Curveball

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About The Book

In the fifth book in the New York Times bestselling middle grade series inspired by the life of iconic New York Yankee Derek Jeter, Derek spends the summer with his grandparents in Pequannock Township, New Jersey.

Reading Group Guide

A Reading Group Guide to

Curveball

By Derek Jeter with Paul Mantell

Prereading Assignment

Ask readers to review Derek Jeter’s 10 Life Lessons. They are listed in the front of each book in his middle-grade series, and on his website: http://mlb.mlb.com/players/jeter_derek/kids/handbook.jsp

Discussion Questions

Chapter 1—Summer Dreams!

This summer, Derek Jeter is living the dream! Derek and his sister, Sharlee, are spending the summer with their grandparents in Greenwood Lake, New Jersey. The summer promises fun-filled days at the castle on the lake with his cousins, a family day at the Yankees game, and a visit from his best friend, Dave.

Write about a dream that came true or an experience that you were looking forward to where everything did not go exactly as expected. Briefly explain what went right or what went wrong. Include how you felt before the event and how you felt after. Did your attitude affect the outcome?

Derek dreams that he plays baseball with his role model, Yankee outfielder Dave Winfield. Why did Derek select Winfield as his role model? Why do you think this was a good choice for him?

Chapter 2—Family Fun

In Curveball, Derek recognizes the importance of being a role model.

One fun and lazy day at the lake near the Castle, Derek hears his little sister yell, “Stop!” Cousin Zach is about to throw her into the water, and Sharlee does not like it. Derek firmly intervenes. From his sister’s and cousin’s reactions, Derek realizes that while standing up for what you think is right can sometimes be difficult, people will respect you for your efforts.

Give an example of an experience when you had to stand up for what was right. What was the outcome? What were you most proud of? What, if anything, might you have done differently?

The incident at the lake reminds Derek about the contract his parents established for him to ensure he succeeds in school and accomplishes his dreams. This contract lists several expectations and carries consequences for breaking these rules. Derek must live up to contract item number two, which states “Be a Role Model for Sharlee.”

How did Derek demonstrate the qualities of a role model? Explain what you would have done in the same situation. Why would you have chosen to act that way?

Chapter 3—A Whole New Ball Game

Derek meets a group of kids who play weekly baseball games in a sandlot field close to Yankee Stadium. After an amazing save involving a fly ball, Derek is invited to play on their team. He is very excited about the opportunity, but the Bronx is a long way from New Jersey where his grandparents live, and it’s not clear how he’ll manage to get to the games.

How does Derek resolve this situation? What did you think of his solution? Would you have joined their game, or would you have turned down the offer? Look on a map to determine the distance from Greenwood Lake, New Jersey, to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. How many miles apart are they, and how long would it take to drive by car?

Chapter 4—On Hallowed Ground

Derek is thrilled to be at Yankee Stadium with his family. He will finally see his role model, Dave Winfield, and the other Yankees play ball in person. He enjoys everything: the crowds, food, sounds, colors, and smells. He describes the scene in vivid detail.

Write an essay about a special summer trip or local event that you attended. Be specific about what you saw, what you did, and how it felt to be there. Did you take pictures or purchase a souvenir? What did you do to remember the occasion? Share your essay with your class.

Chapter 5—Worker Bee

All of the adults in Derek’s family work hard. It reminds Derek of the contract he’d signed with his parents that explained the rules he was expected to follow. Which item on Derek’s contract refers to helping his grandmother? Which item refers to the manner in which he should approach his tasks?

Select one rule from the Contract for Derek Jeter, and explain how you would apply it to your life. Offer detailed examples from personal experience to support your selection.

Chapter 6—Whistle While You Work

Derek’s friend Dave is coming to visit him at his grandparents’ house this summer. Derek agrees to work several small jobs to earn the money to take his friend Dave and his sister, Sharlee, back to a Yankees game. He agrees to mow lawns and do odd jobs but doesn’t realize the work will be so hard.

