continue? Explain why or why not.
    22. Visualize the next ten years for Jericho, Dana, November, and Kofi. How will their lives be changed by the events of that year in high school? Create a scene in which they meet at a ten-year reunion. What will have happened to them and why?
    Activities and Research
    1. You are a reporter at one of the following scenes. Write the story for your newspaper.
    • Eddy's trial
      • for the accident which caused Josh's death
      • for his assaults on Dana
    • The trial for the Warriors of Distinction
    • The school board meeting for the month after the tragedy
    • The final meeting of the Warriors of Distinction

    2. Investigate the practice of hazing in high schools and colleges. How have students been getting involved to use positive peer pressure to stop the problem of hazing?
    3. Research current laws concerning hazing. What is the usual punishment? What do you think should be the punishment for groups who practice hazing?
    4. Examine peer pressure. How can teenagers effectively cope with peer pressure?
    5. Write a letter to one of the characters in the book explaining your feelings about the events in the story. What advice would you give November, or Kofi, or Josh's parents? What would you say to Jericho?
    6. Imagine it is three weeks after the end of the novel. Write a letter or create a conversation between the following characters:
    • Jericho to Arielle
    • Arielle to Jericho
    • Dana to Kofi
    • Mr. Tambori to Jericho
    • Mr. Culligan to Josh's parents
    • Josh's parents to Mr. Culligan
    • Eric Bell to Jericho

    7. In diary form, write the life of Eric Bell for several months. Include details about how he manages to cope as a teenager in a wheelchair.
    8. Trace the story of one of the following characters. Imagine you are a reporter doing a story on one of their lives. Write everything you know, as well as whatever you can infer about the character in order to write your newspaper story.
    • Arielle
    • Eddie
    • November
    • Kofi
    • Dana

    9. Teachers play an important role in the lives of the students in this book -- some positively, and others negatively. Discuss the role of a teacher in the lives of teenagers. Consider a career as a teacher. Find out how much college education is needed, how many years of study it takes, and what is required to become a teacher or counselor, or principal.
    10. Write a paper that investigates the effects of divorce on young people, such as. You might discuss custody, adjustment, or financial situations. Show the results of the effects of divorce on school, personal, and social situations. You may choose to show both positive and negative results.
    Writing Activities
    1. COMPARISON PAPER
    "Jericho wondered how he could ever be bonded as close to the boys in this room as he already was to Joshua."
    Explain how "the Bonding of the Brotherhood" as described by the Warriors, compares to the bonding of friends and family. Use examples from the book to support your statements.
    2. DESCRIPTIVE PAPER
    "Jericho took Zora out of the trumpet case then and slowly began to play. The tones, sweet and mellow, floated above the young people in the room. He began with soft, clear notes, bright like jewels, followed by a series of trills that swelled with power. He played the loss of yesterday and tomorrow, of friendship and love. He remembered childhood laughter as he played, and teenage troubles as well. One series of notes, high and delicate, sang of a sweet moonlight kiss gone sour; another line of music rippled with regret over opportunities forever lost."
    Write a descriptive paper that uses sensory imagery. Use vivid verbs and powerful adjectives and adverbs as you write. Use as many of the senses as you can. (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste).
    3. NARRATIVE PAPER
    "Eric waved and wheeled away. Jericho stood watching him for a moment or two, thinking not of gifts, but of blessings -- and guilt."
    Write a narrative paper from the point of view of Eric. Tell what kind of day he might have. Take any aspect of Eric's life and develop it.
    4. EXPOSITORY PAPER
    "I remember the coach saying that the initiation activities built team spirit and such. But it was horrible."
    Write an expository (explanatory) paper on hazing. Tell about the dangers as well as why it is done.
    5. PERSUASIVE PAPER
    "I have another question," Dana continued. Jericho knew what was coming. He tensed. "Why are there no girls in this club? I'd like to be considered for membership, and I want to know why I wasn't asked to join."
    Write a persuasive paper that argues the following point: "It is acceptable for school clubs to allow only one particular group of people as members." Whether you agree or disagree, your paper should address only one side of the issue.
    6. CHARACTER SKETCH
    Write a character sketch of Josh -- what made him unique -- his personality, his charm, his love of life. Use specifics from the book to illustrate your points.
    7. POETRY
    Write a poem about one of the following topics:
    • The Battle Within
    • Broken Heart
    • Forever Friends
    • The Joy of Music
    • Death of a Friend
    • A Moment of Silence

    This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

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