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Stargirl

by Jerry Spinelli

Book Club: A Literature-Based Curriculum discusses Stargirl within a themed multi-book unit along with three other stories Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis, Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry, and Monkey Island by Paula Fox.

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Below you will find a synopsis, further reading materials, discussion topics, and reviews that you might find useful during your teaching of Stargirl.

A Synopsis

Narrator Leo Borlock is fascinated by the new student who calls herself Stargirl Caraway. Her eccentric behavior includes wearing outrageous outfits and strumming a ukulele while singing to students in the cafeteria. Students are at first drawn to her laughter, friendliness, and genuine love for people. Her popularity, however, is fleeting. Led by the jealous and hostile Hillari Kimble, students begin to question her antics. When she makes an appearance on Leo’s student television show Hot Seat, Leo watches in horror as she is pelted with insults by the student audience. Stargirl seems undaunted by the hostility. Leo’s fascination with Stargirl grows and he finds himself falling in love with her. When the two begin spending time together, Leo’s classmates shun him as they have been shunning Stargirl. She still seems impervious to the treatment, but Leo is not. He resents having to choose between Stargirl and his popularity, and he eventually browbeats her into trying to conform and be “normal” for a while. She gives it an honest try but soon realizes that students still aren’t accepting her. She goes back to being Stargirl, but this time Leo doesn’t have the courage to stand by her. Only after she is gone from his life does he truly appreciate her and realize how much she added to his life.

Further Reading and Links

The following sites can be used to support and enrich the Book Club unit for Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.

About the Author and the Book

  • Jerry Spinelli — At the author's official website visitors find a biography, a photograph of the author, a question and answer segment that explores his writing style and source of inspiration, and short descriptions of some of his books.
  • Jerry Spinelli — Book Browse provides another biography, an interview, and a list of his books.
  • In His Own Words — At this site, Jerry Spinelli describes the path that led him to become a writer of books for young adults.
  • KidzWorld Review — Read a review about the book on this site, a site that is all about kids.
  • Common Sense Media — This review of the book gives it 5 out of 5 stars. See also user reviews and details about the book.

Explore the Setting of the Novel

  • Arizona — The Infoplease website has compiled quick facts about Arizona including where the state's name came from.
  • Sonora Desert Museum — The Desert Museum website provides information about the desert, the Saguaro Cactus, and the Elf Owl. The site has included pictures, habitat, and fun facts. Through a seek and find activity kids can explore the life around the Sonoran Desert during day- and nighttime.
  • All About the Ukulele — Learn everything about the instrument Stargirl loves to play. From history, events, and where to buy one this site offers all kinds of information. If you want to learn how to play a Ukulele you're in right spot as well.

Related Topics

  • Identity Activities — Create artwork about yourself and your identity. Learn who you are as a person and what you like.
  • Stop Bullying — What is bullying? This site offers the definition, and insight about kids that might be involved and their reasoning.
  • High School is Not Forever — The site offers stories, resources, and activities on how to deal with everyday school life as a kid.

Big Theme Questions

What is the meaning of value?

What do you consider valuable?

How do you determine the value of something?

Why are some things more valuable than others?

What intangibles—things that cannot be seen, touched, tasted, heard, or smelled—have value?

Outline of Lesson Plan | Discussion Topics | Writing Prompts

The following section can be used to get discussions started in your classroom. It is based on the themed multi-book Lesson Plan within Book Club: A Literature-Based Curriculum. The Lesson Plan includes blackline masters for the students that support the writing prompts. The writing prompts provided are meant as suggestions only. As students become more comfortable with the Book Club format, they will certainly have ideas and questions that go beyond the prompts. Consider giving students “free choice” as a log option. Book Club Reading Logs help students respond to literature and organize ideas as they participate in Book Club.


“Porcupine Necktie” and Chapters 1–3 | Literary Elements: Setting

  • What do you learn about setting (the time and place in which events occur) in this first reading assignment?
  • What kinds of things seem to be valued in the setting in which the book takes place? Explain.

Chapters 4–6 | Comprehension: Characters

  • Describe the main character Stargirl. Explain how the author reveals her traits (provide details, sample dialogue, description).
  • What is most important to Stargirl at this point in the book?
  • So far, which characters do you like or dislike?

Chapters 7–9 | Response to Literature: A Little Help from Our Friends

  • Describe a time when a relative, a friend, a neighbor, or even a person you don’t know very well helped you with something. Maybe the person did you a favor, gave you something you needed, made you laugh, or just gave you some good advice. How did you feel when you were helped?
  • Describe a character (or characters) from your reading who help(s) Stargirl in some way. How is she affected?

Chapters 10–12 | Literary Elements: Imagery

  • What images does the author use to help you see a scene or moment in the book? Write down specific words and phrases that stand out to you.
  • In a paragraph, use imagery to describe something that’s valuable or important to you.

Chapters 13–15 | Literary Elements: Point of View

  • Describe the point of view of the narrator. Support your response with details, words, and phrases.
  • Different people value different things. Something that seems unimportant or foolish to one person could be extremely valuable to another person. Describe something that is valuable to a specific character in your reading.

Chapters 16–18 | Comprehension: Plot and Sequence; Prediction

  • What questions are raised in your mind by events in the book? What is one thing you predict will happen next?
  • Describe one event in the book so far that has had a strong effect on Stargirl.
  • Does Stargirl now value different things than she valued at the beginning of the book? Explain.

Chapters 19–21 | Response to Literature: Making Value Choices

  • In today’s reading, what struggle or problem does Stargirl deal with?
  • How would you feel if you were in her place? What worries would you have?

Chapters 22–25 | Composition: Diary Entry

  • What advice would you give Stargirl if you could speak with her?
  • Review the predictions you made earlier in the unit. Have you been surprised by anything? Explain.
  • Has anything in the book made you angry or sad? Explain.

Chapters 26–29 | Response to Literature: Big Theme Questions

  • What is your favorite part of the book so far? Why does this story part appeal to you?
  • Predict how the book will end. Give reasons for your predictions.
  • What role does setting play in shaping the values of characters?

Chapters 30–33 and “More than Stars” | Response to Literature: Analyzing Story Endings

  • Did you like the ending of the book? Why or why not?
  • What does Stargirl's experiences teach her about value?
  • Do you respect the choices and values of Stargirl? Why or why not?