Describe a chore or small job you have had to do in order to accomplish a goal. How did you feel about working hard to achieve it? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?

Chapter 7—He Works Hard for the Money

After dinner one day, Grandpa seems exhausted and appears to fall asleep on the couch. However, he is not too tired to talk to Derek about his efforts to earn a little money for the Yankees tickets. He invites him to go to work with him to earn more money, claiming “hard work never hurt anybody.” Do you agree with this statement? Explain your reasoning.

When Derek arrives to play ball with the kids from the sandlot, he is introduced to several boys with strange nicknames. What are two of those nicknames, and where do you think they come from? Do you have a nickname? If so, explain what it is and how it applies to you.

Chapter 8—Getting into the Game

In his first game with the boys at the sandlot, Derek knows he has to play his best. They have him playing in an unfamiliar position, but Derek is up for the challenge. How does he adjust to the new position? Discuss the fielding and hitting strategies Derek used to be a successful team player. What were the results?

Derek had both his uncle and his aunt supporting him from the stands while he played in a strange city with this new team. How important do you think it is to have positive and critical feedback when you tackle a new challenge? What did his aunt and uncle do to show Derek that they were there for him no matter what? Do you have a family member or friend who always supports your activities? Discuss a specific situation. How did you benefit from this experience?

Chapter 9—A Deal Is a Deal

To earn extra money, Derek makes a deal with his grandpa to help him at work.

The task seems overwhelming at first, particularly the idea of getting up so early in the morning. But a promise is a promise. What time does Derek’s grandpa wake him up? Why is it so hard for him to get up this early? Why is it important to get to school or work on time?

Derek’s grandpa is a custodian at a local church with a big brick schoolhouse attached. His grandpa tells him that his job is to mow the big athletic field behind the school. Derek surveys the assignment and “could see that he had a monster job ahead of him. The field was as big as twenty of the lawns he’d been mowing, and the grass was five times as high! Clearly, no one had mowed this field for weeks . . . .” Derek is determined to meet the challenge.

Explain what happens next. Does it look like Derek will finish this task? What do you think having Derek’s help means to his grandfather?
There is a well-known idiom that says, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew!” Look up this phrase and the definition of an idiom. How does this phrase apply to Derek’s situation? Write a brief essay about a time when you accepted a job or participated in an event that that was bigger than you expected. In your narrative, explain the task and the outcome.

Chapter 10—Custodians Rule

It’s been a hard day and Derek’s energy is almost spent. Derek is just about to call it quits when help arrives. Who has come to his rescue? How does this make Derek feel? What is so special about the help he receives?

What lesson does Derek learn from his day at work with his grandpa? Have you ever helped anyone without being asked? If so, how did it make you feel?

Chapter 11—Crossing the Line

Derek is selected to play shortstop against Jumbo’s team. Why does Jumbo, one of the team leaders, make that decision? Derek, or “Jersey Boy,” is doing a great job as a member of the new team, but he wonders if he can keep it up. Why do you think he’s so nervous about playing with this group of boys? Discuss what Derek has to do to adjust to the new challenge.

Conflicts with Jumbo are sure to surface, especially since he’s older and a better player. After the game, Jumbo asks Derek to follow him to a remote spot on the field. What does he ask him to do and why does it make Derek uncomfortable? Sometimes we are faced with difficult choices. Explain a dilemma that you’ve experienced in your life where you were asked to do something that felt wrong or hurtful. What was the outcome? How did you handle the situation? Did you seek help from a friend, family member, or teacher?

Chapter 12—Friends to the Rescue

Derek’s friend Vijay is spending the summer with his family in India, where he’s participating in a big, traditional family wedding. Vijay takes a moment to write Derek a letter describing some of his family’s cultural rituals and the fun he’s having with his younger cousins. Were you surprised by any of the wedding events that Vijay described? How are they similar to or different from the way your family celebrates special occasions?

