- November Blues begins with a rather graphic description of the early discomforts of pregnancy. How does this help capture the reader's attention? What predictions can the reader make about November and the situation she seems to have gotten herself into? Compare those predictions to what really happens at the end of the novel.
- As you first meet November, how is she like many young people today? How is she different? What seem to be her biggest insecurities? Her greatest strengths? What character traits does she have that will help her through the difficulties to come?
- Describe the relationship between November and her mother. What family situations from the past still affect both of them? What tensions exist between November and her mother and why? How is their relationship affected by November's pregnancy?
- Why has Jericho given up the trumpet? Why does music cause him pain instead of give him pleasure? Why does he choose football over music? What is ironic about the practice times, as well as performance times, for the football team and the high school band?
- Discuss the character of Arielle and her complicated relationship with Jericho, as well as her treatment of Olivia. Does she have any redeeming qualities, or is she purely a negative character? What might have made Arielle the person she is? What alternate endings might you create for Arielle at the end of the book?
- Describe Olivia--physically, emotionally, and socially. Why is a girl like Olivia mistreated and sometimes unhappy in school situations? What makes Olivia a strong character? Compare Olivia's social difficulties with November's social problems. How are they alike? How are they different? How does each girl handle the problems she confronts?
- How does Jericho react to November's pregnancy and why does he have mixed emotions? How does he prove to be a supportive friend? How do the other students in the school react? Give specific examples.
- Describe November's increasing physical and social difficulties as her pregnancy progresses. How do her friends and teachers treat her? How does she feel about herself? What does she learn during her shopping trip for baby items? What happens during her trip to the mall?
- Describe Josh's parents after their son's death. Why do you think Josh's parents wanted to adopt the baby? What would you have done if you had to make November's choice?
- 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, including the football team and the band? How does it compare to high schools in your community? Why is a high school a good location to discuss serious teenage issues?
- Why would a school football team like Douglass agree to play a team like Excelsior? Realistically, what are the Douglass team's chances of winning? Coach Barnes is a great example of the power of encouragement and belief in the impossible. As they attempt to win, how does he help the boys on the team, both emotionally and socially?
- Describe the game with Excelsior. Do you think they could have won the game if it had not rained? Explain your answer. In the long run, which do you think was better for the team, a win in spite of great odds, or a loss with dignity?
- Describe the scene when November goes into labor on the side of the highway. How do you think she felt? How do you think the other students reacted to the whole scene? What would you have done if confronted with that situation?
- What were your predictions about November and the birth of her baby? How did those predictions differ from what really happened? How realistic were the events in the story, and how often do you think difficulties occur in teen births and deliveries?
- Why do Josh's parents decide they no longer want to adopt the baby? What does that tell you about them and their motives? How does November react and why? Why does Josh's mother cry as they leave?
- Why do you think Jericho decides to return to his music? Why does he stay with the football team as well? Describe the very last scene and why is it significant?
- Explain the title of the novel. Why does the title have more than one possible interpretation? Discuss the various “blues” within the story.
- What would have been the effect on the novel if the baby had been perfect? Why is tragedy more memorable and more powerful than happiness in a novel? What does November learn about herself, her past and her future through the birth of her baby? How has she changed? What has she lost? What has she gained?
- Decisions about sexual behavior in high school is a topic that needs to be discussed. Many young people live with unbelievable amounts of pressure from their peers—who they date, what they do on those dates, 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 November and the others are portrayed, and how they can become a voice for young readers.
- Visualize the next ten years for November and Sunshine, Jericho an Olivia, Dana and Kofi, and Arielle. Tell how their lives will have changed and how they were affected 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
- You are a reporter at one of the following scenes. Write the story for your newspaper.
- The game with Excelsior
- The ride home from the game on the school bus
- The helicopter landing on the highway
- The gathering of people in the hospital waiting room
- Investigate the problems of high school pregnancy. Find out statistics as well as problems that occur.
- Research current laws concerning adoption. Investigate the options as well as rights of a teen mother and her baby.
- Research the costs of running a high school football team for a year. Include uniforms and equipment, coaches, busses, and all other costs. OR Research the rules governing high school football in your state. Include times and dates of practices, games, physical requirements, and all other state and local rules.
- 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 Olivia, or Josh’s parents, or Jericho?
- Imagine it is three weeks after the end of the novel. Write a letter or create a conversation between the following characters:
- Jericho to Olivia
- Arielle to Jericho
- November to Mrs. Prescott
- Mr. Tambori to Jericho
- Mr. Grant (the lawyer) to Josh’s parents
- Josh’s parents to Mr. Grant
- In diary form, write the life of November and Sunshine for several months. Include details about how she manages to cope as a teen mother with a possibly disabled baby.
- 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 magazine article.
- Coach Barnes
- Write a paper that investigates the effects of pregnancy on young women. You might discuss options, adjustment, or financial situations. Show the results of the effects of pregnancy on school, personal, and social situations. You may choose to show both positive and negative results.
- Write a paper that investigates the effects of teen births on young men. Discuss social, emotional, and financial responsibility, both short-term and long range. Give specific examples.
- COMPARISON PAPER
"I don't have one single thing to remember about my mother," Olivia said, her eyes filling with tears. "It's like a clean notebook--full of pages with nothing written on them."
"My mother makes me itch," Dana told them, "but I wouldn't know how to breathe without her. It must be really hard." "You know what it's like not having a mother?" Olivia asked.
"I can guess, but not really," November replied.
"Imagine being born without your right hand. You learn to do stuff without it. You eat with your left hand and figure out how to tie your shoes. You only need one glove in the winter. You can't clap."
Write a paper about a friend or family member that use strong, unusual comparisons to make your point. Make sure you use specific details to make your paper effective.
- DESCRIPTIVE PAPER
" Cell phones came out like buzzards after a kill as kids sent calls and text messages to each other, passing along the news and trying to get more details. That's all anyone talked about for days afterward--the fact that November was pregnant with her dead boyfriend's baby--it was better than reality television."
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).
- NARRATIVE PAPER
"I wonder how many women have sat on this table in this cold room. I guess the ones with husbands out in the waiting room are happy and excited, cause that's the way stuff is supposed to happen. What about girls like me? Her thoughts were interrupted by Dr. Holland, who greeted her warmly, snapped on a pair of latex gloves, and began the probing and palpating that November hated.
"Are you having any problems?" the doctor asked after her examination.
"I feel swollen. My back hurts. I'm constipated. I burp all the time. I'm always sleepy. Other than that, I'm just peachy!" November replied sarcastically. "How am I going to make it until fall? Last week I had some garlic pasta and I think I burped and farted that stuff for three days!"
Write a narrative paper from the point of view of November. Tell what kind of day or week or month she might have as a pregnant teen. Take any aspect of her pregnancy and develop it. Use examples from the book to support your statements.
- EXPOSITORY PAPER
" The coach and the team climbed back on the bus and Mr. Rubicon directed the driver up a long drive flanked by weeping willows.
"In front of us you'll see the main campus of our academy," Mr. Rubicon said. "That's our Arts building to the right and the Science building on the left. As we pull around to the back here, you can see our athletic complex--tennis courts, the polo fields, and our outside swimming pool. Our indoor swimming facility is Olympic-sized. We've had several athletes win gold in the high school championships," he said proudly.
"What do you need a barn for?" Roscoe asked as he pointed to the wooden structure they drove by next.
"Oh, those are our stables. That's where we keep the polo ponies, as well as the horses we use for students involved in various equestrian competitions."
"Man!" Roscoe muttered."
Write an expository (explanatory) paper that describes your school or an area in your neighborhood. Use as many specifics as possible.
- PERSUASIVE PAPER
"Starting today, starting this very moment," Coach Barnes said clearly, "we become winners! Champions! Believers in our skills and abilities!"
"Defeat the Excelsior Wildcats?" The guys on the field looked at the coach with looks of disbelief.
"You trippin', man!" Roscoe grumbled.
"Take a lap, my young friend. As a matter of fact, take two! In order to succeed with us, you must believe with us. " The coach pointed to Roscoe and jabbed his thumb toward the fence. Roscoe started to protest, but then he got up and began to jog slowly.
"Another guy complained. "We're gonna look like animals going to slaughter when we walk out on that field." Jericho, who had no intention of running another step, couldn't believe the kid was stupid enough to complain, especially after he'd seen what Roscoe was doing.
"Join Roscoe," the coach commanded. "Anybody else want to say we can't win? I've got all day to sit here and watch you run."
Write a persuasive paper that argues the following point: "The impossible can be accomplished with hard work and high expectations." Whether you agree or disagree, your paper should address only one side of the issue.
- POINT OF VIEW PAPER
"Of course not, but we would like to make you an offer, November," Mrs. Prescott said gently. "We'd like to adopt the baby and raise it as our own."
November's thoughts churned. Her first reaction was to scream, "No way!" Then she immediately wondered what would happen if she agreed to this ridiculous proposal. Would I get to see it? Would they let me? And, a moment later, Would I want to?
"You wouldn't have to be burdened with this unplanned responsibility for the rest of your life," Josh's father added.
He's right! I'd be free! Her heartbeat quickened. But then November immediately felt overwhelmed by guilt. She gulped. How can turn against the baby like this? What kind of mother even thinks about giving her baby away?
"We'd make it worth your while." The lawyer inserted himself into the conversation. "You'd be financially set for years to come."
Read the passage above and explain how the point of view of the character who makes the observation influences the description. How would Josh's mother have written this passage? How would the lawyer have written this passage?
- CHARACTER SKETCH PAPER
" November was quiet for a moment, then moved aside two empty boxes of frosted flakes, revealing a framed photo of Josh that was sitting on Jericho’s desk. It had been taken at last year's school picnic at the end the junior-senior foot race. Josh's face glowed with sweat, and his feet barely touched the ground as he lunged for the finish line. Arms upraised and waving, wide grin signaling victory, the photo captured him so completely that it seemed he might burst out of the frame. She picked it up, almost expecting it to feel warm. “He looks so. . . alive in this picture,” she said softly."
Write a character sketch of a strong powerful person--a friend, a relative, a family member. Use strong verbs and adjectives, as well as sensory imagery.
- PERSONAL ESSAY
"That night, November shivered as she curled up in her bed with her Big Bird stuffed toy that she'd gotten when she was five. She would never let her friends know she still slept with a stuffed animal, but Josh had known. He'd even bought her a little green Kermit the Frog for her birthday last year. When she'd asked him why Kermit, Josh had said, "The frog can keep the bird company while you're gone to school, and besides, it will drive Miss Piggy crazy with jealousy!"
They'd giggled and pretended and figured they'd have forever to laugh together. But they didn't. Kermit was still around to keep Big Bird company, but November knew she was now on her own. She cuddled the well-worn toy and cried herself to sleep."
Write a personal essay that describes a special memory or object in your life. Explain why it is meaningful to you. Be sure to include sensory imagery--sights, smells, touches, tastes, sounds.
Write a poem about one of the following topics:
- The Secret
- Broken Heart
- Forever Friends
- The Joy of Music
- The Power of Sports
- Betrayal by a Friend
By Sharon M. Draper
Available wherever books are sold.