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    By Dorothy V. Matheson



    Following are critical thinking questions (with chapter summaries) for A Girl Called Boy by Belinda Hurmence (The questions in red are the critical questions students are to answer in their journals; the sentences in green suggest you read that particular excerpt from The Allen Parker Slave Narrative that correlate with the book; the sentences in blue are merely homework ideas that you may or may not want to use.)

    Chapter 1

    • "Boy" is introduced: an eleven-year-old black girl with a pampered attitude.
    • Her name is taken from her initials: Blanche Overtha Yancey.
    • Her parents often tell stories of their family growing up in North Carolina during the times of slavery.
    • Boy believes the slaves were stupid; she says she never would have been a slave because she'd never be caught.
    • How do you feel about Boy's attitude?
    • She walks away from the picnic and goes to the river. She looks out over "Yancey country" and Bellemont Lake, where her ancestors once lived.
    • When she decides to return to the picnic, she cannot find her shoes.
    • What do you think happened to her shoes, and why?
    • She thinks her brother, LaMont, took them to prove a point about slaves having no shoes.
    • As she set off to return to the picnic and yell at her brother, she hears the sound of mean hunting dogs and sees a cabin where she does not remember ever seeing one before.
    • She runs to the cabin, banging on the door in fear of the dogs coming closer to her.
    • Unexpectedly, she is grabbed into the cabin by a large, rough hand.
    • Predict what happens to Boy next.

    Chapter 2

    • The owner of the large hand is a large man, Ike. He has a strange dialect Boy can hardly understand.
    • Why do you think he talks so differently?
    • She then meets Ike's son, Isaac.
    • The dogs come closer, so Ike hides Isaac and Boy in the taterhole.
    • Slave catchers come in, looking for a slave by the name of Jeffrey.
    • Boy is confused: Why would there be slave catchers in this day and age?

    Chapter 3

    • Ike and Isaac cook a squirrel for dinner.
    • How do you feel about cooking a squirrel and eating it for dinner? Would you eat it if you were as hungry as Boy is?
    • Detailed description is given about Isaac giving Boy some water, after his greasy hand has dipped into it. Boy reacts in a very snobby manner to the oily water.
    • Do you agree with the way she just spoke to Isaac about the water? Why or why not?
    • Boy drinks the water, thinking of how she could possibly escape these people.
    • She decides she could use the excuse of going outside to use the bathroom, and then she'd make a run for it.
    • Once outside, she could not see a thing. It was too dark to try to escape.
    • When she came back to the cabin, Ike noticed she was bleeding, and he spit his tobacco on her wounds.
    • Ike and Isaac pray for freedom and prepare for bed.
    • Boy thinks to herself about why she is there and how this possibly could have happened.
    • How do you think Boy got to the slave cabin, when she was just at a picnic a few moments before?
    • Boy plans for tomorrow's escape.
    • Do you think Boy should try to escape? Why or why not?


    Chapter 4

    • In the morning, they awake to a lot of snow.
    • They wrap Boy's feet (as she has no shoes), and prepare to run away.
    • Ike leaves to go up to the Big House.
    • What do you think the Big House is?
    • Boy watches Ike and sees a nice looking white woman answer the door at the Big House. She believes the woman may help her escape Ike.
    • Do you think Boy can trust this woman?
    • Ike saw Boy trying to go to the Big House, and he stopped her.
    • Ike returns with clothing . . . a Christmas gift from the mistress in the Big House. (Compare the clothing with the Allen Parker Slave Narrative in Chapter one.)
    • Boy is confused about how it is all of the sudden Christmas.
    • The Christmas "presents" are distributed.
    • Ike gave Boy some old shoes and a coat.
    • They all set off for "Freetown."
    • What do you think Freetown will be like?

    Chapter 5

    • It is still snowing, which is good, because it will help cover their tracks.
    • They decide to cross the river, to throw the dogs off their scent.
    • They must take off their shoes to wade through the river . . . it is Christmas and it is snowing . . . vivid description of the pain they endure.
    • Write how your feelings about crossing the water in December.
    • Isaac explains to Boy that they are running from the slave catchers.
    • As they have no watch, Boy tries to guess the time of day by looking at the position of the sun in the sky.
    • Homework idea: Ask students to spend a day (on the weekend) trying to tell what time it is by looking at the sun. Have them record the time of day and where the sun is positioned in the sky.
    • Boy is beginning to think sheıs been kidnapped. She can see no cars around.
    • Why do you think there are no cars around?
    • She sees a very large house ahead. She thinks there may be safety there.
    • Do you think that house is safe? Why or why not?
    • Ike, Isaac, and Boy go inside a crowded large cabin.

