HIDE OR FIGHT?
Matthias, an illegal third child, is caught in the cross fire between rebels and the Population Police. When he unwittingly saves a Population Police officer, Matthias is brought to Population Police headquarters to train as an officer himself. There he meets Nina, another third-born who enlists his help in a plot to undermine the Population Police. But Matthias is under constant scrutiny, and he has no idea whom he can trust. What can one boy do against a wicked bureaucracy?
|Publisher:||Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers|
|Series:||Shadow Children Series , #6|
|Product dimensions:||5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.70(d)|
|Lexile:||760L (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.
Read an Excerpt
Matthias was sound asleep when the Population Police arrived at Niedler School.
It was the middle of the night, and Matthias was curled up on his narrow cot beside Percy's, in a roomful of narrow cots. It still bothered the boys that Alia couldn't sleep nearby. The cots were the most comfortable beds they'd ever had, but both boys still found themselves jerking awake several times each night, reaching out to protect a little girl who wasn't there.
But no instinct, no premonition alerted them when the Population Police trucks rolled up the school driveway. Matthias and Percy slept through the ominous rumble of the engines, the impatient rapping on the school's front door, the trample of boots in the hall. And then dozens of flashlights were suddenly blazing in their room, and Population Police officers were yelling at them, "Up! Up! Your country demands your service!"
Matthias's life before Niedler School had sometimes required instant alertness, even when awakening from deep sleep. So while the other boys in the room sat up groggily or moaned without opening their eyes "Huh?" "Wha's happ'ning?" only Matthias and Percy had the presence of mind to gather up their belongings, to stuff their feet into socks and shoes before the officers herded everyone out of the room.
"Think they're getting the girls, too?" Percy whispered as the press of bodies around them moved down the hall.
"Don't know," Matthias said miserably. He craned his neck, trying to see over the boys in front of him, but they were all too tall. Anyhow, a line of Population Police officers stood beyond them, blocking his view of the other wing of Niedler School.
To distract himself, Matthias crammed a moth-eaten sweater over his head and pulled it down over his pajama top. The sweater was easier to wear than to carry, and it provided some small protection against the chill of the hall. Until the past week, Niedler School had had what Matthias viewed as the greatest luxury ever: central heat. But something had happened a week ago, and now the vents no longer breathed heat, the light switches no longer worked, the bathroom faucets no longer delivered water of any kind. The few teachers who hadn't run away wouldn't or couldn't say what had changed.
"Want to escape?" Percy asked, so quietly that Matthias had to read his friend's lips rather than relying on his ears to register any sound.
"Not without Alia," Matthias whispered back.
The other students were wedged around him so tightly, and the Population Police officers were watching the boys so closely, that Matthias would have laughed at anyone else who suggested escape. But Matthias had no doubt that Percy had already worked out a plan, that he could have spirited himself and Matthias out of the crowd without leaving a trace.
The mass of bodies reached the school's dining hall, and the Population Police let the boys stream in.
"Sit!" the officers ordered, again and again. "Sit!"
They seemed to expect unquestioning obedience, single-minded focus on reaching each designated seat. But Matthias dared to turn his head and look around. He wasn't sure whether to be relieved or disappointed when he saw a group of students in nightgowns already sitting on the opposite side of the dining hall. The girls. His heart started to pound when he spotted one small blond head in particular.
"Alia's at the third table from the left," he whispered to Percy. "Facing this way."
"If we crawl under the tables ," Percy began. But it was too late.
All the boys were seated now, and the top Population Police official the one who had the most decorations on his uniform, anyway stepped up to the podium at the front of the room.
"Do you have any food?" he thundered.
Silence. No one dared to answer.
"Are you all mute?" the official raged. "Are you all a pack of imbeciles?"
Mumbles broke out in the crowd. "Uh, no, sir." "No, no, no." "No food, sir." Matthias wasn't sure if all the others lacked the courage to speak loudly or if, like him, they knew better than to draw attention to themselves. But enough students whispered that the message carried to the front of the room.
The Population Police official frowned.
"You," he said, pointing to a timid, frail boy near the podium. "Stand up."
Trembling, the boy rose.
"When was the last time you ate?" the official asked.
"Yesterday?" the boy said. "The day before?"
"You don't know?" the Population Police official asked.
"No, sir. I mean, yes, sir. I mean, I don't know what you count as eating. It's been just broth since since...last week?"
The Population Police official frowned. His eyes narrowed too, like he was mad that the boy was hungry.
"And what have you done to deserve food?" the official thundered.
The boy cowered, as if fearing that the man's voice alone could knock him over.
"Uh, I'm sorry, sir. I don't know, sir. I just "
"You have done nothing!" The man's voice was even louder now. No matter how much he wanted to avoid being noticed, Matthias couldn't help flinching. Every child in the room did. Only the Population Police officers stood impassive.
The man raged on.
"You don't deserve to eat! You are a drain on your country's resources!"
The boy seemed to grow smaller and smaller, hunching down to avoid the man's wrath. The man seemed about to hit him but suddenly drew back.
"And yet," he said, his voice turning soft and cunning, "your country has a new leader. A wise, compassionate leader, willing to give you a chance to make up for your uselessness. Would you like that, young man?"
A new leader? Matthias thought. How could that be? His country had had the same leader for as long as he could remember. Baffled, he watched the boy's eager nodding.
