WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO SAVE YOURSELF?
Nina Idi -- a third child in a society where families are allowed only two children -- has been betrayed by the boy she loved, and arrested by the Population Police for exposing other alleged third children. Angry and confused, Nina knows only one thing for sure: She is innocent of the charges. But now she is faced with the most difficult choice of her life: Get three other prisoners to admit they are shadow children and be spared herself, or refuse to cooperate and be killed.
The options are clear. The choice, Nina discovers, is not...
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers|
|Series:||Shadow Children Series , #3|
|Product dimensions:||5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Lexile:||690L (what's this?)|
|Age Range:||8 - 12 Years|
About the Author
Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many critically and popularly acclaimed YA and middle grade novels, including the Children of Exile series, The Missing series, the Under Their Skin series, and the Shadow Children series. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for The Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio. Visit her at HaddixBooks.com.
Table of Contents
Reading Group Guide
THE SHADOW CHILDREN BOOKS
Among the Hidden
Among the Impostors
Among the Betrayed
By Margaret Peterson Haddix
A Guide for Reading Groups
About the Books
Sometimes in this world it's hard to know who is telling the truth, who isn't, and what can be done about all the things that are wrong. The government claims that there isn't enough food for everyone in the world, and so they have made it illegal for any family to have more than two children. Yet hundreds of these illegal shadow children exist, and they want desperately to find a place for themselves in society. But these are children who have been forced to hide their entire lives, and who are only allowed to venture out with fake IDs in their hands and fear in their hearts. How can they sort through the conflicting information about shadow children and find out where they belong? And will they be able to find the courage to defy the government and stop hiding?
- What are some of the ways in which having more than two children would be a burden in this society? Why do some families decide to have illegal shadow children in spite of this added strain? Do you think that the benefits of having another child outweigh the sacrifices that must be made?
- Luke often feels hurt by the way his father treats him, especially when he is making his decision to leave the family farm. Do you think Mr. Garner means to be cruel? Jen's father, Mr. Talbot, can also seem cruel to the casual observer. Is this image justified? How are their reactions to the children different from the reactions of their wives?
- How does the government enforce its rules and regulations? Do you think their plan for dealing with the waning food supply is a good one? Do you think it is justified?
- Nina is reluctant to take on her false identity because she fears she will lose her past and cease to be the same person. Are her fears warranted? How do other shadow children feel about their identities, both old and new?
- When shadow children stop hiding, they often have difficulty adjusting to their newly expanded world. In what ways would this be a hard adjustment to make? How do the different children react to their new freedoms? What has been done to help make it easier for the children?
- Luke is a devoted friend to Jen even after her death. Why does he feel such loyalty toward her? Do you think his concept of friendshipas well as his devotion to Jenwould have been different if he hadn't been in hiding all his life? How are Nina's concepts of friendship and love affected by the fact that she is a shadow child?
- Discuss how each character chooses to fight for the freedom of shadow children. How effective was Jen's rally? Is Mr. Talbot in a better position than the children to fight for change? How do Luke's actions fit into the movement?
- Many of the characters find they have the potential to lead others. What are the different ways they assume leadership roles? Whose leadership is the most effective? Why?
- The world's population grows larger every day. Write a report on population: how it has changed over the years, how it affects our society, and ways of dealing with it.
- How do we deal with hunger and famine in our modern world? Research the policies that different countries have for dealing with hunger both at home and abroad. Stage a debate, with each person advocating a different approach, and see if you can reach a consensus about which methods are the most effective.
- Luke's family lives on a farm, and he is very interested in gardening and hydroponics, the growing of plants in a nutrient-rich water rather than soil. Learn more about these disciplines by trying to grow some vegetables of your own. Perhaps you can plant a small garden, or try your hand at hydroponics.
An Interview with Margaret Peterson Haddix
What inspired you to create the Shadow Children series?
MPH: I first started thinking about the whole scenario when my husband and I were trying to decide whether or not to have a third child. We discussed the issue of overpopulation, and how that should affect our decision. In frustration one night I thought, "Well, if overpopulation were that bad of a problem, there'd be a law that nobody could have more than two children." My next thought was, "Wow. What if there were a law like that?"
By any chance, are you a third child? Do you have more than two children?
