Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Ship Breaker By Paolo Bacigalupi
ISBN: 9780316056212
Published by: Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010
Genre: Juvenile Fiction

Literature Circle Unit description with goals

The Literature Circle unit is geared towards eighth grade students who are reading Ship Breaker (2010) by Paolo Bacigalupi.  This dystopian novel takes place in the future when global warming and climatic disasters have altered the physical landscape on earth.  Communities have forever been altered.  This is a story of a young boy who dreams of a better life and whose adventures with a young girl might change his life forever.

The goal of the three literature circle meetings is to set the stage for reading the novel, analyze the characters and their motives, predict outcomes of the ending, and analyze themes and literary devices.

Oregon State standards

Reading

  • Decoding and Word Recognition:
    • EL.08.RE.01 Read or demonstrate progress toward reading at an independent and instructional reading level appropriate to grade level.
  • Listen to and Read Informational and Narrative Text
    • EL.08.RE.02 Listen to, read, and understand a wide variety of informational and narrative text, including classic and contemporary literature, poetry, magazines, newspapers, reference materials, and online information.
    • EL.08.RE.03 Make connections to text, within text, and among texts across the subject areas.
    • EL.08.RE.05 Match reading to purpose–location of information, full comprehension, and personal enjoyment.
    • EL.08.RE.06 Understand and draw upon a variety of comprehension strategies as needed–rereading, self-correcting, summarizing, class and group discussions, generating and responding

Literature

  • Listen to and Read Literary Text:
    • EL.08.LI.02 Demonstrate listening comprehension of more complex literary text through class and/or small group interpretive discussions
  • Literary Text:  Demonstrate General Understanding
    • EL.08.LI.03  Identify and/or summarize sequence of events, main ideas, and supporting details in literary selections
  • Literary Text:  Develop an Interpretation.
    • EL.08.LI.04  Predict probable future outcomes supported by the text, including foreshadowing clues.
    • EL.08.LI.05  Identify the actions and motives (e.g., loyalty, selfishness, conscientiousness) of characters in a work of fiction, including contrasting motives that advance the plot or promote the theme, an discuss their importance to the plot or theme.
    • EL.08.LI.06  Identify and analyze the development of themes in literary works based on evidence in the text.
    • EL.08.LI.07  Infer the main idea when it is not explicitly stated, and support with evidence from the text.
    • EL.08.LI.08  Infer unstated reasons for actions based on evidence from the text.
  • Literary Text:  Examine Content and Structure
    • EL.08.LI.12  Analyze the importance of setting (place, time, customs) to the mood, tone, and meaning of the text.
    • El.08.LI.14 Evaluate the structural elements of the plot, such as subplots, parallel episodes, and climax, including the way in which conflicts are (or are not) addressed and resolved.
    • El.08.LI.15 Identify and analyze recurring themes (e.g., good versus evil) across traditional and contemporary works.

First Meeting

Book Genre:  Dystopian novels often shows a futuristic society that has degraded into a repressive and controlled state. Dystopian literature usually has underlying cautionary tones, warning society that if we continue to live how we do, this will be the consequence.  This is true in the novel, Ship Breaker.  The story takes place in a post-oil future when climate change has altered the earth and major cities are underwater.  Large conglomerate companies are fighting for control of recycled resources.  Massive iron ships are left to rust away on the shores while poor, uneducated communities break them apart and sell the materials to the companies.  Global warming has caused continuous hurricanes that further rip apart and destroy the cites.  Communities have abandoned what used to be major cities and relocated further inland.

Ship Breaker is about a poor boy, Nailer Lopez, who makes his living crawling through abandoned ducts of rusty old ships pulling copper wire for his crew.  He dreams of what life would be like on the fast, updated clipper ships he sees far off in the horizon.  Luck comes his way when he and a friend find a broken clipper ship after a Category 6 hurricane.  While looking through the wreckage, they discover a young girl, barely alive.  The two friends rescue the girl who promises that her wealthy shipping magnate family will reward them richly.  Unfortunately, Nailer’s drunken father discovers the wreckage first, captures the girl, and plans to salvage the material to make some quick money. Nailer and company escape to the port of Orleans in search of allies of the girl’s father.  Along the way they learn how to survive on their own, who to trust and the true meaning of family.