    Chapter 6

    • Inside the cabin there is laughter and music.
    • Why would there be laughter and music?
    • The slaves are celebrating Christmas together. (Compare Christmas with the Allen Parker Slave Narrative in Chapter 6.)
    • The slaves talk about the Yancey family and assume Boy belongs to them, as Yancey is her last name. (Compare the giving of surnames to children with the Allen Parker Slave Narrative in Chapter 2.)
    • A white man enters the cabin with his very nicely dressed little girl. He brings with him a cake for the slaves.
    • Once again, Boy sees these people as her chance for freedom. She reaches out for the little girl, and chaos begins.
    • The white man directs Boy to leave and never return. Ike hits Boy, claiming that will show her to never touch a white child again.
    • Write your feelings about how Boy was treated.
    • The white man drops his newspaper, and Boy reads that there is a reward out for her.
    • Boy tells Isaac she can read and write. He is surprised, as he cannot read or write.
    • Why do you think Isaac does not know how to read or write?
    • Boy now realizes that perhaps she is trapped in the 19th century, in the year 1853.
    • How is can Boy's idea be possible, or is it?

    Chapter 7

    • Boy has a discussion with Isaac about reading and writing.
    • How does Boy know how to read and write if she's a slave in the 19th century?
    • Isaac tells news that Jeffrey, the slave, has been "kilt" by the slave catchers.
    • Isaac tells Boy about his mother and what he thinks happened to her. It is important to note Isaac says his mother is a storyteller.
    • Isaac feels certain his mother has been auctioned. (Compare the auctioning of slaves with the Allen Parker Slave Narrative in chapter one.)
    • Boy realizes that her parents are not even born yet, and she may be back in time as one of her own ancestors, Overtha Yancey.

    Chapter 8

    • Boy is taken to the "chillen's house" to stay with the children and babies (as she is too small to be with the others).
    • Boy thinks, "What if I turn out to be my own grea-great-grandmother?"
    • How would this be possible, or would it be?
    • Homework idea: have the students ask details about their great-great-grandmother or great-great-grandfather and share with the class.
    • Mammy (the cook) sends Boy to get water.
    • Boy is pushed into the water by a slave boy named Gump.
    • Isaac helps Boy with Gump, and Gump leaves.
    • Boy and Isaac discuss slave catchers.

    Chapter 9

    • Boy put on a new outfit, which looked like a dress. It is called a shirttail. (Compare the clothing of slaves with the Allen Parker Slave Narrative in chapter one.)
    • Description of Mammy and her cooking is given. (Compare the kitchen cook with the Allen Parker Slave Narrative in chapter one.)
    • Boy ate with the younger children, as she was not permitted to eat with the older children or adults.
    • Boy snuck food into the bushes for Ike and Isaac.
    • Why are Ike and Isaac in the bushes?
    • Boy wants to know what a "patterroller" is, but no one tells her.
    • The children in the "chillenıs house" do not know who their mother is. Description of why is given here.
    • Boy has to take care of a baby they call "Handful."
    • Boy hears Ike in the bushes and feeds him.
    • Boy is warned of the overseer.
    • Why do you think she is warned? What do you think the overseer will do?
    • The slave, Rosalie, is introduced in detail.
    • Boy tells Rosalie about the Underground Railroad, but Rosalie has never heard of it.
    • Details of Rosalie's job are given. (Compare Rosalie's job with the Allen Parker Slave Narrative in Chapter 3.)
    • Rosalie defends her master, and Boy remembers how Isaac had defended his master.
    • Should masters be defended like this? Why or why not?