MPH: No to both questions. I'm a second child, out of four. And I have only two children, though there are usually several of my kids' friends hanging around the house so it often seems like I have more.
When you wrote the first book, Among the Hidden, did you envision it would be the first in a series?
MPH: Not at all. I intended it to be a stand-alone book, and for a long time I resisted all suggestions that I continue the story. Then I got the image in my head of Luke lying in bed at night in a strange place, surrounded by strangers, and whispering his real name to himself in a desperate attempt to hold on to his real identity. That became the opening scene of Among the Impostors and the beginning of the rest of the series.
Each of the books has been so different, yet based on the same themes. How are you able to keep the series fresh?
MPH: I think it's helped to switch between main characters, so everything isn't always from Luke's perspective. And, although I didn't plan this from the beginning, the situations in the books keep changing, with the shift in the government and more restrictive rules. My characters are becoming more desperate, with good reason.
Your books all offer so many twists and turns that they are real page-turners, yet all of the angles come together. How are you able to keep everything straight as you write these books?
MPH: Well, I'm not always able to keep it all straight the first time through. Sometimes I write myself into corners and struggle to find a way out. Revision is definitely helpful.
You don't specify the setting for the books. Is this meant to suggest that this type of totalitarian government can take place anywhere in the world, at any time?
MPH: I don't want to sound like that much of an alarmist, although it amazes me how ordinary, otherwise sane and supposedly even good people accepted dictators like Hitler in the past. I did consider, early on, stating outright that these books take place in the United States in some not-so-distant future, after droughts and famines and a drastic change in the government. But explaining all of that would have been an immense interruption in the story. And I thought a lot of people would dismiss such a possibility out of hand, and then dismiss the entire series as implausible. So I left the setting as some vague, fictional place in some vague, fictional future, with hopes that this would make readers think for themselves about whether such a shift would be possible here.
How much do current events affect your plot choices for the series?
MPH: The first three books were not affected at all by current events. Instead, while I was planning for them, I did a lot of historical research: I read about famines in the past; I read about the difficulties Jewish children faced coming out of hiding after World War II; I read about the different resistance movements that sprang up to fight the Nazis throughout Europe; I read about the Soviet Union under Stalin; I thought about my father's stories about growing up during the Depression and my own fascination with some world events of the 1980s, particularly Tiananmen Square and the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. I thought I was drawing on tragedies and hopes of the past in order to imagine children fighting a dismal future that I didn't believe would really happen.
My perspective changed after September 11. I had just begun writing Among the Barons in the fall of 2001, and for a few weeks after the terrorist attacks I felt it was impossible to continue. It seemed wrong to write about opposing the government -- any government. I knew Oscar was going to carry out some form of sabotage, and it made me sick to think about writing that. When I finally returned to Barons, it became a very different book than it would have been if I'd finished it September 10, 2001. Luke's confusion and dread mirrored a lot of what I was feeling in real life.
Among the Brave and Among the Enemy have been less connected to current events, but there are certainly overtones. In the Shadow Children world, people gave up all their freedom for food; our country is currently struggling with the question of how much freedom we can or should give up for security. In Brave and Enemy, Trey and Matthew and Matthias put their lives on the line trying to protect or save other people; soldiers and firefighters and police officers made and continue to make similar choices.
I really wish we were living in safer, happier times, and I could base the books solely on my own imagination and history. But seeing all the connections to reality does make me more thoughtful and careful about what I write.
The Shadow Children long to live freely, yet have been conditioned to fear the outside world. Do you feel that readers can relate to this feeling of fear and powerlessness? Why?
MPH: Yes. We live in frightening times, and it's hard to know what to do. I think a lot of people feel powerless right now. Also, on a less dramatic scale, I think most teens and preteens can relate to wanting to be in control of their own lives but being afraid of all the responsibility. That's part of growing up.
It's fascinating how minor characters in earlier books become the protagonists of later books. Did you plan this when you began writing the series?
MPH: When I agreed to do more books after Among the Hidden, I expected to tell about numerous characters besides Luke. But I didn't really plan the interconnections -- my original thought was that I'd skip from one character to another, in vastly different circumstances. I think I was seeing the series as several related stand-alone books, rather than an actual series. But then after Among the Impostors, it was like Nina said to me, "Hey, I've got a story, too. Want to hear it?" In retrospect, it makes sense to me that the minor characters grow into main characters in subsequent books. With practically every book I've ever written, I've known more about the minor characters than I can fit into the book. So it's been a joy to get to expand on some of those characters in other books.
