ABOUT THE BOOKS
Imagine living in the shadows, hiding your existence from almost
everyone in the world. This is the plight of Jen, Trey, Nina, and
all other third-born children. With their nation plagued by drought
and food shortages, their government has made it illegal for
families to have more than two children. Yet thousands of thirds
exist without identification cards or rights of any kind. As these
shadow children begin to discover and communicate with each other,
their worldviews broaden. They begin to wonder why their government
claims that they are the cause of all of their nation''s ills, and
they question the worth of their leaders themselves. Fearfully,
unwittingly, or angrily, these secret children emerge from the
shadows to fight for change.
The seven Shadow Children novels are told from the viewpoints of
Luke, the beloved third son of a rural family; Matthias, the
abandoned urban orphan raised by elderly moralist Samuel; and other
third children. Their narratives offer readers differing
perspectives on the compelling questions explored in the series.
Should the government have the right to dictate the size of
families or other aspects of how people choose to live their lives?
In an age of televised news, how can one be certain what is really
happening in the world and what is illusion -- who is telling the
truth and who isn''t? Can individual actions truly affect the
future of a nation? And, ultimately, what does it mean to live in
Why do you think some families decided to have third children
despite their society''s desperate circumstances and strict laws?
Do you think that the benefits of having another child would
outweigh the sacrifices that must be made? Why or why not?
Each third child comes from a different background and type of
hiding place. How are these children treated by the people who care
for them and hide them? How do they feel about their circumstances?
How do these feelings affect their actions?
How does the government enforce its rules? Do you think its plan
for dealing with the low food supply is a good one? Is it
justified? Must governments limit individual freedoms to protect
their citizens as a group? Is this the case in your own
To come out of hiding, shadow children must assume false
identities. How would you feel if you had to live under an assumed
name, denying your relationship to your family? Which shadow
child''s feelings about this situation are most like your own and
Are the shadow children in more danger when they are hidden or
when they venture out into the larger, more complicated world? In
what ways do you think this would be a difficult transition to
make? Would you feel safer or less safe out in the world?
Shadow children are often uncertain whether people are their
friends or their enemies. Cite examples when third children
question the loyalties of Mr. Talbot, Smits, Oscar, and even
members of the Population Police Force. Is trust as difficult in
A critical challenge faced by each shadow child is the sense
that one individual cannot make a difference. When do Luke, Nina,
Trey, and Matthias express this sense? Are they correct? What is
the relationship between this feeling and the leadership roles
these children ultimately take on?
How do different characters contribute to the fight for the
freedom of the shadow children? How effective is Jen''s rally? Does
Luke help the cause when he joins the Grant family of Barons? Can
Trey''s fear be a type of courage? How do Mr. and Mrs. Talbot, Mr.
Hendricks, and even Philip Twinings help the fight?
It becomes increasingly clear that the government is
misinforming its citizens. What lies are told on the public
television channels? How is the information on the Baron channels
different? What roles do television and the Internet play in the
Why do you think the government is, in a sense, framing the
shadow children for the nation''s problems? Whom do you think the
starving population would be angry with if they did not have the
shadow children to blame for their hunger?
In what ways does hunger affect different characters and their
actions? If your family were hungry, would you have joined the
Population Police? Why or why not?
When Aldous Krakenaur and the Population Police are defeated in
the final book, are the third children truly safe? What does Luke
do to expose Oscar? Why does Nina feel that only a third child
could have stopped Oscar?
What kind of government do you think -- or hope -- the shadow
children will help to create? How does Luke imagine the future? Do
you think it will be perfect? Do you think it will be better?
Explain your answer.
QUOTATIONS TO DISCUSS
Among the Hidden begins with Luke musing: "I will never
be allowed outside again. Maybe never again as long as I live."
What might you do if you were facing your final moments outside?
How does this passage affect your understanding of the series?
Jen tries to persuade Luke to join the rally, saying, "You''ve
got to come, Luke, or you''ll hate yourself the rest of your life.
When you don''t have to hide anymore, even years from now,
there''ll always be some small part of you whispering, ''I don''t
deserve this. I didn''t fight for it. I''m not worth it.'' But you
are, Luke, you are." List three ways Jen''s words are important.
How is Jen, who dies, a key character throughout the series?
Compare and contrast the characters of Jen and Samuel as moral
thinkers and leaders.
Near the end of Among the Impostors, Mr. Hendricks
explains that, "The Population Police can lie too...It suits the
government''s purposes to say they are arresting third children
rather than traitors." Why might this be better for the
government''s purposes? Are third children the real cause of the
Among the Betrayed opens with Nina''s thought that
"...like the bogeyman and the Big Bad Wolf and the Wicked Witch and
the creep-show monster, the Population Police belonged in stories
and nightmares, not real life." What makes these rebellious
thoughts? What makes these brave thoughts?
