This post includes language arts and interdisciplinary activities for The Scavengers, by Michael Perry. It’s part of a series that shares language arts and interdisciplinary activities for selections from Duke TIP’s 4th-6th Grade Online Book Club, which you can re-purpose for your classroom.
Why The Scavengers?
- Strong, dynamic female protagonist
- Part action/adventure, part coming-of-age story
- Explores issues of identity, family, and survival in a dystopian setting
About the Book
The name “Maggie” isn’t tough enough for a girl growing up OutBubble. There are no volleyball games or ice cream cones or amusement parks out here. An OutBubble girl has to find her own food, build her own shelter, withstand unpredictable weather, craft her own armor, undertake dangerous supply trips, and fend off vicious solar bears and GreyDevils. A girl like this has to claim a name that tells the world she is ready for anything, and “Ford Falcon” is just such a name.
Ford lives with her parents and little brother Dookie in a make-shift, tarp-covered shack perched on a ridge overlooking a ravine full of old garbage. With a lot of hard work—and the help of a few loyal and somewhat kooky neighbors—they are managing to survive. Ford even has time now and then to study Emily Dickinson poems with her Ma. This life is far from easy, but she knows her parents must have had good reasons for choosing not to move them into a government-run Bubble City on Declaration Day. That URCorn the Bubblers eat all the time is disgusting anyway! At least her family is in this together . . . but for how long?
Dad has been acting strangely lately. He is always preoccupied, and he frequently wanders off, leaving them alone for hours. He isn’t looking well, either. Meanwhile, the GreyDevils are ranging closer and closer to their camp, and Ford can’t protect Ma and Dookie by herself. Will she be able to hold her family together and figure out what her dad is hiding before someone gets hurt . . . or worse?
Have you taught The Scavengers?
About the Author
Although he is a New York Times bestselling humorist and host of a nationally-syndicated radio show, Michael Perry doesn’t take his success for granted. He grew up on a dairy farm in the tiny town of New Auburn, Wisconsin (his inspiration for “Nobbern” in The Scavengers!). His childhood days were filled with chores, reading, and singing with family and friends. As a young man, Perry supported himself through nursing school by working on a ranch in Wyoming. These experiences inspired him to become a professional writer. Making a name for himself, however, took many years of people-watching, practice, perseverance, and patience, and Perry vows he’ll never forget it. These days, he is back in Wisconsin, happily writing, running a small homestead with his family, and juggling his side-jobs as a volunteer firefighter, a self-taught pig farmer, an essayist for various major magazines, a singer-songwriter, and the host of Tent Show Radio. The Scavengers is his first novel for young readers. Watch the interview above to hear Perry explain how his life on the farm inspired him to write this futuristic story.
Sample Discussion Questions
- In the book’s opening pages, we learn how finding an old station wagon “sunk to the bumpers” in Goldmine Gully inspired “Maggie” to rename herself “Ford Falcon” (1-2). Even though “it’s not even a cool car,” Ford immediately loves it because it will “let [her] hide out but still be where [she belongs]” (19). Why is it so important for Ford to have a place of her own away from, but nearby, her family? Does this have anything to do with her age? Do you ever feel the need to have an “alone place” of your own? Why or why not?
- How does Ford’s relationship with her parents compare to her friendship with Toad and Arlinda Hopper? How do they talk to one another? What do they do together? How do they treat one another? Create a Venn diagram (check out this handout for some “grown-up guidance on Venn diagrams) in your Reading Journal to help you organize your observations into similarities and differences. Then look back over your notes and consider which of these adults best understands the kind of guidance and encouragement Ford needs.
- Early on in the book, Ford explains, “Out here, you eat what you have, not what you want” (42). The truth of this statement becomes even clearer to her when a man emerges from the city rubble and offers her and Toby rat jerky. Although he sees they are repulsed by his food and rat-pelt poncho, he is quick to point out that “[n]obody wants to eat a rat, nobody wants to wear a rat . . . [u]ntil they’re starving or freezing” (230). Perhaps Ford and Toby simply haven’t become that desperate . . . yet.
- In what way(s) is having food choices a luxury?
- How do the various characters in this book help us better understand the difference between a luxury and a necessity? A need and a want?
- When you imagine yourself living OutBubble, do you see yourself adapting well or struggling? Why?
Interdisciplinary Topics to Explore
- The Science of Super Foods – with activities in genetics, genetic engineering, and the ethics of producing and consuming genetically-modified organisms.
- The Aquaponics Farming Trend – with activities in history, biology, ecology, economics, and the ethics of food production.
- Investing in a Local Currency System – with activities on the history and economics of currency.
- Living UnderBubble – with activities on cutting-edge architecture, engineering, and environmental science.