The Shadow Children series is hugely popular with middle grade and teen readers. What are the most common questions that kids ask you about the books?
MPH: A lot of kids ask where the books take place, and whether I think the events in the books will really happen. They ask how I got the idea for the series, and whether I know about the one-child policy in China. One of the most poignant questions anyone ever asked me came from a boy who wanted to know where the Population Police are because, he said, "I don't want to go there." And I thought, okay, maybe he doesn't quite understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction, but he does get the bigger point. None of us should ever want to go to those kinds of restrictions, that kind of a police state.
Do you hope to send any particular message or moral when writing these books?
MPH: My primary goal is to tell a good story -- I can't think of much that turns off kids faster than books that are overly didactic or moralistic. But I'm always glad when kids tell me these books have made them think about freedom and courage and personal choices and sacrificing for others.
ABOUT THE BOOKS
Imagine living in the shadows, hiding your existence from almost everyone in the world. This is the plight of Jen, Trey, Nina, and all other third-born children. With their nation plagued by drought and food shortages, their government has made it illegal for families to have more than two children. Yet thousands of thirds exist without identification cards or rights of any kind. As these shadow children begin to discover and communicate with each other, their worldviews broaden. They begin to wonder why their government claims that they are the cause of all of their nation's ills, and they question the worth of their leaders themselves. Fearfully, unwittingly, or angrily, these secret children emerge from the shadows to fight for change.
The seven Shadow Children novels are told from the viewpoints of Luke, the beloved third son of a rural family; Matthias, the abandoned urban orphan raised by elderly moralist Samuel; and other third children. Their narratives offer readers differing perspectives on the compelling questions explored in the series. Should the government have the right to dictate the size of families or other aspects of how people choose to live their lives? In an age of televised news, how can one be certain what is really happening in the world and what is illusion who is telling the truth and who isn't? Can individual actions truly affect the future of a nation? And, ultimately, what does it mean to live in freedom?
Why do you think some families decided to have third children despite their society's desperate circumstances and strict laws? Do you think that the benefits of having another child would outweigh thesacrifices that must be made? Why or why not?
Each third child comes from a different background and type of hiding place. How are these children treated by the people who care for them and hide them? How do they feel about their circumstances? How do these feelings affect their actions?
How does the government enforce its rules? Do you think its plan for dealing with the low food supply is a good one? Is it justified? Must governments limit individual freedoms to protect their citizens as a group? Is this the case in your own country?
To come out of hiding, shadow children must assume false identities. How would you feel if you had to live under an assumed name, denying your relationship to your family? Which shadow child's feelings about this situation are most like your own and why?
Are the shadow children in more danger when they are hidden or when they venture out into the larger, more complicated world? In what ways do you think this would be a difficult transition to make? Would you feel safer or less safe out in the world?
Shadow children are often uncertain whether people are their friends or their enemies. Cite examples when third children question the loyalties of Mr. Talbot, Smits, Oscar, and even members of the Population Police Force. Is trust as difficult in your world?
A critical challenge faced by each shadow child is the sense that one individual cannot make a difference. When do Luke, Nina, Trey, and Matthias express this sense? Are they correct? What is the relationship between this feeling and the leadership roles these children ultimately take on?
How do different characters contribute to the fight for the freedom of the shadow children? How effective is Jen's rally? Does Luke help the cause when he joins the Grant family of Barons? Can Trey's fear be a type of courage? How do Mr. and Mrs. Talbot, Mr. Hendricks, and even Philip Twinings help the fight?
It becomes increasingly clear that the government is misinforming its citizens. What lies are told on the public television channels? How is the information on the Baron channels different? What roles do television and the Internet play in the novels?
Why do you think the government is, in a sense, framing the shadow children for the nation's problems? Whom do you think the starving population would be angry with if they did not have the shadow children to blame for their hunger?
In what ways does hunger affect different characters and their actions? If your family were hungry, would you have joined the Population Police? Why or why not?
When Aldous Krakenaur and the Population Police are defeated in the final book, are the third children truly safe? What does Luke do to expose Oscar? Why does Nina feel that only a third child could have stopped Oscar?
