Welcome to the entering sixth grade summer reading list!
Use the inset scroll bar to move through the list. Use the tool bar to zoom or download a copy to print.There is information about the Core Summer Reading book is below the list. Please use it to guide your reading.
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Heads or Tails by Jack Gantos
Key Vocabulary
  • Theatrics (pg. 4) noun. (used with a plural verb ) exaggerated, artificial, or histrionic mannerisms, actions, or words.
  • Kingpin (pg. 5) noun. the person of chief importance in a corporation, movement, undertaking, etc.
  • Mullet (pg. 5) pl. noun. any of several marine or freshwater, usually gray fishes of the family Mugilidae, having a nearly cylindrical body.
  • Copybook (pg. 8) noun. a book containing models, usually of penmanship, for learners to imitate
  • Portable (pg. 8) adj. capable of being transported or conveyed
  • Scrawled (pg. 12) verb. to write awkwardly, carelessly, or illegibly.
  • Fronds (pg. 20) noun. an often large, finely divided leaf, esp. as applied to the ferns and certain palms.
  • Fuselage (pg. 22) noun. the complete central structure to which the wing, tail surfaces, and engines are attached on an airplane.
  • Twang (pg. 36) verb. to speak with a sharp, nasal tone.
  • Sermons (pg. 36) noun. any serious speech, discourse, or exhortation, esp. on a moral issue.
  • Missionary (pg. 43) noun. a person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or other activities, as educational or hospital work.
  • Rabies (pg. 48) noun. an infectious disease of dogs, cats, and other animals, transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected animal and usually fatal if treatment is not administered
  • Internal Revenue Service (pg. 89) proper noun. the division of the U.S. Department of the Treasury that collects internal revenue, including income taxes and excise taxes, and that enforces revenue laws.
  • Conch (pg. 118) noun. he spiral shell of a gastropod, often used as a horn
  • Gondola (pg. 130) noun. a long, narrow, flat-bottomed boat having a tall, ornamental stem and stern and sometimes a small cabin for passengers, rowed or poled by a single person who stands at the stern, facing forward: used esp. on the canals of Venice, Italy.
  • Mimeograph (pg. 131) noun. a printing machine with an ink-fed drum, around which a cut waxed stencil is placed and which rotates as successive sheets of paper are fed into it.

Guiding Questions
  • Jack's mother tells Betsy, "A diary is for keeping all your secrets, and nobody is allowed to read it but you." Why is it important to record your secrets in a diary or journal? A secret is no longer a secret once it is shared. What type of secrets should be shared? How do you know when a secret should be shared? How does it feel not to know a secret that others share? How can "secrets" affect a community?
  • In "My Brother's Finger" Jack's brother feels responsible for making a plane crash. Have you ever felt responsible for something that was not your fault? How did you deal with the situation? What advice would you give to others that have felt the same way?
  • In the story "Candy Itani," Jack goes to the Baptist Mission with Johnny Ross. What type of friend is Johnny? At the end of the story, Jack says that he will never go to the church again. What does Jack's decision reveal about him? Jack is sure to encounter Johnny Ross at school. What do you think he will say to Johnny? What characteristics do you value in a friend?
  • In "Donna Lowry" Jack does not submit to peer pressure and does what he thinks is right. What does Jack do? In the end, what is his reward? (Note: it is not that the bird is named after him.)
  • Jack is fascinated with the idea of UFO's in the story "Death and Taxes." He says that UFO's can take him "away from all this confusion and set me down in a place without fear." Discuss the confusion and fear in Jack's life. When in the book does Jack use humor to deal with his fear?
  • The final lines of the book reference a scene between Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. How does the scene relate to Jack's life? What does it reveal about Jack's character?
  • Throughout Heads or Tails, Jack learns important values that help him become a better member of the "community" in which he lives. A community can include your family, friends, neighborhood and school. Name three values that Jack learns over the course of the his year. Which of the three do you find most important? Why?

Note: Some questions were taken from a "discussion guide" on www.jackgantos.com

Supporting Resources
The author's website

An academy award "Best Picture" winner, The Sound of Music

Image of a chinch bug

Biplane stunts as referenced in "My Brother's Finger"

In "Rabies" Jack and his family watch disaster movies like The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake and King Kong.

A website about UFOs

The city of Cocoa Beach, FL

Your assignment:

Be prepared to discuss the book when you return in September. Use the resources on this page as a guide.

Lists from Previous Years