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The Battle of Jericho


About The Book

Sixteen-year-old Jericho is awaiting initiation to the Warriors of Distinction, the oldest and most exclusive club in school—but how high a price will he have to pay to belong? Find out in this first novel in Sharon M. Draper’s Jericho Trilogy.

When Jericho is invited to pledge for the Warriors of Distinction, he thinks his life can’t get any better. As the most exclusive club in school, the Warriors give the best parties, go out with the hottest girls, and great grades are a given. When Arielle, one of the finest girls in his class, starts coming on to him once the pledge announcements are made, Jericho is determined to do anything to become a member…

But as the initiation week becomes progressively harrowing, Jericho is forced to make choices he’s not entirely comfortable with. And one member seems to have it in for the sole female pledge in the group…a pledge who will stop at nothing to show she can handle the pressure. But when is she being pushed too far, and when should Jericho and his friends step in and risk losing their places in the pledging process? As Jericho becomes increasingly uneasy, his cousin Joshua breezes through the initiation, never thinking of the consequences, even when the fine line between fun and games, and life and death is crossed.


THE PLEDGE MASTERS MARCHED THE FIFTEEN pledges to the middle of the soggy yard. The ground was muddy and squished as they walked, and the frigid air whipped across the pledges’ wet T-shirts. Sharp needles of rain stung them as they stood there silently waiting for instructions.

“Kneel!” Rick Sharp shouted to Jericho.

Jericho wanted to disobey, but instead he knelt immediately. Cold mud soaked through his jeans in seconds.

“Take off my boot, Pledge Slime!” the six-foot, broad-shouldered senior shouted to Jericho over the noise of the pouring rain. He glanced down at Jericho, who huddled at his feet.

Jericho shivered as the rain came down harder and made him sink deeper into the mud of the desolate warehouse yard. His fingers were wet and stiff, but he reached for Sharp’s big, black army boot and slowly began to untie the laces.

“Hurry up, Pledge Slime!” Sharp shouted. Jericho dejectedly struggled to untie the wet lace of the pledge master’s boot, his fingers aching. He wasn’t sure what to do when he finished. He had no idea how to get the boot off Rick’s foot.

He glanced over to see, if he could, the line of the other pledges, also kneeling in the mud at the feet of their pledge masters. But the rain and the darkness made it difficult to see very much. Jericho could barely even see Josh, who was closest to him in the line, but he could hear Mad Madison shouting at him in the darkness. Jericho couldn’t see Kofi or Dana at all.

“All of us have been where you are tonight,” Sharp told Jericho. “A Warrior of Distinction is not afraid to lower himself for his brother. A Warrior of Distinction does not show fear. Are you afraid, Pledge Slime?”

“No, sir,” Jericho replied. “I’m not afraid.”

“Then get busy! The rest of your pledge class, slimy and disgusting as they are, seem to be doing fine. Do you want to let them down?”

Jericho inhaled slowly. It was all of them or none of them. “Can you lift your foot, Master Senior Sharp, sir?” Jericho asked timidly. As he raised his face to look at Sharp, he gasped as the icy rain stung his eyes.

“Did I give you permission to speak, Pledge Slime?” Sharp snarled. Jericho said nothing, but Rick lifted his right foot, using Jericho’s head to balance himself.

Jericho pulled the boot off with difficulty. He was afraid that he would fall or would make Rick fall as he tugged at the boot. Either would have been disastrous, but he managed to get the boot off smoothly. The stench of Rick Sharp’s foot was enough to make Jericho choke.

“Now take off the sock,” Rick barked.

Jericho hesitated and hoped they would be able to go home soon. He slowly peeled off Rick’s sock. Rick’s foot reeked of sweat.

“Place the sock on the ground, then set my foot down on it. Make sure not a speck of mud touches my foot,” he commanded.

Jericho did as he was told and Rick Sharp removed his hand from Jericho’s head as he lowered his foot to the ground. Then he bent down and whispered into Jericho’s ear, “You havin’ fun yet?”

Jericho didn’t dare tell the truth—that he had stopped having fun long ago.

“You really want to be a Warrior of Distinction?” Rick asked.

Jericho nodded. He thought of the prestige of having one of those black silk jackets, the admiring glances in the halls at school, but mostly he thought of Arielle. He tried not to think of the rain and the mud and the stink of Rick’s feet.

“Are you willing to do anything to be a Warrior of Distinction?” Rick demanded. “You have permission to answer.”

“Yes, sir! Yes, Master Senior Sharp, sir! I am willing to do anything to be a Warrior of Distinction, sir!” Jericho repeated the words that he and the other pledges had been chanting automatically since the whole process began. But he wasn’t sure if he meant them anymore.

“Are you willing to do anything to help the others become Warriors of Distinction?” Rick demanded.

“Anything, sir.” Jericho just wanted it to be over.

“Then suck my big toe.”

“Sir?” Jericho wasn’t sure if he had heard correctly.

“If you want to be a Warrior of Distinction, you must suck my big toe. Now!”

Jericho looked around desperately; he had no idea what the others were being forced to do. As he lowered his head close to the mud and closer to Rick Sharp’s foot, Jericho wondered miserably how he could have sunk so low.

Reading Group Guide

A Guide for Reading Groups
By Sharon M. Draper
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.
About the Author
Sharon M. Draper lives in Cincinnati, where she taught high school English for twenty-five years. She was named National Teacher of the Year in 1997, is board certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and is active in the National Council of Teachers of English. Her books include Tears of a Tiger, Forged by Fire (winner of the 1998 Coretta Scott King Award), Romiette and Julio, Darkness before Dawn, and, most recently, Double Dutch. She can be contacted at
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
"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.
"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).
"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.
"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.
"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.
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.
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

This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.

About The Author

Photograph (c) Sharon Draper

Sharon M. Draper is a three-time New York Times bestselling author for Out of My MindBlended, and Out of My Heart. She’s also won Coretta Scott King Awards for Copper Sun and Forged by Fire and multiple honors. She’s also the recipient of the Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring her significant and lasting contribution to writing for teens. Sharon taught high school English for twenty-five years and was named National Teacher of the Year. She now lives in Florida. Visit her at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books (July 11, 2017)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781481490290
  • Grades: 7 and up
  • Ages: 12 - 99

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Awards and Honors

  • South Carolina Picture Book Award Nominee
  • ILA Young Adults' Choices
  • Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee (IN)
  • Charlotte Award Suggested Reading List (NY)
  • ALA Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book
  • Arizona Young Reader Book Award Nominee
  • Eliot Rosewater Indiana High School Book Award Nominee
  • YARP Award Nominee (SD)
  • ALA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Nominee
  • ALA Margaret A. Edwards Award

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More books from this author: Sharon M. Draper

More books in this series: The Jericho Trilogy