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A Reading and Activity Guide for The Whites of their Eyes
Benjamin Pratt & the Keepers of the School, Book III
By Andrew Clements
ABOUT THE BOOK
Benjamin Pratt is back in the third installment of this lively modern adventure that harkens back to New England’s historic past. While still trying to cope with his parents’ separation, Ben and his friend, Jill, continue their efforts to stop their beloved Oakes School from being turned into an investment property—and their cozy town into a giant parking lot for a new amusement park. This time, Ben and Jill find an unlikely ally in Ben’s sailing nemesis, Robert Gerritt. But will it be enough to stop the efforts of Mr. Lyman, the corporate spy disguised as the school janitor?
1. In the first chapter of The Whites of their Eyes
, Ben encounters a small dog. How does this event foreshadow frightening events that will happen later in the novel?
2. Ben and Jen take on a new ally in Robert Gerritt. What past conflicts with Robert must Ben deal with so that they can work together? (Feel free to refer to previous Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School novels if you have read them.) Do you think you would be able to work with a person like Robert? Why or why not?
3. What spy gear has Lyman installed in the school and how do the Keepers thwart his spy efforts? Would you have used similar strategies against Lyman? Explain what you might have done and why. What other roles does technology play in the story?
4. How is the mystery of “After four times four, tread up one more” solved? What do Ben and his friends find when they unlock the meaning of this clue?
5. In Chapter 8, Ben thinks about the Revolutionary War and the concept of keeping the “high ground.” Explain what this means and how Ben applies this knowledge to the Oakes School problem. What do you think is the importance of studying history more generally?
6. How do Ben and Jill keep their alliance with Robert a secret from Mr. Lyman? What happens when they meet at Buckle’s Diner? How does Robert suggest they make Lyman’s newfound knowledge about their friendship work against him?
7. Describe the ways in which Ben and Jill’s relationship is challenged and complicated by the presence of Robert. Try to consider both Ben’s and Jen’s points of view. What advice might you give to each of them?
8. What does Ben discover about Robert’s family situation? How does this affect their friendship? How does learning about Robert’s family change Ben’s perspective on his own situation?
9. Who is Mrs. Keane? What advice and help does she give Ben? How is Mrs. Keane’s family situation similar to that of Robert Gerritt? Does reading this story help you gain perspective on being a friend to people dealing with grief and loss?
10. List at least three facts Mr. Arthur Rydens shares with the Keepers, Mrs. Keane, and Tom when they visit the bank. How might these facts change the Keepers’ strategy?
11. As the novel draws to a close, what threat does the Glennley Group pose for the Keepers? What do you think the Keepers should do next? Do you think the Keepers can win their battle? Explain your answer.
ACTIVITIES & RESEARCH
1. Ben and Jen want to protect Oakes School from being demolished to make room for an amusement park. Using information from this and other books you may have read in this series, create a poster or PowerPoint presentation listing at least four reasons Oakes School should be saved. (Hint: Go to the library or online to learn more about the environmental impact of amusement parks and/or the National Register of Historic Places.)
2. In the character of Ben or Jen, write an email (minimum of two paragraphs) welcoming Robert Gerritt to the ranks of The Keepers of the School and explaining the rules and responsibilities of membership.
3. Is your hometown similar to or different from Edgeport? Make a two-columned chart comparing your town to Edgeport. Be sure to consider the climate, proximity to water, historic significance, and your school building, as well as other points you observe. 4. Ben reflects on the Revolutionary War, particularly the Battle of Bunker Hill. Go to the library or online to learn more about the American Revolution and the historic Bunker Hill battle. Then write a short essay describing any parallels you see between this battle and the fight for Oakes School.
5. Go to the library or online to find a definition for the word “legacy.” With friends or classmates, make a brainstorm list of ideas and images that come to your mind when you think about this word. Once the brainstorm list has at least 25 items, discuss whether most people have similar or different ideas about this term. Is it important to leave a legacy and, if so, what kind of legacy would you want to leave?
6. After completing activity five, above, use words that you have contributed to the list as the starting point for writing a poem or lyrics to a song you could title “Legacy.”
7. Throughout the story, Ben, Jen, and Robert must grapple with the fact that they are sneaking around, misleading their parents and entering the school without permission in their efforts to protect it from Lyman and the Glennley Group. In the characters of the three Keepers, role-play a conversation in which you discuss your feelings about breaking the rules.
8. Ben feels happy on a boat. The Whites of their Eyes
concludes with Ben looking up through a porthole. Draw a picture of a place that makes you feel happy and content. Caption your drawing with a few sentences describing what you like to do in this place.
9. What would you find? Make a list of the artifacts Ben, Jen, and Robert find hidden in Oakes School. Which artifact is most interesting or intriguing to you? Then imagine you found a fascinating historical object or document hidden in your school. Write a newspaper-style article describing what you found, where you found it, and the significance of your discovery for your school or community. If possible, create a mock version of your discovery and take a picture of yourself holding the document or object to accompany your article.
10. What would you save? Visit your local library, historical society, or a nearby museum to learn about your community’s past. Select a building, landmark, park, or other site that you feel is worth preserving for future generations. (Note: Your selection does not have to be a place that is currently threatened in any way.) Make a large, illustrated poster with the heading, “Let’s make sure future generations can enjoy _____ (your chosen site).” Consider including photographs, drawings, historical information, and quotations from local officials or residents discussing the site on your poster. Present your poster to friends and classmates.