    Chapter 10

    • There is rain, and Boy carries food out to the field, where she finds Isaac again.
    • "Patroller" is described to Boy.(Compare pattierollers with the Allen Parker Slave Narrative in Chapter 2.)
    • Write your feelings about the pattierollers.
    • Boy begs Isaac to take her with him and Ike to "Freetown," as she thinks her family is there.
    • They decide to meet in the night, and they will recognize each other by the call of a bird, "Who be you? Who? Who? Who be you?"
    • Do you think this code will work?
    • Homework idea: have the students make up a bird-call code and try it out with a friend at home.
    • Boy gets ready for her escape by changing, wrapping her feet, and grabbing a quilt.
    • Boy discusses her escape plan with Mammy.
    • Mammy tells her she cannot leave and describes the perils of running away.
    • Knowing about the perils, would you still try to escape? Why or why not?
    • She also tells her that Ike does not want her around.
    • Do you think Mammy is lying to Boy about how Ike feels?
    • Boy decides she will escape anyway.
    • How could you get out the door quietly? Write down a few ideas.
    • Boy uses butter to grease the latch on the door, so she can escape quietly.

    Chapter 11

    • Boy is off for freedom. She begins using the bird-call code.
    • She sees a figure in a window with a candle.
    • What do you think she is seeing?
    • She calls aloud for Isaac, as the bird-call is not working.
    • Do you think it was wise for Boy to call out loud for Isaac? Why or why not?
    • An unfamiliar voice calls back. She is quickly caught and roped by the overseer.
    • What do you think the overseer will do to Boy?
    • Boy sees two figures in the distance.
    • The overseer is tripped, and he fires his gun into the bushes.
    • < i>Do you think Ike and Isaac are hurt? Why or why not?
    • The overseer takes Boy to his house, where she is put in an underground cave. She hears the overseer and his wife talk of the reward they will receive for capturing Boy. Boy realizes Gump has told the overseer about her, Isaac, and Ike.
    • The overseer discusses how he will get the money for Boy.
    • Write how you feel about the reward for a person.

    Chapter 12

    • The overseer puts Boy in the wagon to take her to Bellemont (where the Yanceyıs live). Boy has chains around her ankles.
    • Why do you think Boy has chains around her ankles?
    • On the way, they stop at a mill and then at a store, where the overseer ties Boy to a post as he does with his horse.
    • The overseer brings Boy to the Bellemont plantation, where the Mistress of the house (Mrs. Yancey) is happy to see Boy.
    • Mrs. Yancey has been missing two slaves, Overtha and LaMont. She assumes Boy is LaMont, and Boy lets her believe it.
    • Would you have lied about being a boy if you were Boy?
    • Boy is told to go into the house and find Harriet to give "him" a bath. (Compare Harriet with the mammies in the Allen Parker Slave Narrative in Chapter 5.)
    • Harriet notices that Boy is a girl, but keeps Boyıs secret.
    • Master Yancey comes home and threatens to whip Boy. He decides not to because the Mistress is upset.

    Chapter 13

    • It is now February, and Boy is working as a "house boy" in the Bellemont estate for Mrs. Yancey. She is treated very well compared to when she was in the "chillen's house" with Mammy.
    • She realizes she is lucky to be a house boy.
    • Do you agree with Boy about how lucky she is to be a house boy? Why or why not? (Discuss how Boy is still a slave, and that is not a lucky thing, period.)
    • The maid's jobs are described in detail, as are Boy's jobs as a house boy. (Compare jobs with the Allen Parker Slave Narrative in Chapter 3.)
    • Mrs. Yancey mentions Raleigh, NC, St. Mary's college, and UNC at Chapel Hill. (This would be of interest, especially to those living in North Carolina.)
    • Mrs. Yancey is described in detail.
    • How do you feel about Mrs. Yancey now that you know more about her? Why?
    • "Yes'm" is an expected word in the Big House with masters/mistresses.

    Chapter 14

    • Boy helps a hungry runaway slave by sending her to the nice Mammy (cook) for food.
    • The runaway slave's name is Lookup. Lookup tells many stories.
    • Gossip comes to the cabin of a master who has died. The slaves discuss their worry, as their families may now be split apart.
    • Description of a slave's wedding. (Compare with weddings in the Allen Parker Slave Narrative in Chapter 2.)
    • The runaway preaches about freedom.
    • Boy talks to herself (in her mind) debating on escape. She debates staying with her mistress, as she treats her well, or escaping so she can be free.
    • Why should this be a debate, or should it be?
    • Boy decides she will escape after all, and once again, greases the door, and leaves the estate.
    • A large figure is pursuing her.


