Henry Smith’s father told him that if you build your house far enough away from Trouble, then Trouble will never find you.
But Trouble comes careening down the road one night in the form of a pickup truck that strikes Henry’s older brother, Franklin. In the truck is Chay Chouan, a young Cambodian from Franklin’s preparatory school, and the tragedy sparks racial tensions in the school—and in the town where Henry’s family has lived for generations. Caught between anger and grief, Henry does the only thing he feels he can: he sets off for Mt. Katahdin, which he and Franklin had planned to climb together. One July morning, he strikes out for Maine with his best friend and the loveable stray, Black Dog, in tow. But when they encounter Chay Chouan on the road, fleeing demons of his own, Henry learns that turning a blind eye to Trouble only brings Trouble closer.
With moments of humor, tenderness, and remarkable strength, Henry and Chay travel a path to the mountain that neither of them expects.
Gary D. Schmidt is the author of The Wednesday Wars, a Newbery Honor winner and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy which received both a Newbery Honor and a Printz Honor. His other novels for Clarion are The Wednesday Wars, Straw into Gold, and Anson’s Way. He is a professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Gary D. Schmidt is a master storyteller, but he also has a great command of the language. As you read the story, find at least five examples of memorable description or figurative language. (Ex: “And the dim ghosts laughed their breathless laughs.” (p. 47)
Since good readers always make predictions about what may happen next in the story, write a prediction at the end of every chapter. Base these predictions on facts from the story, what you’ve learned about the character and setting, and what you know about story structure. Remember: It doesn’t matter if your predictions are correct.
(After all, it wouldn’t be much fun to read if we always knew what was going to happen!)
In small groups, research and report on one of the following topics from the novel:
racism against immigrants
the Khmer Rouge
Indians as slaves
history of crew
English as a second language
Cambodian art, culture or religious beliefs
This guide was created by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer, a reading specialist and also a Clarion author. Visit her website, www.TracieVaughnZimmer.com, to finds hundreds of guides to children’s and young adult literature.