In Chapter 29 of Among the Barons, "Luke remembered a
quote from one of his history books: ''The king is dead, long live
the king.''" How do Luke''s experiences help him understand these
words spoken upon the death of France''s Kings? Is the transfer of
power in Luke''s world really this clear? How might this quote be
understood in terms of the way leadership changes hands in your
In Chapter 21 of Among the Brave, Luke''s brother,
Mark, complements Trey on being braver than him. As Trey Responds,
he realizes, "People are brave in different ways." Explain this
quote in terms of the different types of bravery depicted in the
In Chapter 19 of Among the Enemy, Matthias wonders why
he could save a Population Police officer, then fight against him.
"It had to do with Samuel telling him, over and over again,
''Killing is wrong.'' Even...back in the cabin, Matthias hadn''t
wanted to be an accomplice to any more murder." How does the memory
of Samuel affect Matthias''s thoughts and actions? How do Samuel''s
words affect your understanding of the relationship between third
children and their government?
At the end of Chapter 8 in Among the Free, Luke asks a
boy about his loyalties. "''Which side am I on?'' [the boy]
repeated. ''What do you think? Whatever side feeds me -- that''s
the one for me.''" Luke later muses, "Shouldn''t the enemies of my
enemies be my friends?" Discuss loyalty in terms of these two
quotations. Could you ever be driven to think like the hungry boy?
Why or why not? How would you respond to Luke''s circular question
about the enemies of his enemies?
WRITING AND RESEARCH ACTIVITIES
The premise of the Shadow Children series is that third children
must live in hiding, pretending not to exist. Imagine you are a
third child. Write three to five journal entries describing your
life, how you feel about it, and your dreams, if any, for the
Margaret Peterson Haddix calls these novels the "Shadow
Children" series. What other words, such as hidden or forbidden,
describe third children? Look up "shadow" in the dictionary. Based
on these exercises, write a short essay explaining why "shadow" is,
or is not, the best word to use in the series title. If not, what
series title would you suggest?
Make a "top ten" list of reasons people join the Population
Police. Then, in the character of one of those of people, write a
speech explaining to the Population Police why you have come to
join them. Read your speech aloud to classmates.
In the final book, Luke balks at being interviewed on camera,
stating that if he is free then he has the right to say nothing.
Why does Luke say this? Role-play this scene, having one classmate
act as the interviewer while others play liberated citizens. You
may also want to role-play the scene in which citizens begin to
testify against third children once again. Discuss ways in which
these role-plays are similar and/or different.
The world''s six billionth child was born in 1999, and our
population continues to grow. A growing population poses risks to
the planet. Imagine you have just been told that you are child
number six billion. Write a journal entry describing how you feel
about this fact.
The world''s three most populous countries are China, India, and
the United States. Research how population growth has been handled
in one of these countries. Compare and contrast the different
population changes and policies with the research of other
classmates or friends. Have the policies been successful? What
positive and negative effects might these policies have in the
future? (Hint: Excellent data is available on the Population
Reference Bureau website: www.prb.org.)
Food and Hunger
Luke''s family lives on a farm, and he is very interested in
gardening and hydroponics, the growing of plants in a nutrient-rich
water rather than soil. Learn more about these disciplines by
trying to grow some vegetables of your own or trying your hand at
The people of the Shadow Children world sometimes act against
their moral senses because they are starving. What does it mean to
be hungry? Write a paragraph describing how your stomach, limbs,
and mind feel when you have missed a meal. Compare this to an
encyclopedia definition of starvation. Based on these observations
and facts, write a defense of the starving people''s bad acts.
How do we deal with hunger and famine in our modern world?
Research the policies that different countries have for dealing
with hunger both at home and abroad. Stage a debate, with each
person advocating a different approach, and see if you can reach a
consensus about which methods are the most effective.
Governments and Control
Are these novels about a strong government preventing famine
through limiting population? Or are they about a failing government
attempting to keep control despite the famine by blaming third
children for the entire population''s hunger? Write a paragraph
explaining which of the above sentences best describes the crisis
of the Shadow Children series and why.
Research the population control efforts of the Chinese
government, the vilification of the Jewish people by the Nazis in
World War II, or the racial hierarchy established between the Hutu
and Tutsi people in Rwanda. Present an informative poster based on
your research to friends and classmates. Discuss the ways in which
each of these governments resembles the actions of the Shadow
Children government. Then, if desired, write a paragraph stating
which real-life situation you think is most similar to the series
To promote the idea that third children are villains, the
government feeds the population propaganda through television and
posters. Find the dictionary definition of propaganda. Look for
examples of propaganda in the novels. Then create your own
propaganda poster defending or blaming third children for the
troubles of their nation.
Luke and his friends ultimately have the opportunity to help
create a new government. With classmates or friends, brainstorm a
list of rules, regulations, and freedoms for the new government you
would create for the Shadow Children. Or you and your classmates
can each draft a new constitution for the Shadow Children to
present to your class. Vote on the best constitution.
What does it mean to be free? Hold a Freedom Day at your school
or classroom. Learn about celebrations of freedom across time and
cultures. Write an essay, poem, or song lyrics; create a sculpture,
drawing, or collage; or improvise a dance or a play showing what
freedom means to you.