    Chapter 15

    • As Boy is now on her own, she begins to doubt that she should escape.
    • She feels hands around her mouth . . .
    • Who do you think this person is?
    • The person is Lookup, the runaway slave.
    • Lookup helps show Boy how to be an effective runaway. (Compare escaping with the Allen Parker Slave Narrative in Chapter 8.)
    • Boy and Lookup travel together.
    • Lookup helps to get them food.
    • There is mention of an owl and its superstition. (Compare with the owl superstition in the Allen Parker Slave Narrative in Chapter 5.)
    • Description of things Lookup has taught Boy to do as a runaway.
    • More description of pattierollers.

    Chapter 16

    • Boy begins to doubt finding her relatives.
    • It is now summer, and it is hot and humid.
    • What would this change in season do to the runaways?
    • Boy taught Lookup how to read and write.
    • Boy and Lookup realize they could write their own pass so as not to be caught by the pattierollers.
    • Lookup tells Boy her real name, Lucie, and she then tells Boy that she's known all along that Boy is really a girl. She believes Boy is Overtha Yancey, and all the slaves have known it, but not told.
    • Boy is surprised and wants to know how the slaves knew, but the master and mistress did not.
    • Description of why the whites did not notice Boy was a girl.
    • Write your feeling about the whites' reaction to Boy.
    • On their way to freedom, Boy and Lookup would stop at plantations to find other slaves who would help them as Boy had helped Lookup.
    • Another mention of the owl (Chapter 5 in the Allen Parker Slave Narrative.)
    • Boy and Lookup stop in Cedar Springs (where Gump lives).
    • Gump comes into the cabin and admires Boy's shoes, not knowing that it is Boy.
    • Why do you think Gump is admiring Boyıs shoes? Do you think he has a plan?

    Chapter 17

    • Gump steals Boy's nice shoes.
    • Boy decides to get Gump back by pretending to be the evil spirit of Rawhead and Bloody Bones.
    • How do you feel about what Boy did? Do you think Gump deserved it? Why or why not?
    • Lookup came to Boy to alert her that the pattierollers were coming. They nearly escape.
    • Fog is all around.
    • Why does Boy think fog is a good thing?
    • Boy and Lookup hear humming. There is a burial procession for the master who died. Pallbearers are carrying the casket to the graveyard.
    • All the mourners leave. Boy and Lookup begin to talk about using the cover of the coffin for shelter.
    • Isaac comes out of the cover. Boy finds out that Lookup is Isaac's mother heıs been looking for. (Remember how Isaac's mother was a storyteller?)

    Chapter 18

    • Isaac, his mom, and his dad, Ike are all reunited.
    • Isaac is happy to see Boy.
    • Lookup tells Isaac and Ike that Boy is really a girl.
    • Ike, Lookup, and Isaac promise to take Boy to Freetown in the morning.
    • Boy sleeps.
    • When she wakes, she cannot see the mill they were close to before she slept. She also sees the Bellemont estate, but she has been traveling for three weeks, and the Bellemont estate would not be in view unless they had traveled in circles.
    • She feels disoriented. She recognizes where she is . . . she's where she lost her shoes after she left the picnic. She sees her lost sneakers.
    • She tells Ike, Lookup, and Isaac she's decided not to go to Freetown, as she has to cross the water. She begs them all to come with her.
    • Ike, Lookup, and Isaac begin to fade away.
    • Boy quickly gives Lookup her ballpoint pen.
    • Boy hears someone calling, "Come back!," and believes it is Isaac.
    • Predict what you think is about to happen.
    • The voice was not Isaac. It was Junior Jurnigan from the picnic, looking for Boy.
    • Junior asks how she got a cut on her face (in her dream, there was a Y branded on her cheek).
    • Boy comes back to the picnic and her brother, LeMont tells her she's been gone for an hour. Her father reprimands
    • LeMont, and tells Boy the truth: She's only been gone for 10 minutes.
    • How could she only be missing for 10 minutes, when she was gone for over 3 months?
    • Boy gives the conjure stone back to her father, remembering her adventure in "Yancey country" happily.
    • Describe how Boy's attitude towards slavery has changed since her time-traveling adventure.
    • Have your feelings about slavery changed as well? If so, how? If not, describe your feelings.



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    For additional information or comments about these Learning Activities, contact:
    Dr. Joy N. Stapleton, Assistant Professor, Department of Curriculum and Instruction: Elementary and Middle Grades Education, School of Education, East Carolina University.