Teacher's Guide: Love, Stargirl
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Recommended for grades 7 and up
Jerry Spinelli’s bestselling novel Stargirl is a deceptively complex tale about love and loss, about fitting in and standing out, about speaking out and being quiet. High school narrator Leo Borlock chronicles the impact just one new girl can have on an entire Arizona town. Love, Stargirl finds Stargirl again transplanted—this time farther east. In letter format, Stargirl herself breaths life into the odd and poignant minutiae of life and love. She explores her new neighborhood with an eye for the unusual. She notices the agoraphobic neighbor, the seemingly homeless young boy, and others who do not fit in easily. never one with an inclination to conform, empathizes with the outcasts, making many of them her new friends. In the “longest letter ever” to her old boyfriend, Leo, Stargirl explores the magic in her new home and her decision to mark time in her own unique way.
Community • Self-Esteem
Emotions & Feelings • Conformity
ABOUT THIS AUTHOR
Jerry Spinelli is the author of more than a dozen
books for young readers, including Maniac Magee,
winner of the Newbery Medal, and Stargirl, a New York
Times bestseller and an ALA Top Ten Best Book for
Young Adults. He made his picture book debut with
My Daddy and Me, a loving tribute to fathers and sons.
He lives with his wife and fellow writer, Eileen,
in Wayne, Pennsylvania. While they write in
separate rooms of the house, the couple edits and
celebrates one another’s work together. Their six
children have given Jerry Spinelli a plethora of
clever material for his writing.
DISCUSSION AND WRITING
Questions for Group Discussion
• Spinelli develops characters effectively in many ways. One method of developing characters isthrough extensive use of details about each person.
For instance, Dootsie adores ketchup and Alvina wears a necklace with Winnie the Pooh dangling from it. What details help to reveal more about
these characters: Perry, Betty Lou, Stargirl’s mother and father, Stargirl herself.
• Stargirl writes to Leo early in the novel that nothing is empty. Even when she is sitting alone on the hill, she feels as if she is at the center of the universe. What does this observation reveal about Stargirl and her sense of herself?
• At first, Stargirl is reluctant to tell Leo much about her new home. Why is she a bit secretive? Why does she eventually relent and tell Leo more and
more about her new location?
• Trace the references to emptiness and loneliness in the novel. For example, Stargirl observes a lone goose in flight and wonders where the rest of the
• Dootsie, Alvina, Perry, and Betty Lou share some similarities though each is a distinct character. Discuss the commonalities shared by these four
characters from the novel.
• On her field trip to the clock on the Morning Lenape Building, Stargirl reflects about clocks and time. What does this poem suggest about how
differently each person measures time? (p. 126) Based on the content of the poem, what would be the time for each of the following characters: Leo,
Stargirl, Dootsie, Alvina, Betty Lou.
• When Archie comes for the solstice celebration, he tells Stargirl that the students in Mica did the bunny hop again at the Ocotillo Ball. What is the
significance of this event?
• Discuss with your class the difference point of view can make in the way one comprehends a novel. For instance, whereas Stargirl is told from
Leo’s point of view, Love, Stargirl is narrated by Stargirl. Ask students to select one passage from each of the novels. Have them rewrite the
passage from Stargirl using a different character’s point of view. They could elect to use Stargirl, Archie, Hillari, or Kevin. Ask them to
do the same for the passage from Love, Stargirl, writing from the point of view of Alvina, Betty Lou, or another one of the characters.
• Point out to students that Stargirl opens with a passage about porcupine neckties, and Love, Stargirl mentions the man sitting in a chair near a gravestone wearing a yellow and red plaid scarf. Ask students to note parallels such as this from the two novels. Have them select one of these parallels and write a paragraph that explains its significance to the continuing story of Stargirl.
• In both books, Stargirl is encouraged by her parents and by Archie to explore subjects of interest to her. Let students loose to design their own “shadow curriculums” like Stargirl’s! Prompt them to explore some of the nontraditional subjects they would elect to explore on their own. Ask them to write a lesson plan for one of the topics. Suggest extra credit for students who put their plan into action over the weekend and create journal reports
of their experience.
• There are several poems written by Stargirl on her various field trips in Love, Stargirl. Select one of the poems and rewrite the poem as a field report that contains facts about where Stargirl has visited. Conversely, select a key scene (e.g., her interview on the Hot Seat, the Ocotillo Ball,
etc.) from Stargirl and write it as a poem.
BEYOND THE BOOK
HOW TO START A STARGIRL SOCIETY
Stargirl Societies are currently underway in both middle schools and high schools. Inspired by the novel and its main character, the societies offer everyone a chance to become “Starkids” in their own right.
• Promote individuality and self-confidence as an alternative to brand-name conformity
• Foster a sense of community in and out of school
• Inspire and role model for elementary-age students (and younger—one faculty advisor brought her two-year-old to a meeting!)
• Promote tolerance for everyone
• Encourage and practice sensitivity to others
• Read and discuss the books, Stargirl, Stargirl’s vision, your vision
• Write and perform skits inspired by the stories
• Plan and carry out school and/or community projects (create constellations rather than committees)
• Have a shindig! Stage skits, games (losers get the biggest cheers), refreshments, and crafts— just be sure to come dressed as you’ve always
wanted to dress
• Hold an Inner-Beauty Pageant
• Create Stargirl totes, Happy Wagons, people cards, and/or porcupine neckties
• Drop spare change
• Write, plan, and perform a Stargirl musical
• Recite Stargirl’s Pledge of Allegiance
• Discover enchanted places
• Have a yoga and yogurt party
• Visit a planetarium or observatory
• Visit www.jerryspinelli.com/stargirl.htm for more great ideas!