No More Dead Dogs: What School Age is This Appropriate For?


Gordon Korman. No More Dead Dogs. New York: Hyperion Books, 2002

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Enter...No More Dead Dogs by Gordan Korman.


Starring Wallace Wallace, a young boy with two first names, or two last names. Trudi, a love struck teenage girl. Rachel, another love struck teenage girl who is unaware of being love struck. Mr. Fogelman, an obsessive teacher turned rock band star. And Cavanaugh, a ken doll for an ex-best friend. The main characters in Korman's young adult novel are as original as well, dirt. But within this unique and fun story are the makings of a great and inspiring work of literature.

Summary

The main character, Wallace Wallace is a talentless football player who is being worshiped by his schoolmates and community for making the winning play in last year's championship game. Despite his terrible athletic skills, he rises to the top and becomes a hero to an entire town. This is not your ordinary bench player though, he has a little secret that gets him into trouble day, after day, after day.

Wallace Wallace never tells a lie. Ever.

His decision to always tell the truth comes from a rather adult situation in his life where his Father continually lied to his Mother, and to him, up to the day he left the family. Wallace opens the novel by telling us a specific story his Dad made up saying, "I was pretty clueless, like little kids can be. I thought my parents had a great relationship. The only thing they ever fought about was lying" (Korman p. 1). This occurrence in Wallace's life plays a part throughout the novel as his friends pitch in to help out their family. Through these group painting and raking activities Wallace is able to discover who is true friends really are.

The problem Wallace faces in the book however, is that he cannot put together a serious book report on his English teacher's favorite book, Old Shep, My Pal. Mr. Fogelman, his English teacher, is frustrated and angry with Wallace because he only writes about why he hates the book so much, "Old Shep, My Pal by Zack Paris is the most boring book I've read in my entire life. I did not have a favorite character. I hated everybody equally" (Korman, p. 4). Fogelman, to punish Wallace, gives him detention and asks him to re-draft his book report.

Wallace tries to come up with a new approach that will please Fogelman, but none of his ideas and interpretations ever make a positive impact on the teacher, forcing Wallace to spend his afternoons at the school play rehearsal (where is he serving his detention) instead of at football practice. During the time that Wallace is missing football practice his football friends are complaining and trying to get their "star player" to come back to the team. In a desperate attempt, they write him a book report trying to get him to turn it in:

I stared at it. "What do you expect me to do with this?"
"Hand it in!" our quarterback insisted. "You can't tell a lie, but I can. So I wrote you a review to get you back on the team. I even signed your name. See? doesn't that look like your signature?"

Wallace's friends on the team are desperate to have him back, at any cost.

Ironically, the play that Wallace is sitting in on is a rendition of Old Shep, My pal that Mr. Fogelman interpreted from the book. As the play is rehearsed, Wallace begins piping in about how he thinks the musical should be. He hates the old and boring language the characters use and suggests new, more hip lines for them to say. Soon enough, Wallace has complete control over the play and Mr. Fogelman must decide to either cut him loose or let it ride, "I didn't actually see the moment when Wallace officially took over Old Shep, My Pal. Oh, it definitely happened" (Korman, p. 93).

Although the novel seems to have a lot of complicated issues, the stereotypical characters often take away from the real action occurring in the story. It is not difficult to predict what the characters may say or do because of how simple they are and how unpredictable their actions are throughout the novel. This may be difficult for some students to ignore especially because the book is written in such and easy to read format. Working with your students and helping them see the difficult situations these characters are actually in may help bring new light to their view on the book. Please see the teacher recommendation section for ideas on how to get your students looking beyond the surface level.

This short novel has a lot of fun and interesting themes that can relate to many young readers. There are issues within families, at school, in extra curricular activities, and with friends. The reader gets to see the story told through four different perspectives, helping the reader to look at the story from many different angles. The book really shows a lot about how difficult life can be for one single kid, but how your friends and family can help you through even the toughest of situations.

Recommendations for Teachers
No More Dead Dogs contains many themes which are relevant to young adolescent children. These themes include the idea of friendship, of popularity in a group environment, of fitting social stereotypes, and of individual expression. It would be perfect to teach to a younger audience, such as 4th or 5th grade to maybe 7th or 8th grade.

Wallace has a reputation around school as a star football player, and even though he unjustly earned this title he somehow keeps this image up without even trying. This could lead into a discussion of how impressions can influence how a person is seen by other people, even people who hardly know them.

Wallace also has a 'no lying' policy in the book. Discussing the implications of such a practice in class could lead into an interesting debate about whether or not a person should lie in certain circumstances, or if lying is never a good thing to try. It gets into the issue of how much truth is really a good thing, and when can truth start to turn a situation sour. No particular point here to make, but young adolescents typically have more black and white views on honesty at this age, as they are just beginning to explore how moral issues can have gray areas in real life.