What kind of government do you think or hope the shadow children will help to create? How does Luke imagine the future? Do you think it will be perfect? Do you think it will be better? Explain your answer.
QUOTATIONS TO DISCUSS
Among the Hidden begins with Luke musing: "I will never be allowed outside again. Maybe never again as long as I live." What might you do if you were facing your final moments outside? How does this passage affect your understanding of the series?
Jen tries to persuade Luke to join the rally, saying, "You've got to come, Luke, or you'll hate yourself the rest of your life. When you don't have to hide anymore, even years from now, there'll always be some small part of you whispering, 'I don't deserve this. I didn't fight for it. I'm not worth it.' But you are, Luke, you are." List three ways Jen's words are important. How is Jen, who dies, a key character throughout the series? Compare and contrast the characters of Jen and Samuel as moral thinkers and leaders.
Near the end of Among the Impostors, Mr. Hendricks explains that, "The Population Police can lie too...It suits the government's purposes to say they are arresting third children rather than traitors." Why might this be better for the government's purposes? Are third children the real cause of the nation's troubles?
Among the Betrayed opens with Nina's thought that "...like the bogeyman and the Big Bad Wolf and the Wicked Witch and the creep-show monster, the Population Police belonged in stories and nightmares, not real life." What makes these rebellious thoughts? What makes these brave thoughts?
In Chapter 29 of Among the Barons, "Luke remembered a quote from one of his history books: 'The king is dead, long live the king.'" How do Luke's experiences help him understand these words spoken upon the death of France's Kings? Is the transfer of power in Luke's world really this clear? How might this quote be understood in terms of the way leadership changes hands in your country?
In Chapter 21 of Among the Brave, Luke's brother, Mark, complements Trey on being braver than him. As Trey Responds, he realizes, "People are brave in different ways." Explain this quote in terms of the different types of bravery depicted in the series.
In Chapter 19 of Among the Enemy, Matthias wonders why he could save a Population Police officer, then fight against him. "It had to do with Samuel telling him, over and over again, 'Killing is wrong.' Even...back in the cabin, Matthias hadn't wanted to be an accomplice to any more murder." How does the memory of Samuel affect Matthias's thoughts and actions? How do Samuel's words affect your understanding of the relationship between third children and their government?
At the end of Chapter 8 in Among the Free, Luke asks a boy about his loyalties. "'Which side am I on?' [the boy] repeated. 'What do you think? Whatever side feeds me that's the one for me.'" Luke later muses, "Shouldn't the enemies of my enemies be my friends?" Discuss loyalty in terms of these two quotations. Could you ever be driven to think like the hungry boy? Why or why not? How would you respond to Luke's circular question about the enemies of his enemies?
WRITING AND RESEARCH ACTIVITIES
The premise of the Shadow Children series is that third children must live in hiding, pretending not to exist. Imagine you are a third child. Write three to five journal entries describing your life, how you feel about it, and your dreams, if any, for the future.
Margaret Peterson Haddix calls these novels the "Shadow Children" series. What other words, such as hidden or forbidden, describe third children? Look up "shadow" in the dictionary. Based on these exercises, write a short essay explaining why "shadow" is, or is not, the best word to use in the series title. If not, what series title would you suggest?
Make a "top ten" list of reasons people join the Population Police. Then, in the character of one of those of people, write a speech explaining to the Population Police why you have come to join them. Read your speech aloud to classmates.
In the final book, Luke balks at being interviewed on camera, stating that if he is free then he has the right to say nothing. Why does Luke say this? Role-play this scene, having one classmate act as the interviewer while others play liberated citizens. You may also want to role-play the scene in which citizens begin to testify against third children once again. Discuss ways in which these role-plays are similar and/or different.
The world's six billionth child was born in 1999, and our population continues to grow. A growing population poses risks to the planet. Imagine you have just been told that you are child number six billion. Write a journal entry describing how you feel about this fact.
The world's three most populous countries are China, India, and the United States. Research how population growth has been handled in one of these countries. Compare and contrast the different population changes and policies with the research of other classmates or friends. Have the policies been successful? What positive and negative effects might these policies have in the future? (Hint: Excellent data is available on the Population Reference Bureau website: www.prb.org.)
