Overview of the Story
Luke Garner is a 12-year-old boy who is a third child, illegal to exist in his government. He must spend his life in hiding, fearful of being caught by the Population Police. He cannot be near a window, for fear of being seen. What would happen to Luke and his family if he were seen? One day his life changes when he meets another third child, Jen, his next door neighbor. She gives him the courage to change his life, and maybe the life of all illegal third children.
There is no specific time or place named in the story, but we can guess that it takes place in the near future in an American society. The government has turned totalitarian and forces its citizens to follow some strict laws, one of which is that each family may only have two children. This law was created because of a food shortage some years before. This law is strictly enforced by the Population Police.
Mr. Garner: Luke’s father, hardworking, man of few words, very strict
Mrs. Garner: Luke’s mother, sensitive to Luke’s feelings, hardworking
Matthew Garner: oldest brother, 15 years old, dark hair, tough-looking
Mark Garner: middle brother, 14 years old, dark hair, tough-looking
Luke Garner: youngest brother, 12 years old, fair hair, small, soft-looking, a third child
Jen Talbot: Luke’s neighbor, a third child, strong-willed, knows a lot about the real world
George Talbot: Jen’s father, a wealthy baron, top official of the Population Police
Family Life: Explore Luke’s relationship with his parents and brothers. Is it a typical relationship? Is it a trusting one? Does family have to be about blood relatives? Think about Luke’s relationship with Jen.
Government: The government is terrifying to most of the citizens. What are some of the laws they instill to make the people feel powerless? Discuss the differences between a totalitarian government and a democratic one. Talk about population laws and their reason for existing, as in China.
Friendship: Luke has never had a real friend. All his life he has only been around his family. When he meets Jen, he learns what friendship is all about, the good along with the bad. Discuss ways that friends show they care for one another. Explore how friends can sometimes hurt each other, and even put each other in danger.
Courage: Luke takes a big chance going over to visit his new friend, Jen. She is the most courageous person he knows, especially after he learns about her plan for the rally. Even after Jen’s death, Luke vows to help finish what she started and not live in secrecy anymore. He wants to live his life, just like the first or second born children. Luke sees Jen’s courage in different ways. On a simple level, she breaks silly government laws, like eating junk food. On a bigger level, she loses her life for a cause she believes in. Have students discuss times in their life when they had to be courageous. Maybe it was on a small level, such as battling a fear of the dark, and maybe it was a much bigger deal, like handling a death or other family challenge.
The lesson plan includes discussion questions for the book.
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