Perloo the Bold Discussion Guide
- Grades: 3–5
About this book
Perloo the Bold
The reluctant hero of this fantasy, Perloo, is a mild-mannered, shy, reclusive member of the Montmer tribe — animals that are a cross between jackrabbits, prairie dogs, and humans. Dragged unwillingly from his comfortable mountain burrow by his friend Lucabara and brought to the tribe's headquarters, Perloo is astonished to learn that he has been selected to become the new "granter," or leader, of the Montmers. Hair-raising adventures ensue as Perloo finds himself involved in a power-struggle with the villanous Berwig the Big, the jealous son of the former granter, Jolaine, who feels that the title should rightly be his. Escaping from the burrow, Perloo is captured by the Felbarts, a tribe of fox-like creatures against whom Berwig is planning to start a war. When Perloo is forced into the role of leader and peace-maker between the tribes, his qualities of modesty, honesty, and integrity eventually win through, but his biggest decision comes at the end of the novel when he must choose how to handle his new-found responsibilities while remaining true to himself.
"Heavy is the head that wears the crown" is one of the themes Avi examines in this animal fantasy. It is tough to be the leader, especially when there are unpopular decisions to be made and unpopular actions to be taken. As Mogwat the Magpie puts it, "You are never more alone than when you are followed by many" (p. 225). What does this statement mean? Do you agree? Would Perloo agree? Do you think that the other would-be leaders failed to understand this?
The book could also stimulate discussion of the merits and consequences of different forms of government. Power can be exercised wisely, but absolute power can corrupt. Leadership can be inherited, as in a monarchy, or conferred on the most deserving candidate. At the end of the book, when Perloo relinquishes his rule and abolishes the office of "granter," we imagine that there will be a peaceful transition to democracy. Just how, exactly, do you think this will be accomplished? You could discuss various scenarios and their different possible outcomes.
Though there are many factions warring against one another in this tale, the major conflict in the story is largely internal. Perloo must deal with his own self-doubts in order to assume the role given him by Jolaine the Granter. Why was Perloo reluctant to take on the position of granter? What kinds of internal struggles must have gone on within him that led to his decision to give up that responsibility at the end of the novel? Given who he was, do you think he made the right decision? Do you think he was being responsible, or running away from responsibility? What would you have done? Do we have an obligation to accept responsibilities that we didn't ask for?
In an author-created world such as the one Avi describes, details are essential to bring the reader fully into the story. What details of the setting are evident from the first paragraph? The first chapter? What other details are made clear as the story progresses? Do you have a strong mental picture of the book's setting? If so, how does Avi achieve this? Would the story be essentially different without such a detailed setting? Discuss the different kinds of settings - the physical surroundings (for example mountains, snow, earthen burrows), and the mental world of the montmers (for example their history, customs, constitution). Compare Avi's detailed creation of a imaginary society with that in Watership Down, The Hobbit, or other examples.
Compare Perloo with other "reluctant heroes" from literature such as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, or Mole from The Wind in the Willows. What are the qualities in Perloo that enable him to win through against apparently stronger enemies despite all odds? Do you think Perloo had the qualities of a leader even though he had no desire to be a leader? If so, what were those qualities, and how does the story bring them out?
The evil characters are interesting too, each in their own way. The blustery, self-centered Berwig plots to take over his mother's position as granter of the montmers. The crafty Senyous plans to outwit Berwig, and the sly Gumpel manages to maneuver herself into a position of power through her clever manipulations of both Berwig and Senyous. Which character do you think is the most evil in the novel? Defend your opinion.
- Reread the sayings of Mogwat the Magpie from the back of the book. Which sayings do you like most? Some of the sayings appear to be contradictory at first glance, for example, "The future begins in the past, " or "When you take one backward hop it requires two hops to go forward." Can you find examples in the story that demonstrate the truth of these sayings?
- Do you think the title of the book seems ironic, since Perloo is so timid and unsure of himself through most of the novel? How does "Perloo the Unwilling," as he is known at the beginning of the novel, become "Perloo the Bold"? Is he really "bold" at the end of the novel? In what way? Can someone be both unwilling and bold?
- Chart the similarities and differences between the Montmers and the Felbarts. Are they more different or more similar?
- Are there lessons in this animal fantasy that you feel apply to our real world? Could this novel have been written with people instead of animals? Can you think of actual peple or events in history that resemble each of the main characters or situations in the novel? Is this novel, like George Orwell's Animal Farm, a parable? If so, what is it telling us?
Other books to compare and contrast:
Watership Down by Richard Adams
Redwall series by Brian Jacques
The Hobbit by J.R.R.Tolkein
The Kid Who Ran for President by Dan Gutman
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Other books by the author:
The Man Who Was Poe
Poppy and Rye
Who Stole the Wizard of Oz?
No More Magic
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything?
The Fighting Ground
"Who Was That Masked Man, Anyway?"
City of Light, City of Dark
Nothing but the Truth
Beyond the Western Sea
Romeo and Juliet — Together (and Alive) at Last
Emily Upham's Revenge
History of Helpless Harry
Punch with Judy
No More Magic
Man from the Sky
Encounter at Easton
Tom, Babette, and Simon
A Place Called Ugly
Sometimes I Think I Hear My Name
About the author
Avi is the author of many fine books for young readers, in a variety of genres ranging from humor to fantasy, from historical fiction to contemporary fiction. He has won Newbery Honors for The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle and Nothing but the Truth, and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction for The Fighting Ground. Whether taking readers back in time, presenting them with issues of truth and deception, or reminding them about the importance of loyalty and honor, Avi creates characters who entertain and inform, enlighten and encourage. To learn more about Avi, visit his web site at www.avi-writer.com.
Discussion guide written by Kylene Beers and Teri Lesesne, both of who teach children's and young adult literature at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas.