The Battle of
Jericho

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Intro, Summary & General Questions

Summary:
What would you be willing to do to gain acceptance by the most popular group of kids at school? Would you do what you know is right, or would you do the things that would make you popular? Jericho Prescott, a junior at Frederick Douglass High School, is offered the opportunity to pledge the most popular club at the school--the Warriors of Distinction. On the surface the club seems to be wonderful--it's been around for almost fifty years and is highly respected by the community. The club even conducts a toy drive at the holiday season to help needy children. But under the surface, the club has many undisclosed activities, known only to those who go through the secret initiation rituals.

The Battle of Jericho is about the power of peer pressure, and making decisions which might affect the rest of one's life. Should Jericho go to the pledge night activities, or go to the tryouts for college? Should he humiliate a friend in a wheelchair or obey the pledge captains? Should he leave the club and lose his girlfriend?

I wrote this book at the suggestion of a ninth-grade student. She said, "Why don't you write a book about what they make us do to be accepted around here?" I asked her what she meant and she just shrugged and said, "Oh, you know, just stuff." I was intrigued and started asking young people around the country what they thought about the idea. Students offered suggestions about activities, clubs, and sports teams that involved activities that could be classified as hazing, which is illegal in all states. Other students told me about dealing with the kind of peer pressure that is unspoken, but very, very powerful.

Jericho's battle is with himself, his friends, and his future. What decisions will he make? What would you do in the same situation?

FAQ

1. In THE BATTLE OF JERICHO, you address a number of complex social issues facing teens today, including the influence of peer pressure and the importance of “fitting in” socially. What are some suggestions that can help teens combat these pressures in their day-to-day lives?


Young adults need to know that they are not alone, that many teens feel exactly the same as they do. It is easy to feel isolated and pressured by the larger group, but when young people learn to express their true feelings to friends and family, the pressure and immensity of their problems can be lessened. Good friends are powerful allies. Many teachers at school are available for counsel, and most parents are willing to listen as well. If Jericho had been willing or able to talk over his doubts and fears, tragedy may have been averted.

2. High school hazing is a subject that is often ignored or underestimated. What should young people know about the dangers of hazing?


I did a great deal of research into the problem of hazing on college campuses in preparation for writing The Battle of Jericho, but I found that very little research had been done on high school hazing, not because it did not occur, but because peer pressure is so strong during adolescence that teenagers simply refuse to tell. According to one study, more than 1.5 million high school students in the United States are being subjected to some form of hazing each year. If the choice must be made about whether to do what is right, or do what is necessary to be accepted, most teens will choose peer acceptance, even though data shows that most high school students don’t perceive even the most dangerous initiation activities as hazing. Remember, however, that anything that makes a person feel uncomfortable, or that they are forced to do in order to be accepted into a social group can be defined as hazing.

3. Dana Wolfe’s character in THE BATTLE OF JERICHO is an important figure for young teenage girls to examine as she is both strong-willed and confident, yet often puts herself in precarious situations in order to prove herself to others. What lesson(s) do you hope to teach young women about growing up female and how do you think Dana can help girls make healthy choices in their own lives?


Teenaged girls today need strong, positive role models that can show them how to be independent thinkers and confident decision-makers. Dana is proud and self-confident, which is good, but she does not always make wise decisions. Rather than make her a super woman, I balanced her with difficult situations that could have been handled better. Her strength, however, shines through. This way, a young woman can read the book, discuss Dana's actions, and reflect on the decision-making in her own life.

4. What is the role of music in THE BATTLE OF JERICHO and in Jericho’s life in particular?


Jericho's love for his music influences his decisions throughout the book. It helps him express his complicated feelings about his home life, his girlfriend, as well as his self-esteem. When he plays his trumpet, he is more than the pieces of his life--he is whole. I strongly encourage young people to find a musical or creative outlet, for creativity is what helps us see the beauty in life. Music helped save Jericho's life.

5. What is the significance of Eric’s character in THE BATTLE OF JERICHO and how do you think his handicap affects his outlooks on life? The way others see him?


Teenagers with disabilities are just like their peers. They want to be accepted, to have friends, to be included in the social life of the school. Eric understands the pain of being ignored and overlooked, and I've given him a voice to show his humanity. He represents all those young people, who have feelings as well as dreams. I wanted to give those kids, who are often treated as if they are invisible, a chance to be heard, to be seen as the individuals they are, not the machines they ride in, or the disability that defines them.

6. Do you write with a particular audience in mind? If so how does this affect your narrative? Where do you get the inspiration for the novels you write? The themes in your novels are often heavy; why do you concentrate on these issues?


I write for young people--teenagers--all of them. I try to deal with topics that are both current and topical. I also hope that by reading it young people can perhaps apply some of the messages to their own lives. Abuse and death are topics that need to be discussed by young people. They are not pleasant, but by talking about the difficult realities of life, perhaps someone can be made stronger. I write about these things because, unfortunately, those are the realities of life for many teenagers today. I hope to say something that will change their lives for the better.

I visit dozens of school every year and the joy on the faces of the students I meet, their fascination with the characters and their lives, and their excitement about reading more is what keeps me going. I'm writing as fast as I can--trying to write stories that young people can enjoy. Sometimes I get them from newspaper articles or events I see on television. Sometimes I get ideas from students who write me or from students that I speak to when I visit their schools. My mind is always buzzing with new ideas for stories. There are thousands of teenagers in schools today. Each one of them has a story.

7. What would you like your young readers to get out of your books?


When a young person reads my books, I want them to say, "Wow! That was great.!" I want them to remember them, to cherish them, to pass them along to their friends. Amazingly, that is what happens many times. Kids who have never read a book all the way through before tell me that they read my book in one night, and do I have any more books they can read. That's a wonderful feeling.

8. Describe your writing process.


Writing for me is a very fluid process--I sit down a wait for the words to come. They usually do—in buckets and waves. It's amazing. I look upon it as a blessing because the words come so easily. I start with an idea, or a problem or a conflict, or even a situation that might be pertinent to the lives of young people, then the characters grow from that point. I try to make strong characters that change and develop and learn from their mistakes. I try to make characters so real that young people believe they are real people, and many do. I get letters from kids who ask for Rhonda's home phone number, or who are angry at me because of something that happened to one of the characters. I think the layering comes in the story development. The plot is born from the idea, then is crafted by the characters and how they respond to what happens to them. It's a thrilling, exciting process.

9. How does THE BATTLE OF JERICHO fit into the kind of books your readers seem to love? Why do you write this genre of young adult fiction? Will there be more books about Jericho and his friends?


I seem to be able to capture the mind and heart of the adolescent. Young people write me all the time and tell me how much they identify with the characters and plots in my novels. One young woman sent me an email that said, "I liked how it showed the peer pressure that was put on Jericho. Kids today are constantly pushed to do things they don't want to, just like Jericho, even though the activities got pretty extreme. I think everyone my age should read this book as we get ready to enter high school. It shows the serious consequences of doing something just because of others." And yes, more books about Jericho and the young people at his school can be expected.

10. If you were asked to coalesce your work into one sentence, what might that be?


I try to write powerful, meaningful stories for young people and show them I understand the difficulties of growing up, and to let them know I care.

The Jericho Trilogy


The Battle of Jericho

November Blues

Just Another Hero

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Reviews & Rewards

Reviews:
Kirkus, June 2003
The Warriors of Distinction are Douglas High's elite group, a brotherhood separate from school, a service club with a secret initiation resulting in a slick jacket that is the ultimate status symbol for the guys. When cousins Josh and Jericho and their friend Kofi are asked to participate in the Christmas toy drive, they know they are being considered as members. When Kofi's girlfriend Dana sneaks into the midnight initiation, demanding her right to join, everyone knows that this will not be an ordinary pledge group. Draper drops plenty of hints that hazing can be dangerous, even deadly, and then supplies a denouement that's unexpected, but somehow inevitable. As pledge week grimly proceeds, issues arise in Jericho's mind ,and his trumpet-playing serves as an outlet for his confusion, but readers will see with crystal clarity that in secrecy, evil breeds.

School Library Journal, June 2003
When an elite club, the Warriors of Distinction, invites Jericho and his cousin Josh to pledge, the teens look forward to wearing the black silk jacket, going to great parties, and receiving the admiring glances of the other students at their Ohio high school. Even the girl Jericho has a crush on begins to show an interest in him. The initiation process begins rather tamely with the new pledges helping with the Christmas toy drive, but as it progresses, Jericho becomes increasingly uncomfortable with what they are asked to do and the way they treat Dana, the first-ever female pledge. Adopting the group's "All of us or none of us" creed, the fifteen inductees decide to continue. In an intense climax, pledging goes tragically wrong and the repercussions are felt throughout the community. Draper has captured the essence of teens caught up in peer pressure who must ultimately live with the results of their actions. Her characters are deeply human and the strong plot mirrors the difficult choices that young people must make as they try to reconcile their need for acceptance with their inner values. Mostly, though, this title is a compelling read that drives home important lessons about making choices.