Food and Hunger
Luke's family lives on a farm, and he is very interested in gardening and hydroponics, the growing of plants in a nutrient-rich water rather than soil. Learn more about these disciplines by trying to grow some vegetables of your own or trying your hand at hydroponics.
The people of the Shadow Children world sometimes act against their moral senses because they are starving. What does it mean to be hungry? Write a paragraph describing how your stomach, limbs, and mind feel when you have missed a meal. Compare this to an encyclopedia definition of starvation. Based on these observations and facts, write a defense of the starving people's bad acts.
How do we deal with hunger and famine in our modern world? Research the policies that different countries have for dealing with hunger both at home and abroad. Stage a debate, with each person advocating a different approach, and see if you can reach a consensus about which methods are the most effective.
Governments and Control
Are these novels about a strong government preventing famine through limiting population? Or are they about a failing government attempting to keep control despite the famine by blaming third children for the entire population's hunger? Write a paragraph explaining which of the above sentences best describes the crisis of the Shadow Children series and why.
Research the population control efforts of the Chinese government, the vilification of the Jewish people by the Nazis in World War II, or the racial hierarchy established between the Hutu and Tutsi people in Rwanda. Present an informative poster based on your research to friends and classmates. Discuss the ways in which each of these governments resembles the actions of the Shadow Children government. Then, if desired, write a paragraph stating which real-life situation you think is most similar to the series and why.
To promote the idea that third children are villains, the government feeds the population propaganda through television and posters. Find the dictionary definition of propaganda. Look for examples of propaganda in the novels. Then create your own propaganda poster defending or blaming third children for the troubles of their nation.
Luke and his friends ultimately have the opportunity to help create a new government. With classmates or friends, brainstorm a list of rules, regulations, and freedoms for the new government you would create for the Shadow Children. Or you and your classmates can each draft a new constitution for the Shadow Children to present to your class. Vote on the best constitution.
What does it mean to be free? Hold a Freedom Day at your school or classroom. Learn about celebrations of freedom across time and cultures. Write an essay, poem, or song lyrics; create a sculpture, drawing, or collage; or improvise a dance or a play showing what freedom means to you.
Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many critically and popularly acclaimed teen and middle-grade novels, all published by S&S. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for The Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a very exciting book, about a world were a family is only alowed to have two children but most people dont follow the law and have a third child. They call third children shadow children. Shadow children have to hide all their life so the population police dont find them because if population police find a 3rd child in a house hold the family and the 3rd child will be exicuted. The family will be exicuted for hiding and harboring a 3rd child P.S. dont read this book unless youve read the 1st and 2nd one in the series or this book wont make sense.
This book was excellent, but I would recommend reading the previous books in the series to get a better idea of the storyline. Margaret Peterson Haddix's The Shadow Children Series rocks!!
Awesome. I loved this book. But, I would like some more books about just Nina. That would be great!
At my school this is an a.r book and i luv it and i'm only 10:)
Wow! This book was awesome! Very intense! I could keep reading this series forever! Read it in one day, SO awesome!
I just finished it. It is pure awesomeness. U should totally read this excellent book.
I luved this book!!!! The best book ever!!!!!!!!!!
This is one of the greatest books on the planet
Love it, lots of suspence
This was a great book.
Best book i ever read!
However, the ebook has several minor punctuation errors. Seems rushed, unfortunately. Still read the book, though! It really does grab you into the series
Its a pretty good book
This book rocks
The books are great but the r too short in my opinion
this was definetly the best one out of the series:)!!
This story is by far the best one I've read in months! The twist ending makes the story seem pointless. A great book for anyone.
Awesome simply awesome.
Nina lives in a society in which families are limited to two children. Third children are hidden, and, if found, arrested and often tortured and killed. Nina was betrayed by Jason and taken from her girl's school and imprisoned. Used to having been pampered by her aunts and grandmother, and then having become accustomed to a structured life in the girl's school, Nina could scarcely believe that her cell and her chains were real, but they were! Third in the series of the Shadow Children, this book is about Nina, a girl that Lee had met in book two. Although Haddix write very well, I did not like this story as much as the first two. Still, it is a story worth telling. And the author makes her futuristic world very real, again, in this third book.
I loved this book especially it kept me hooked until the end love it i agrre the end was suprising
I really love this book and its series!!BUT my favorite part is the end.i can not spoil it but just be ready:)