Bystander 2014-15 One Book One School

Posted by Aileen Basuljevic on 11/2/2014

  The book selected for the program is Bystander by James Preller. This book was chosen because of 12 year old Eric’s relocating from the mid-west to Long Island and the adversity he faces and the choices he has to make as the new kid in town. This book is a great conversation starter for a variety of topics and issues that affect this age group.
Please post your responses to the following questions:
What do you think of the way Griffin and the rest of his crew initially approached Eric?
Would you have reacted differently then Eric did when Griffin and crew approached?
If you were Eric, would you have pursued a friendship with Griffin?
How do you think Eric can stop being a bystander without becoming a victim?
If you were the new kid in town, how would you behave under the circumstances?
Feiwel & Friends
by James Preller

About the Novel
A bystander? Or the bully's next target?
Eric is the new kid in seventh grade. Griffin want
s to be his friend. When you’re
new in town, it’s hard to know who to hang out with
—and who to avoid. Griffin seems
cool, confident, and popular.
But something isn’t right about Griffin. He always
seems to be in the middle of
bad things. And if Griffin doesn’t like you, you’d
better watch your back. There might be
a target on it.
As Eric gets drawn deeper into Griffin’s dark world,
he begins to see the truth
about Griffin: He’s a liar, a bully, a thief. Eric
wants to break away, do the right thing.
But in one shocking moment, he goes from being a by the bully’s next victim.
Discussion Questions
1. The ending of the book does not provide a typical Hollywood conclusion, where it's all wrapped up. Instead, it strives for something more realistic. What do think will happen with the characters in the future, particularly Griffin and his friends.
What clues in the text support your conclusion?
2. In the character of David Hallenback, we see a victim/target who turns around to become a bully against Eric Hayes. Research shows this to be a common dynamic-- that the target becomes the bully. Why do you think this might be true?
3. From the book, we learn that Mary has been involved in some cyber-bullying in the past. Why do you think this particular form of bullying --- creating a web page, or simply send a mean email -- is on the rise today? What makes it easier? Why?
4. Think about Eric's mother's actions and reactions in the book. Do you think she made any mistakes? What did she do right? What would you want to tell adults about the "real" stories behind bullying?
5. In chapter 20, a gathered group of boys discuss their responses to Griffin's behavior. A number of reasons are listed by various characters as to why they elect to do nothing, including: 1) The unreliability of authority figures to respond;
2) The threat of retaliation; 3) That the victim, at least on some level, deserves it; 4) That it's human nature, the law of the jungle, and will always persist; 5) That it's better to stay out of it; and lastly, 6) That no one should "rat out" another
student. Are any of these valid reasons for remaining a bystander? Why and why not?
6. Griffin Connelly is represented as a smart, good-looking, intelligent boy. Why do you think he's involved in bully behaviors? What traits do you think he might lack?
7. Eric's father is absent from the story, living miles away. What effect do you think this had on Eric? Do you feel it helped make him a potential target in Griffin's eyes?
8. In what is known as "the bystander effect," it's been learned that group behavior is often less moral/ethical than individual behavior.  For example, imagine a figure laying on the sidewalk. Groups of people have, in various tests, failed to stop and
help the injured person. Yet individuals -- alone -- are much more likely to stop and try to be of assistance. Why do you think that is so?
9. To what extent is it fair to blame some of David Hallenback's problems on himself? What mistakes does he make? Are there things he might have done differently? Did he in any way bring these problems unto himself?
10. Do you feel the school authorities -- ranging from the principal, teachers, counselors and school resource officer -- acted appropriately throughout? Could they have done more to address the problem?
11. Late in the book, Mary decides to no longer worry so much about what others think. Why do you believe this is a good or a bad thing?


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