Teens caught in 'Battle of Jericho'Hazing tale shows former teacher knows how students think
By Jim Knippenberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer


"High school kids have a code of silence abouthazing. They know it happens all around them, it even happens to them, but they won't tell. Peer pressure at that age is so powerful there's no breaking away," says Sharon Draper.

That's what happens in Battle of Jericho, the new young adult novel from Draper, the former Walnut Hills High School teacher who was named national Teacher of the Year in 1997. Since retiring, she has been writing, including the Coretta Scott King Award-winning Hazelwood High Trilogy (Tears of a Tiger, Forged by Fire, Darkness Before Dawn).

Her popularity with young readers is impressive: Five best-sellers, mountains of e-mails every week, a rigorous schedule of personal appearances. It's because of what she does and how she does it. Draper's style is to take a social issue facing teenagers and weave a solid story around it. No preaching about the "right" thing to do. Just well-written stories that deliver a message through the actions and reactions of its characters.

Take Jericho and its hazing theme, for example. Jericho Prescott, his cousin Josh and pal Kofi are asked to pledge the Warriors, their high school's premiere club. Warriors get invited to the best parties, have the coolest girlfriends and the hottest cars. Could life get any better?

Nope, at least not until the hazing starts. That's when the paddles come out. That's when pledges have to eat worms and kneel in icy mud puddles at midnight in mid-December. That's when they get their heads dunked in a toilet bowl that apparently has not been cleaned since the 1940s. And worse, it's when Jericho, a gifted trumpeter, is forced to skip a competition that almost surely would have resulted in a scholarship to Julliard. Try explaining that to your parents.

"It's just amazing what kids will do to be accepted by their peers," Draper says. "When they read this book, I hope they'll question how far they'd go to fit in. And I hope they'll understand the sometimes awful consequences of going too far."

Jericho is almost entirely character-driven. The main plot - kids invited to join a group, hazing growing progressively more violent, a tragedy waiting in the wings - is mixed with typical school and parent problems, pretty much what you'd expect.

What makes it work so well is Draper's insight. After 30 years in the classroom, she knows kids. She's talked to and informally counseled enough of them to understand their fears, especially the fear of not fitting in, their sometimes strange notions of what constitutes triumph and failure, their need for individuality while at the same time trying to be part of the pack.

The kids in Jericho are what adults call "good kids." They're impressionable, thoughtful, often naive, hard working and honest enough that it causes them agony and guilt when the pledge masters order them to go shoplifting to prove their allegiance to the Warriors.

These kids don't even swear, something most adult readers might find unusual: "I do know how many kids talk, but hey, I want people in Iowa to buy this book," Draper says. "But more important, I cleaned up their mouths because I won't lower myself to that. I think it's degrading - to me and to them - and totally unnecessary."

Something else adult readers might find strange: Draper is African-American, as is Jericho and cousin Josh. But the rest of them, you just have no idea.

"It doesn't matter what color they are. I'm writing about contemporary kids and the issues facing them. Those issues are universal."

Awards:
  • 2004 Coretta Scott King Honor Book
  • New York Public Library's Book for the Teen Age
  • 2005 Young Adult Choice Books --International Reading Association

The Jericho Trilogy


The Battle of Jericho

November Blues

Just Another Hero

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Study Guides

Study Guide

About the Book
Jericho Prescott and his cousin, Joshua, can't believe their good luck. They have been asked to pledge the most exclusive club at their school-the Warriors of Distinction. The Warriors, known for their goodwill toy drive every holiday season, and their noble high ideals, seem just too good to be true-perhaps they are. As the initiation process progresses, Jericho finds himself caught in a spiraling situation from which he cannot escape. "All of us or none of us" is just one of the vows the pledges must swear to, so if Jericho should fail in his attempts to pledge the club, the other fourteen pledges will not be accepted either. In addition, the pledges must swear absolute obedience, loyalty, and secrecy. They are asked to do things that make Jericho increasingly uncomfortable, but he is unable to take a stand. Should Jericho do what is right, or what is popular? And what about Dana, the bold young lady who defies the "boys only" rule of the club? Should he protect her, or let her struggle alone? As Jericho's internal battle rages within him, his cousin Joshua breezes through the pledge process, never thinking of the consequences, even when the fine line between fun and games, and life and death is crossed. This haunting novel of peer pressure and popularity spirals to a devastating conclusion.