Anticipatory  questions

  1. Describe dystopian novels.  What makes them so interesting to read?  What are some other titles you might have read?  Ideas:  The Giver, The Hunger Games trilogy, Chaos Walking Series, Feed
  2. This book takes place in the future when the oceans have risen and major seaport cities are now underwater.  Why do you think the author, Paolo Bacigalupi has chosen this topic?
  3. Do you AGREE or DISAGREE with the following statements:
    1. The blood ties among families usually are strong enough to overcome betrayals.
    2. Loyalty is the most important part of a relationship between family or friends.
    3. Our successes in life often have as much to do with luck as with our choices or abilities.
    4. When in danger, it is best to play it safe rather than take a risk.
    5. In a life-or-death situation, almost any action is forgivable.
  4. Explain your rationale for one of the statements above.
  5. Watch the promotional video for this book at http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/teens_books_9780316056212.htm Were you surprised that even today there are ship breaking operations in poorer areas like Bangladesh?

Read Chapters 1- 13 (pages 1-164).  Assign roles for next literature circle:

  • Artful artist uses some form of artwork to represent a significant scene or ideas from the reading
  • Literary luminary points out interesting or important passages within the reading
  • Discussion director write questions that will lead to discussion by the group
  • Capable connector finds connections between the reading materials and something outside the text, such as a personal experience, a topic studied in another class, or a different work of literature.
  • Word wizard discusses words in the text that are unusual, interesting or difficult to understand.

Second Meeting

This is the point in the novel when Nailer’s drunken father finds the wreckage and holds his friend, Prim, hostage.  Nailer is sick with a fever and things are looking very bad for all of them.  Nailer convinces his father that the girl, Nita, is more valuable alive than dead.  Nailer falls sick but is nursed back to health by Prim.   Nailer and his friends are trying to make plans to escape but first they must deal with his father’s hoodlum friends and a strange half-man half-dog creature named Tool.

Discussion questions

  1. Each member should share something from their assigned role of the literature circle.
  2. Locate and discuss the following quotes from the book:
    1. “No one was worth keeping if they didn’t make a profit”  p18
    2. “We’re crew”, he reminded her, “We swore blood oath” p28
    3. “Being close to death made everything in his life shine”  p42
    4. “This swank girl wasn’t crew.  He didn’t owe her anything.  But now, after his time in the oil room, all he could think of was how much he’d wanted Sloth to believe his life was just as important as hers.”  p99
    5. “Pima grinned.  Damn, the swanks and the rust rats are all the same at the end of the day.  Everyone’s looking to get a little blood on their hands”  pg 163
  3. How is the relationship between Nailer and Sloth different than Nailer and Prim or Nita?
  4. What’s more important:  being lucky or being smart?
  5. Discuss the concept of:  The Fates, Scavenge Gods, Lucky Strike, Rust Saint
  6. The author compares the rage of Nailer’s drunken father to a “storm brewing. full of undertows and crashing surf and water spouts – the deadly weather that buffeted Nailer every day as he tried to navigate the coastlines of his father’s moods”.  Why does the author write this way?  Look for other similar examples.
  7. Predict what is going to happen with Nailer and Nita.

Read Chapters 14- 25 (pages 165-326).  Assign roles for final literature circle:

  • Artful artist uses some form of artwork to represent a significant scene or ideas from the reading
  • Literary luminary points out interesting or important passages within the reading
  • Discussion director write questions that will lead to discussion by the group
  • Capable connector finds connections between the reading materials and something outside the text, such as a personal experience, a topic studied in another class, or a different work of literature.
  • Word wizard discusses words in the text that are unusual, interesting or difficult to understand.