Vijay discovers that his young cousins follow him around and ask many questions. They see their American cousin as a role model and like to marvel at his accent and his American ways. Derek has similar interactions with his little cousins at the Castle in New Jersey. He feels responsible for the young cousins that look up to him. Is he a good role model for them? Explain why you feel this way. Do you think Derek enjoys being a role model?

List and define character traits that describe Derek, Vijay, Jumbo, and Tiny. Which ones best describe you? Compare your list with your classmates.

Chapter 13—Coming Clean

Derek finally shares the incident involving Jumbo at the ballpark with his grandma. The idea of being asked to do something wrong has been worrying him all week. His grandma reminds him that as he gets older, he’ll be confronted with peer pressure situations that will challenge him, but it’s important he have the courage to do the right thing. What do you think was the right thing to do? What would you have said to Jumbo? What advice would you give to someone in a similar situation? Why do you think it can be difficult to have the courage to speak out?

Chapter 14—The Ultimate Test

Jumbo displays a forceful leadership persona and is known for his great fielding and batting skills; however, the graffiti incident makes it obvious to Derek that Jumbo is not the best role model for him.

At the end of the game, Jumbo and Tiny have opposing opinions about whether or not Derek should spray-paint his name on the backfield wall. What happens next? Why is this a real issue for Derek? What would you have done and why? Suggest an alternative response to resolve Derek’s dilemma. What else could have happened to change the outcome?

Chapter 15—Baseball Heaven

Derek finally realizes that there are all kinds of role models: some can be celebrities who you may never meet, and some can be found right in your own family or community. Each role model can teach valuable lessons in his or her own way. In Curveball, Derek discovers a few new role models who inspire him to become a leader among his peers and his own family. Who are they, and why is he inspired by their behavior?

Prepare a brief biography sheet on one of your own role models. Who do you watch and look up to? What values or actions do you admire? What lessons have they taught you?

The title of this book is Curveball. What definition of the word curveball might the author have had in mind when he selected the title for this book? Offer two definitions for the word curveball, using each in a sentence and describing an experience when you or someone in your family was “thrown a curveball.”

Extension Activities

BE PREPARED IF LIFE THROWS YOU A CURVEBALL

Read chapter 14 aloud as a class or with a small group.

Why do you think this chapter is titled “The Ultimate Test”? Collect a 3 x 5 card from your teacher to write your response, offering specific details to support your answer. Once you’ve finished, share with the class and discuss different interpretations.

ROLE MODELS ARE ORDINARY PEOPLE
With your classmates, brainstorm a list of qualities or values good role models may display. Once you have a list of at least twenty-five, select five that most apply to you and explain why you think they’re important.

Were you surprised by any of the traits your classmates suggested for the master list? Do you think any of the qualities or values you believe to be important might change as you grow and have new experiences?

What are a few of the personal values from this list that Derek Jeter displays in Curveball?

MEET A GOAL

Consider two questions: What goal do I want to meet? How can I meet this goal?

Think about how Derek earned money to pay for Yankees tickets. Is your goal to make it to an event, to buy something for yourself or a friend, or learn something new?

Once you have a goal in mind, consider the following:

*An incremental strategy to set manageable steps toward your goal (remember, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew!”)

*Possible obstacles and how you might overcome them

*Tools or knowledge needed

*Timeline, including motivational milestones

Add your goal to a class bulletin board and measure your progress. Alternately, consider making a classroom goal instead.

Guide written in 2018 by Chrystal Carr Jeter of Willoughby-Eastlake Public Library, Willoughby Hills, Ohio.

This 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

Maureen Cavanagh/Jeter Publishing

Derek Jeter is a fourteen-time All-Star and five-time World Series winner who has played for one team—the storied New York Yankees—for all twenty seasons of his major league career. His grace and class on and off the field have made him an icon and role model far beyond the world of baseball.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (April 2018)
  • Length: 176 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781534409910
  • Grades: 3 - 7
  • Ages: 8 - 12

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