Discussion Topics
  1. The Battle of Jericho begins with a chapter near the end of the book as an introduction. How does this method of telling the story affect the reader's response? What predictions can the reader make about Jericho and the situation he seems to have gotten himself into? Before reading all that preceded that night and understanding why Jericho was at that place in his life, what was your opinion of his decision?

  2. As you first meet Jericho, how is he like many young people today? How is he different? What seem to be his biggest insecurities? His greatest strengths?

  3. Describe the relationship between Josh and Jericho. Why are they so close? How are they alike and how are they different?

  4. What do you know of Douglass High School from the descriptions given in the text? How would you describe the building itself, the teachers, the students, the administration, the feel of the school? How does it compare to high schools in your community? Why is a high school a good location to discuss serious teenage issues?

  5. Jericho's great skill and source of pleasure is his trumpet playing. Trace the relationship between Jericho and his trumpet and how his love for music influences his decisions throughout the book. How is music important in the lives of young people? Why is music an easy way to explain complicated feelings? How can self-expression be used as a tool for helping or healing?

  6. Jericho parents are divorced, but it is clear that he is well loved. How do you think the divorce affected some of the decisions Jericho made in the story? Describe his relationship with Geneva, his father, his mother, and his two stepbrothers. How does the strength of his family make a difference in his life?

  7. Even though Jericho is fairly intelligent and mature, he is easily entangled in the desire to be accepted by the club. Explain how this occurs, and discuss whether you think Jericho's mistakes are realistic.

  8. Jericho's teachers seem to have his best interests at heart. Describe his relationship with Mr. Culligan, Mr. Boston, and Mr. Tambori, the music teacher, as well as the custodian and the principal. How does each of them influence his decisions?

  9. Describe the relationship between the friends in the book. Is friendship enough when situations become monumental and overwhelming to young people? Explain.

  10. Describe each of the nights of the initiation week. How could events have turned out differently? What would you have done in the same situation?

  11. What were your predictions about Kofi and his bad heart? What were your predictions about Dana and her success as a pledge?

  12. Discuss the character of Eddie and his complicated feelings for Dana. Does he have any redeeming qualities, or is he purely a negative character? What might have made Eddie the person he is? What alternate endings might you create for Eddie at the end of the book?

  13. Explain the title of the novel. Why does the title have more than one possible interpretation? Discuss the various "battles" within the story.

  14. Discuss the girls in the story. How do their personalities complement each other? How is each one unique? Explain why Dana is such a memorable character. What was your reaction to Arielle?

  15. Many people have asked the author why Josh was allowed to die at the end of the novel. What would have been the effect on the novel if Josh had lived? Why is tragedy more memorable and more powerful than happiness in a novel?

  16. Families often have difficulties and young people must cope with the situations that arise. Discuss the relationships between the following and discuss the strengths of their families:
    • Kofi and his parents
    • November and her mother
    • Eddie and his father
    • Eric and his family
    • Jericho and his family

  17. How does peer pressure affect the decisions that were made by the characters in the story? What lessons might the pledges have learned from Eric Bell?

  18. Many young people live with unbelievable amounts of pressure from their peers-the way they dress, act, talk, and respond to the world around them is often controlled by the larger group. Discuss how realistic the lives of Jericho and the others are portrayed and how they can become a voice for young readers who are afraid to speak out. What character seems least susceptible to peer pressure? Why? Is this character successful as a teenager in spite of this?

  19. The club called the Warriors of Distinction brings about a number of plot developments. Explain how the club can be interpreted as a "character" that affects the rest of the characters and events in the book.

  20. Did the Warriors of Distinction have any positive effects in the story? Is it acceptable to do something bad (such as steal a Christmas ornament) if it is for a good purpose (such as to give to orphans)?

  21. Do you think the club should be allowed to continue? Explain why or why not.

  22. Visualize the next ten years for Jericho, Dana, November, and Kofi. How will their lives be changed by the events of that year in high school? Create a scene in which they meet at a ten-year reunion. What will have happened to them and why?


