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Book Club Kits: The Benefits of Being an Octopus

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

Some people can do their homework. Some people get to have crushes on boys. Some people have other things they've got to do. Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there's Lenny, her mom's boyfriend; they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer. At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, and since they're in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it's best if no one notices them. Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability and steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses. Unfortunately, she's not totally invisible, and one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom's relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia's situation, and her own place in this town of people who think they're better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she's ever had? This moving debut novel explores the cultural divides around class and the gun debate through the eyes of one girl, living on the edges of society, trying to find her way forward.

Discussion Questions

Introduction From Author

When I was a middle school teacher I loved finding thought-provoking resources

that would connect deeply to the students’ lives, prompt rich discussions, and

ultimately help students recognize their ability to shape the world around them. My goal with this educator’s guide is do just that. I believe the best way we can help students grow is to give them the space they need to ask questions, to draw

conclusions, and to build their own broader understanding of the world.


Essential Questions

• When we make assumptions about other people, what do we base them on? How do those assumptions shape our interactions? How do those assumptions affect other people?

• How are people’s lives affected when they have to struggle to make ends meet?

• When it comes to controversial issues, what role does debate play? How does it help? How does it hurt? What alternatives to debate exist?

• What cultural divides exist in communities? How might it be possible to bridge those divides?

• What happens when a person who has felt misunderstood and alone finally feels seen and valued?

About the Author

Ann Braden writes books about kids struggling to find their voice amidst the realities of life. She founded GunSenseVT, a grassroots group focused on championing the common ground on the issue of guns in Vermont, which helped pass landmark gun violence prevention legislation. She also founded the Local Love Brigade, which now has chapters all over the country sending love postcards to those who are facing hate. She is a former middle school social studies teacher and now co-hosts a podcast called “Lifelines: Books That Bridge the Divide.” with Saadia Faruqi, a Pakistani American author and interfaith activist. The podcast highlights the children's books that can open minds and the books that can be the lifeline a child needs to remember they're not alone.