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Reading Group Guide Butt Sandwich & Tree
By Wesley KingAbout the Book
When Coach Nelson’s necklace goes missing, it’s only a matter of time before the whole school suspects Green. He’s the weirdo. The freak. The kid with Asperger’s. The truth is, Green wasn’t sure he even wanted to try out for the basketball team. He only did it to make his big brother, Cedar, happy—and to spend more time with him. To say the tryout didn’t go well is an understatement, and now the necklace is missing. Coach is furious, and everyone thinks Green stole it. Except Cedar. What choice do the brothers have but to team up to find out the truth?Discussion Questions
1. Before starting, consider the title: Butt Sandwich & Tree
. Does it give you any clues to what the book is about? Did you have any idea or prediction about what would happen in the story? After you finish reading the book, go back and take a look at the cover. What is depicted there that also gives clues to what’s important in the story? How often does the title, or the cover art, influence whether you’ll want to read a book? What do you think about the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”?
2. Before reading this book, what did you know about Asperger’s Syndrome? Green learns from Dr. Shondez that the name “Asperger’s” is no longer being used and that most specialists now use a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Explain why the name is being changed. Who does Dr. Shondez say is partly responsible for the change?
3. Green says that autism means “isolated self” (Chapter five). How does the author’s depiction of Green express this sense of isolation? What else did you learn about autism from this book? Which other books, if any, have you read that feature neurodivergent characters?
4. Green dislikes his own name as much as he dislikes “ass-burger” or “butt sandwich,” as he calls his Asperger’s. He has several ideas for a new name for himself. Have you ever wanted to change your name? Why? What would you change your name to if you could? What are some reasons kids or adults might want to change their name?
5. The book’s prologue foreshadows the central event in the main story. What did you think when you first read the prologue? What were some of the prologue’s clues that could help readers solve the crime before the brothers do?
6. The author chose to tell this story using two different points of view by writing alternating chapters using the first-person voices of Green and Cedar. What did you think of this perspective technique? Describe the differences between the brothers’ POVs. Have you read other books narrated in more than one voice? How did each perspective make you feel about Cedar and Green? Did you identify with one more than the other? If so, explain which POV you related to more and why.
7. Did the book’s theme of “older brother protecting younger brother” seem familiar to you? How is this sibling dynamic impacted by Green’s autism? On the playground at recess, Cedar says, “I do my routine check on Green” (Chapter two). Do you have a sibling that you feel needs watching over? Or are you the sibling that’s being watched over?
8. Green says: “Most kids don’t really tease me. They just kind of move around
me” (Chapter one). Discuss some of the ways that Green is different, ways that might cause other kids to avoid him. Which of his unique behaviors are associated with autism?
9. When Green falls under suspicion, Cedar realizes, “It’s like shy turned into thief turned into freak
all within a few days” (Chapter twenty). How do you think gossip and innuendo travel through a clique, school, or community? Why do you think that people are so quick to point fingers at people who are different? Why are people eager to spread bad news and suspicions?
10. According to Green, “Everyone assumes I’m the thief. Deep down, they’d always expected I’d do something wrong” (Chapter eleven). How would it feel to have others prejudge you in this way? Their mom feels Green is bullied by both students and staff. Do you agree with her? In the scene where Coach comes to the brothers’ home, why does he accuse Green but not Cedar? What do you think is the best thing to do if you witness a kid being bullied by someone, either another student or an adult?
11. Cedar is desperate to have a video go viral. Do you understand this desire? What would you recommend Cedar try in order to produce a viral video? Why is social media recognition important to kids? When Cedar is grounded and Mom takes away his phone, he feels that he is “officially disconnected from the world” (Chapter twelve). Why do you think this is or is not a fair punishment for Cedar?
12. Cedar doesn’t think it’s fair that he must adhere to a number of rules at home that Green doesn’t. He also thinks it’s unfair when Mom keeps Green home from school and he gets to play video games all day. Why do you think their mom treats Cedar and Green differently? Is it fair that Mom tells Cedar, “‘If something happens to Green . . . it’s on you’”? (Chapter four)
13. Green’s classmate Allison, who has always been mean to him, finally admits that she was jealous of him. Have you ever been jealous of someone else? Do you agree with Cedar, who assures Green that everyone does weird stuff?
14. For Cedar, “Basketball led straight to popularity” (Chapter six). Why does he believe that the same thing will happen for Green? Why is it that being good at sports does often seem to make kids popular? How do you feel about Green trying out for the basketball team? Did you think he was going to make the team?
15. When the team plays a competitive scrimmage game, Green thinks: “I mean, who cares how many [points] the other team gets? When Cedar and I play we cheer when the other person scores. It just seems like a friendlier system” (Chapter seven). Why do you think he feels this way? What are some ways teams could be a little friendlier during practices, scrimmages, and games?
16. When Cedar’s best friend, Mo, tells him that Green is weird, it starts a big fight between the two. If one of your friends said something rude or bad about a member of your family, would you get upset? What about if a parent or sibling said something bad about a friend? Friends or family—cite examples from the novel that showed which Cedar thought was more important. Green comments that “Cedar always says you need more people in your life than just family. I disagree” (Chapter seventeen). Which brother do you agree with, and why?
17. When the brothers are discussing their Oma, Cedar wants to know why Green didn’t cry when she died. Green tells him, “‘I guess I can just focus on myself when I need to. And if something is too big, I can focus on something small. I can make that more important’” (Chapter twenty-four). Discuss how a skill like that might be helpful. Extension Activities Writing
1. Choose one of these two statements from the book and write an essay agreeing or disagreeing with it. Share your reasons and give examples that support your response.
- “Kids should always be seen for who they are as individuals first.”
- “A little adversity is a good thing . . . it makes us stronger.”
2. Write a shooting script for the perfect viral video for Cedar to make.
3. Green tells Cedar that he knows he could do anything, but “‘I don’t want
to. I like my routines. I like doing the stuff I already do’” (Chapter thirty-one). Write an essay about the difference between what you could do and what you want or need to do. It can be a specific activity, or it can be a more general essay about your life.
4. Identify an important theme of the book, and write an essay exploring how setting, character, and plot support this theme. (Examples: hope, friendship, family, differences.
1. Using your library and trusted internet sources, research and write a report about one of these subjects:
- Hans Asperger
- Grunya Sukhareva
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Fictional child detectivesGuide written by Bobbie Combs, a consultant at We Love Children's Books. 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.