1. The theme of friendship surrounds every character in this book, but the reader sees Toby's relationships more fully than the relationships of any other character. Examine Toby's friendships and discuss how they affect him. Define friendship; explain what it means to have friends and what character traits you value in your friends. What traits do you possess that make you a friend to others?
2. Toby's dad tells him, "You are a lucky person if you go through life and have one person need you." (p. 195) Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not? Give examples from the book and from your own life to support your belief about the validity of this statement.
3. People all over Texas pay two dollars to see Zachary, then make fun of him and ask him rude questions about how much he eats. Have you ever made fun of somebody or called him or her names? How did that make you feel? Has anybody ever made fun of you? How did it make you feel? Why do people make fun of others? What benefit do they derive from this? What is the Golden Rule, and how could it be applied to this situation?
4. Discuss the reasons it is so important to Zachary to be baptized. What are other religious or spiritual rituals? What do they have in common? Have you or has someone you know had the same feelings that Zachary has about a spiritual ritual?
5. Toby and Cal both suffer loss, but they handle it differently. What factors contribute to the way they deal with their grief? Do they go through the five supposedly normal stages of grief -- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance? Have you or has someone you know lost someone important? Was the experience similar and did you share the same emotions? How do you think you would handle what happened to Toby and Cal?
6. Cal and Toby have no way of knowing that coming face to face with Zachary will forever transform their lives. How does their encounter with Zachary help them decide what kind of friends and what kind of people they want to become?
7. Almost every character in the novel has a dream. Toby's mother wants to be a singer; Toby wants Scarlett to be his girlfriend; Cal wants to get out of Antler; and Zachary wants to be baptized. What other dreams do these characters have, and how are Cal and Toby affected when they help Zachary realize two of his dreams? What dreams do you have, and what are you doing to work toward their fulfillment?
8. Through Zachary's appearance in Antler, the author shows several ways people learn to live with and to like strangers. What are some of those ways? Have you ever had an encounter with a stranger that changed your life? How have you dealt with new kids at school or in church? Have you ever been the new kid? How were you treated?
9. Even though they are best friends, Toby and Cal keep secrets from each other. Toby writes a letter to Wayne, Cal's brother in Vietnam, and Cal is furious with Toby when he finds out. Cal knows that Zachary has never really traveled, and when Toby finds out that Cal knew this and didn't tell him, he is angry. Why do the boys keep secrets from each other? Is it ever all right to tell a secret? Does keeping secrets hurt other people?
10. When Toby and Cal first meet Zachary, they think he is rude, selfish, and not worth getting to know. What changes their perspective? Why are they willing to take risks to help Zachary? Does Zachary appreciate what Cal and Toby do for him? Have you ever changed your opinion about a person after getting to know him or her?
From the Paperback edition.