"You will work for your Government," the man said soothingly, "and then you will deserve food. Then you will eat." As a final touch, he laid his hand gently on the boy's head, like he was giving him a blessing. Then the man looked out at the whole crowd of students.
"All of you will work," he said. "All of you will eat."
As if on cue, the other Population Police officers began urging the students to their feet, began hurrying them out another door. By working their way diagonally through the crowd, Matthias and Percy were just a few kids behind Alia as they stepped outdoors. But just as they reached her side, a Population Police officer lifted her onto the back of a truck. Turning, the officer muttered, "The little ones won't last a week in the work camp. Why are we bothering?"
"Orders," the man beside him grunted.
Percy and Matthias scrambled up behind Alia, just in time to see another officer sliding a thick fabric strip across her chest and lap.
"You're tying her down?" Matthias asked incredulously.
"It's a seat belt," the officer said. "I'm keeping her safe."
But Matthias heard the clink of the metal latch at the end of the fabric. He saw the officer turn a key before straightening up. Alia wasn't just tied down she was locked into place.
"You're next," the officer said. "Sit down."
Matthias exchanged a quick glance with Percy, trying to hold an entire conversation with his eyes. What are my other choices?...What do you think I should do?
"I said, sit down!" the officer yelled, giving up all pretense of patience and kindness. He shoved Matthias to the floor of the truck, and Matthias's head hit the wooden wall that surrounded the truck bed. Then the officer slipped a seat belt across Matthias's body as well. Strangely, Matthias didn't hear the clink of the belt locking into place.
"You too," the officer screamed at Percy, shoving him down. "Hey, what's this? No personal possessions allowed."
He'd discovered the bundles of belongings Percy and Matthias had pulled together. He yanked them away and tossed them out the back of the truck, into the dark night.
"Won't we need clothes at the work camp?" Percy dared to ask.
"The Government will provide," the officer said. "The Government will provide everything you need."
Then the officer moved on to the next kid.
"You okay?" Percy whispered.
"I'll live," Matthias said, rubbing the knot that was already forming at the back of his head. "Alia?"
"I'm fine," the little girl said cheerfully. "What's our plan?"
"Cut the seat belts, then jump off the truck when no one's looking," Percy said.
"Sounds good to me," Matthias said.
He reached down into his pocket for his knife. But he'd forgotten: He was still wearing his pajama pants. His knife was in his other pants, in the bundle the Population Police officer had thrown off the truck.
"Percy?" he whispered, trying to keep the panic out of his voice, out of his mind. Surely Percy would have thought to keep his knife with him.
But even in the darkness, Matthias could recognize the look of dismay on Percy's face as Percy, too, shoved his hand down into an empty pocket.
"Alia?" Matthias asked. "Did you have time to bring anything with you when the Population Police came?"
Alia shook her head.
"I was asleep and somebody picked me up," she said. "One of them." She pointed at the Population Police officer shoving kids down near the other side of the truck bed.
Alia's voice was calm, but Matthias thought it must have been terrifying for her to wake up in the arms of her worst enemy.
"So none of us has a knife," Percy muttered, with his usual ability to cut right to the point of a matter.
We're so stupid, Matthias thought. Why weren't we sleeping with our clothes on under our pajamas? Why didn't we have all our tools stuffed in our pockets, all the time? He knew the answer. They'd gone soft, living indoors. They'd started to believe they belonged in central heat, with electricity and hot and cold running water. They'd started to trust in their own safety.
It's all my fault, Matthias thought. He was the oldest. If he'd told the other two to stay on constant alert, they would have.
Angrily, he yanked on the belt holding him in place, straining against the trap he'd been caught in. Amazingly, the belt pulled clean away from the wall.
He was free.
Matthias stared at the unattached metal end of the belt in disbelief. He held it up into the dim light, just inches from his eyes, trying to puzzle out how it'd come apart.
"Matty!" Percy exploded in a low voice. He shoved Matthias's hand down. "Don't let them see."
Matthias hid the metal end of the belt back against the wooden wall. He was thinking again.
"Pull on your belts," he hissed to Percy and Alia. "Maybe they'll come loose too."
But no matter how much Percy and Alia strained and tugged and pulled, their belts stayed firmly locked in place.
The Population Police officers were done loading children onto the truck now. Several children were crying, but no harsh male voices barked orders at them anymore. The sobs floated up toward the dark sky unmixed with any sound except the churning of the trucks' engines. All the officials, Matthias realized, had retreated back to the trucks' cabs.
They were about to drive away.
Percy and Alia seemed to grasp the situation at the same time Matthias did.
"Matt-Matt, go," Alia said, using the name she'd given him back when she was a baby, barely able to talk.
"Save yourself," Percy urged, his voice cracking. "You can't save us."
Matthias looked back and forth between his two closest friends. No "friends" was much too shallow a word to describe his relationship with Percy and Alia. They were like a brother and a sister who, by some strange accident, happened not to have the same parents. They were as much a part of him as his own arms; he couldn't imagine living without them.
"No," he said. "We stick together. Always."
He slid back against the wooden wall and tucked the broken end of his belt behind his back, hiding his chance at freedom.
Then the truck lurched forward, and it was too late to change his mind.
Copyright © 2005 by Margaret Peterson Haddix
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.
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.