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Discussion Guide for Deenie
By Judy Blume
1. Thelma Fenner, Deenie’s mom, says, “‘Deenie’s the beauty, Helen’s the brain.’” (Chapter one). What are her aspirations for her daughters? Explain why the girls don’t tell their mom how they feel about her expectations. How is Deenie’s dad her ally on this issue? At what point do the girls rebel against their mother and her dreams for them?
2. Why doesn’t Deenie tell her mother that she is trying out for cheerleader? Only one seventh grader is picked for the cheerleading squad. Deenie is very upset when her best friend, Janet, is selected. How does she display her jealousy? Explain how Deenie’s circle of friends begins to change after Janet becomes a cheerleader.
3. Describe Mrs. Rappoport, the seventh-grade girls’ gym teacher, from Deenie’s point of view. When does Mrs. Rappoport first notice something unusual with Deenie’s spine? Discuss why Deenie is interested in knowing whether this issue kept her off the finalist list for cheerleader. Deenie’s dad answers the telephone when Mrs. Rappoport calls to suggest that Deenie see a doctor. Why is her dad the best person to take this call?
4. Deenie sees Dr. Moravia and then several specialists. Each one asks her parents to wait outside while they examine Deenie. What might have happened if her mother had been allowed in the room? Debate why it’s important for adolescents to communicate with their doctor without a parent present.
5. Deenie is diagnosed with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. What does Dr. Griffith, the scoliosis specialist, mean when he tells the Fenners that there’s “‘a strong familial tendency’”? (Chapter seven) Discuss her parents’ reaction to this information. How is assigning blame not helpful to Deenie?
6. Describe Deenie’s first reaction when she sees her back brace. Why is she adamant about not wearing an undershirt with the brace? Discuss Deenie’s emotional outburst when she cuts her hair. Mrs. Fenner invites Janet and Midge to dinner, but she warns them not to mention Deenie’s brace. How does this create an awkward moment for them and Deenie? Deenie’s mom also tells Helen not to mention the brace. What does Mrs. Fenner’s request say about how she is dealing with her daughter’s situation?
7. What are Deenie’s feelings toward the handicapped kids at her school, Barbara Curtis, and Old Lady Murray? Discuss how her scoliosis diagnosis changes her view of those with physical differences. At what point do Deenie and Barbara Curtis become friends? How do Janet and Midge react?
8. Deenie attends a mixer at school. Explain what she means when she says, “For the first time in my life I felt like a real outsider.” (Chapter eighteen). Discuss her feelings when Buddy pushes her into the locker room and kisses her. What is his role in making her feel like an insider?
9. What is significant about the bag that Deenie takes to Janet’s party? Explain why she doesn’t proceed with her plan.
10. Like most adolescents, Deenie has questions related to sex and sexuality. Mrs. Rappoport has a box where the girls put their questions. How is her willingness to be honest and open help the girls realize that their curiosity is normal? Later Deenie asks Helen what sexual intercourse feels like. Why does she think Helen will know? How is she surprised by Helen’s answer?
has been banned in some schools because of Deenie’s question about “touching her special place.” A male principal once told Judy Blume that it’s okay that boys read about masturbation, but not girls. What does this reveal about this particular school principal? Why is it important for books like Deenie
to be available to students in their school libraries?
12. Though masturbation and sexual intercourse are mentioned, the novel isn’t really about these topics. What is the central theme of the book? How would you explain this to adults who want to deny adolescents access to the book?Guide written by Pat Scales, a retired middle and high school librarian who is currently a children’s and young adult literature consultant and specializes in curriculum and free speech issues. 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.