Activities and Research

  1. You are a reporter at one of the following scenes. Write the story for your newspaper.
    • Eddy's trial
    • for the accident which caused Josh's death
    • for his assaults on Dana
    • The trial for the Warriors of Distinction
    • The school board meeting for the month after the tragedy
    • The final meeting of the Warriors of Distinction

  2. Investigate the practice of hazing in high schools and colleges. How have students been getting involved to use positive peer pressure to stop the problem of hazing?

  3. Research current laws concerning hazing. What is the usual punishment? What do you think should be the punishment for groups who practice hazing?

  4. Examine peer pressure. How can teenagers effectively cope with peer pressure?

  5. Write a letter to one of the characters in the book explaining your feelings about the events in the story. What advice would you give November, or Kofi, or Josh's parents? What would you say to Jericho?

  6. Imagine it is three weeks after the end of the novel. Write a letter or create a conversation between the following characters:
    • Jericho to Arielle
    • Arielle to Jericho
    • Dana to Kofi
    • Mr. Tambori to Jericho
    • Mr. Culligan to Josh's parents
    • Josh's parents to Mr. Culligan
    • Eric Bell to Jericho

  7. In diary form, write the life of Eric Bell for several months. Include details about how he manages to cope as a teenager in a wheelchair.

  8. Trace the story of one of the following characters. Imagine you are a reporter doing a story on one of their lives. Write everything you know, as well as whatever you can infer about the character in order to write your newspaper story.
    • Arielle
    • Eddie
    • November
    • Kofi
    • Dana

  9. Teachers play an important role in the lives of the students in this book-some positively, and others negatively. Discuss the role of a teacher in the lives of teenagers. Consider a career as a teacher. Find out how much college education is needed, how many years of study it takes, and what is required to become a teacher or counselor, or principal.

  10. Write a paper that investigates the effects of divorce on young people, such as. You might discuss custody, adjustment, or financial situations. Show the results of the effects of divorce on school, personal, and social situations. You may choose to show both positive and negative results.


Writing Activities

  1. COMPARISON PAPER
    "Jericho wondered how he could ever be bonded as close to the boys in this room as he already was to Joshua."

    Explain how "the Bonding of the Brotherhood" as described by the Warriors, compares to the bonding of friends and family. Use examples from the book to support your statements.

  2. DESCRIPTIVE PAPER "Jericho took Zora out of the trumpet case then and slowly began to play. The tones, sweet and mellow, floated above the young people in the room. He began with soft, clear notes, bright like jewels, followed by a series of trills that swelled with power. He played the loss of yesterday and tomorrow, of friendship and love. He remembered childhood laughter as he played, and teenage troubles as well. One series of notes, high and delicate, sang of a sweet moonlight kiss gone sour; another line of music rippled with regret over opportunities forever lost."

    Write a descriptive paper that uses sensory imagery. Use vivid verbs and powerful adjectives and adverbs as you write. Use as many of the senses as you can. (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste).

  3. NARRATIVE PAPER "Eric waved and wheeled away. Jericho stood watching him for a moment or two, thinking not of gifts, but of blessings-and guilt."

    Write a narrative paper from the point of view of Eric. Tell what kind of day he might have. Take any aspect of Eric's life and develop it.

  4. EXPOSITORY PAPER "I remember the coach saying that the initiation activities built team spirit and such. But it was horrible."

    Write an expository (explanatory) paper on hazing. Tell about the dangers as well as why it is done.

  5. PERSUASIVE PAPER "I have another question," Dana continued. Jericho knew what was coming. He tensed. "Why are there no girls in this club? I'd like to be considered for membership, and I want to know why I wasn't asked to join."
    Write a persuasive paper that argues the following point: "It is acceptable for school clubs to allow only one particular group of people as members." Whether you agree or disagree, your paper should address only one side of the issue.

  6. CHARACTER SKETCH Write a character sketch of Josh-what made him unique-his personality, his charm, his love of life. Use specifics from the book to illustrate your points.

  7. POETRY Write a poem about one of the following topics:
    • The Battle Within
    • Broken Heart
    • Forever Friends
    • The Joy of Music
    • Death of a Friend
    • A Moment of Silence

Battle of Jerico Webquest

The Battle of Jericho
By Sharon M. Draper
0-689-84232-5
Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Available wherever books are sold.

The Jericho Trilogy


The Battle of Jericho

November Blues

Just Another Hero