Discuss the assignment Wallace has to do, and never does. Why doesn't he do it? What was his problem? How could he have done the assignment and still remained true to his personal feelings about the book?

Looking Beyond the Surface Level:
  • After all the characters have been introduced in your reading of the novel, ask your students to do character maps of Wallace, Fogelman, Rachel, Trudi, Wallace's Mom, and Steve. In the character maps, ask them to associate each character with anything they can think of. For example: Wallace- Bad at football, has an ex-best friend, is popular because he won the football game, never tells a lie, is kind of cute, father left, only lives with his mom, has to help with household chores, doesn't want to lie because his father did, etc. This kind of thinking may help the students uncover some characteristics they may have not noticed before about the stereotypical people in the book.
  • In the novel, Wallace has to write a book review about a novel he hated. Include this activity in a journal, or even in a persuasive piece of writing. Have the students choose a book, short story, or poem they did not like reading or couldn't understand. Have them write about why they didn't like it. Encourage them to not write like Wallace does, but instead form an argument of why they didn't like it, and how it could have been improved. If you want the students all to write about the same book, have them each write a persuasive piece either for or against Korman's book. Make sure they include solid evidence for whatever stance they take.
  • The perspective that No More Dead Dogs is written in includes a viewpoint from four different characters. Ask the students to take a short story from earlier in the year and revise it with these different story perspectives. They do not need to pick four different characters, two or three should be enough. If they do not have a story that could be revised in this fashion, have them write a new story or even write a few additional chapters for No More Dead Dogs. This exercise will help them see why the author may have chosen this writing style and reveal how it can help the reader understand the story more.

About Gordon Kormon---
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In The Beginning
Gordon Korman (named after Gordie Howe) was born in Montreal, Quebec and first came to America via New York. He first broke into the writing scene when he was in seventh grade at 12 years old when he wrote This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall which is one of a series of books including others such as Go jump in the Pool and The Zucchini Warriors.

A Developed Author
Currently, Korman has written 55+ books (via several publishers: Scholastics and Hyperion) with several still in the works. Together, all of these works have succeeded 7 million copies sold. These books range from many different genres and Korman states that they are based 50/50 off real life
situations. He has demonstrated that it takes hard work to become a famous author as he spends roughly a month on the road covering tens of thousands of miles cross-nationally in order to promote his books to local schools and librariesand talk with kids.

Awards and Accomplishments
At age 17 won the Air Canada Award for an up and coming author in Canada. In 2003, Son of Mob was deemed Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults according to the American Library Association. No More Dead Dogs won 2003 Pacific Northwest Library Association’s Young Reader’s Choice Award. For a more complete list of awards.

For More Information
To see additional information on the series titles such as On The Run, Kidnapped, or Macdonald Hall or to learn about his individual children books such as Schooled, Toilet Paper Tigers or his Young Adult Novels such as Jake, Reinvented, The Juvie Tree, check out his website!

Check out this great interview which illustrates his lively personality and builds off the information presented in the About the Author section!


Multimedia

Here is an adorable video created by a young reader/fan of the book. The text in the video gives a brief synopsis of the book while throwing in a little bit of humor to keep things interesting. This type of video could work as a guide for students that are given a similar assignment.


Additional Resources:
  • Lesson Plans for Gordon Korman Books This site provides some discussion questions which promote not only fact finding practices but engage the students to think critically.
  • Gordon Korman Homepage For everything Gordon Korman including other works and biography.
  • Multnomah County Library This site contains a short discussion guide regarding the book.
  • No More Dead Dogs Facebook The Facebook page for the popular book, which has a summary and the ability to "like" the book.
  • Youtube video book report A video book report by a student.
  • Middle School Plays A website with several different plays that are written to be performed by Middle school students.
  • Books for boys Although I don't necessarily agree with creating a webpage specifically geared to boy readers, this site does provide a lot of recommendation for young boys as well as thorough descriptions of each book.
  • No Dead Dogs A list of young adult books in which there are no dog homicides or canine deaths compiled by a fellow dog lover.
  • Clipshow Explaining No More Dead Dogs in 1:30 with the help of comical clips put together. Very entertaining.
  • White Fang One of the best books featuring a dog/wolf ever. *SPOILER ALERT* White Fang doesn't die at the end. :)
  • Social Novel Wikipedia article on the creation of the social novel in a more adult context.
  • Young Adult Literature Comes of Age An article from the Los Angeles Times about how more adults are reading and enjoying young adult literature.
  • The History of Young Adult Novels A short, but interesting history of young adult novels during the 20th century.

--Aaron Yusten, Audra Birt, Derek Boillat, Kurt McCool