Author profile pathfinder

  1. This is author Paulo Bacigalupi’s first Young Adult novel.  Previously he has written Science Fiction for adults.  Often he has underlying themes about sustainability in his novels.  Visit the publisher’s  website at http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/teens_authors_Paolo-Bacigalupi-%281529243%29.htm .  Find out which awards Ship Breaker was nominated for and won.
  2. Read interview with Paola Bacigalupi from Denver Westword News:   Sci-fi phenom Paolo Bacigalupi has seen the future http://www.westword.com/2010-05-06/news/paolo-baciagalupi-is-the-hottest-writer-in-sci-fi-so-what-s-he-doing-in-paonia/
  3. If you like Dystopian novels, you might consider these other resources:
    1. 50+ Fantastic Young Adult Dystopian Novels – http://www.bartsbookshelf.co.uk/2009/09/30/update-best-dystopian-ya-novels-redux/
    2. YAs Dystopia – http://community.livejournal.com/yalitlovers/172111.html
    3. New Dystopian YA Novels to Pair with Old Favorites – http://www.katemessner.com/brave-new-books-new-dystopian-ya-novels-to-pair-with-old-favorites/

Final Meeting

Discussion questions

  1. Each member should share something from their assigned role of the literature circle
  2. Recap the events of the 2nd half of the book with the discussion prompt “…and then”.  The first student tells an important event.  The next person says “…and then” and continues with another important event.  Keep going around the circle until the end of the story.
  3. Locate and discuss the following quotes from the book and relate them to themes of loyalty, family, courage, betrayal, risk-taking, fortune, friendship, pain or redemption:
    1. “Sada shook her head.  Killing isn’t free. It takes something out of you every time you do it.  You get their life; they get a piece of you soul.  It’s always a trade.”  p174
    2. “They used to drill out there, too, in the Gulf.  Cut up the islands.  It’s why the city killers are so bad.  There used to be barrier island, but they cut them up for their gas drilling” p199
    3. “Spending money on the poor is like throwing money into a fire.  They’ll just consume it and never thank you”, Tool said.  p209
    4. “You are no more Richard Lopez than I am an obedient hound.  Blood is not destiny, no matter what other may believe”.  p248
    5. “Nailer made a face.  Lucky Girl’s more of a family than he is”  p251
    6. “Pima’s mom works a thousand times harder than you and she’s never going to have a life as nice as what you go on this boat.  He shrugged.  If that ain’t being born with the lucky eye, I don’t know what is.”  p253
    7. “Richard never felt a thing when he hurt people.  Just didn’t give a damn.  It’s good that you feel something.  Trust me.  Even if it hurts, it’s good.”  p318
  4. Review the AGREE or DISAGREE statements from before the students read the novel.  Does anyone want to change their opinion?  Why or why not?
    1. The blood ties among families usually are strong enough to overcome betrayals.
    2. Loyalty is the most important part of a relationship between family or friends.
    3. Our successes in life often have as much to do with luck as with our choices or abilities.
    4. When in danger, it is best to play it safe rather than take a risk.
    5. In a life-or-death situation, almost any action is forgivable.
  5. In an interview, Bacigalupi states, “We’re good at solving the short-term problem and ignoring the long-term consequence.”  How is this statement reflected in Ship Breaker.  Bacigalupi says he may have a dismal view of humanity, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a fan of man’s cooler inventions, including bicycles and computers. “It’s not technology’s fault that it’s devastating, An individual car is never a problem; it’s when we have 350 million of them.”  Do you agree?
  6. Some science topics were hinted in this book:  wind energy, genetic engineering, climate change, kudzu vines, extreme weather.  Consider exploring them further.
  7. Do you think there will be a sequel?  How do you think Tool, Prima, Sadu or Nita’s father will be involved?

 

7 Replies to “Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi”

  1. “Massive iron ships are left to rust away on the shores while poor, uneducated communities break them apart and sell the materials to the companies”

    This is how ships are broken up at Chittagong, Bangladesh; and Alang, India. If you visit them on Google Earth or Google images, you’ll see vivid photos of what seems to be an apocalyptic process.
    Christian´s last blog post ..No Loitering

  2. Hi, I am a teacher in Baltimore who is prospectively teaching this book- I love what you have here! Do you have any more advice- we are definitely looking for cross-curricular tie in and I have (obviously, easily) found some. Do you have any other advice/ suggestions for teacher? How did the students take to this book? Thanks!

  3. wonderful work…I appreciate your offering this set of lesson plans free to educators. Still, you have great insight/lesson design and might want to think about going to teacherspayteachers to sell your materials. I was looking for something like this on TpT and only found something for $25, too pricey. You could add some supplementary materials and easily sell for $10.00. I am using this novel in a larger dystopian unit containing Fahrenheit 451, Anthem, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm. SB is summer reading for incoming Eng. 10H students. Marti Maas

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