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Readers occasionally ask if that is the character Jobbi, running away on the cover of Odd Ball.

Odd Ball cover proofsm1

It could be. Jobbi’s natural instinct is to immediately put some distance between himself and trouble. The problem, of course, is that running away doesn’t always fix things.


Why should your class read Odd Ball?

As  author I’m tempted to mention a gazillion very strong points about my novel, but I’m quite aware that no one wants or needs to hear them all. So I will be as brief and as accurate as possible. You can also find more in-depth suggestions further on, if you have the time or the inclination for that.

α - To answer the question, I think the first real solid point you may want to consider is the ‘why’ of why the publisher chose this book for publication in the first place.

He actually hasn’t told me in so many words, but I believe it’s because the book is written with humour. Not necessarily the laugh-out-loud, slap your thighs kind, but the kind that infuses the narrative and makes for an enjoyable read.

β - The format of individual monologues allows for the presence of four different protagonists—two male and two female. Educators will discover that different readers identify with different protagonists—and not necessarily following along expected gender lines.

γ - Does a sixth sense actually exist in human beings? That is still under study. There are over fifty universities and well-funded private organizations currently working in that field. Our primitive ancestors had a sense that not only helped them avoid danger and thus survive, but also helped them to know when and with who they were safe. An inherited ability for matchmaking would certainly make use of that.

δ - And could that unique skill actually save a school, even if the thirteen year-old who possesses that unusual ability is completely unaware that he has it? Yes, it is very possible. But, as with all desperate middle school situations, good friends are also required to pull it off.

ε - Other topics for discussion/study:

Overtime hockey— is it more important than anything? Is it conceivable that something could be more important?

Bully culture—has it changed or just gotten sneakier?

Would a stolen switchblade knife justify a whole school locker search?

Immigrant integration—how well would you handle it if you were the immigrant?

Why are leaders reluctant to step forward, particularly at school?

Is the character Paula really as threatened as she believes she is? Or is she overreacting?

Would you trust an Oddball to pick a dance partner for you—if it was only for one dance?

Oh, and worth checking out. Somewhere on this site there is a page about using a Sarcastic Ball and a fun link to a virtual Sarcastic Ball.

There are also two supplemental chapters to this book which were cut by the editor, but which I feel readers would enjoy in a follow-up/aftermath kind of way. Both have to do with the day after the Odd Ball. One is about Soon Lee, the other about the teacher, Ms. Dufault. I will make them available to teachers for their use, on request. Email me. There are plenty of email links on this site. Use any one of them. I will respond promptly. There is no charge.


More in-depth teaching suggestions – point form

P 7—Prologue. A decent description of the purpose of a prologue in a novel — Generally speaking, the main function of a prologue tells some earlier story and connects it to the main story. Similarly, it serves as a means to introduce characters of a story and throws light on their roles. In its modern sense, a prologue acts as a separate entity and is not considered part of the current story that a writer ventures to tell.

Sixth sense. The question is not whether a sixth sense exists within the human brain. It clearly has always existed there. It is whether we can still access that ability or if it has faded away and lost its purpose over time in a similar way to some of our body’s organs—spleen, appendix, tonsils—which have become vestigal.

Vestigal—Occurring or persisting as a rudimentary or degenerate structure. Relating to a body part that has become small and lost its use because of evolutionary change.

P 11—Each chapter is a monologue told by one of the characters or protagonists.

Protagonist—the leading character, hero, or heroine of a drama or other literary work.

What is unusual about this novel is that there are four protagonists. Each tells part of the story from their own point of view. There are also occasional chapters told through the eyes of a narrator. Those chapters are indicated by a location or address. It can be interesting to speculate who that narrator is, as he/she is one of the minor characters in the story. (footnote i )

Each chapter is designated with the name of the character/protagonist whose point of view is represented. Each chapter was also labelled in close consultation with a Sarcastic Ball. A very modern, convenient, yet surprisingly accurate form of scrying.  The best way to use a Sarcastic Ball is to ask a yes or no question.

There is no formal chapter list in this book.

P 22—Valmeira, Latvia is a real place. Latvia was chosen because whenever figure skating, traditional matchmaking and, hockey are triangulated, Latvia comes up at the top of the list. In fact Latvia is the second most hockey crazed country in the world after only Canada. That is based on both participation and number of fans for its population. Latvia also has a rich tradition of village matchmakers.

Latvia—2013 pop. 2.013 million. Language: Latvian 55%, Russian 35%. Capital city: Riga pop. 625, 000 (similar in size to Winnipeg, Canada). Type of government: parliamentary democracy. Republic of Latvia became independent of the Soviet Union on May 4th, 1990. There are seven teams in the Latvian Hockey Higher League. One team, the Dinamo Riga team, play in the KHL (Kontinental Hockey League/Russian Professional League). Latvian, Zemgus Girgensons is a star forward with the Buffalo Sabres of the NHL.

P 31—Brandon is related to one of the main characters in the book-Paula. Close readers put together the clues successfully. To others it comes as a revelation when told.

P 131—Soon Lee has a close internet friend, Hailey_m51p, who convinces her to take a chance. That is not always responsible behaviour when you have never met a person, other than online. The suffix to that online name is also quite unusual, even for the internet. What do you find if you google m51p? Does the result change your impression of Soon Lee’s friend?  Should there be a direct relationship between books and the internet? Should readers need one to understand the other?

more to come including footnote i



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