About the Series
A new house. A new school. Spinning pictures, a floating baseball jersey, icy cold breezes, and the tangy smell of oranges. Peculiar, yes. Eerie, absolutely! But, eleven-year-old Billy Broccoli soon realizes that these are all hair-raising signs of a new and very unusual friendship.
In book one, Zero to Hero, get ready for some spooky fun as you swoop around Billy’s new neighborhood and home, which comes complete with Hoover Porterhouse the Third – one very cool, 113-year-old teenage ghost!
A chilling jarful of tonsils, a tween-age crush, and a creepy school bully are no match for Billy and the Hoove. Your students are certain to be spellbound by the hauntingly hilarious antics of this unlikely duo. Join Billy and his “ghost buddy” the Hoove, as they face the challenges of Moorepark Middle School, and cast a spell on your students with their ghostly good humor.
Talking About the Book
Discuss these questions with your students
- In the beginning of the story we learn that Billy Broccoli is moving to a new house and must attend a new school. Once he decides to enter his new home he learns that his sister, Breeze, has assigned him a bedroom. Do you think it was fair of Breeze to give Billy the pink, purple, rainbow pony filled bedroom? Why do you think the authors chose to have Billy occupy this particular bedroom?
- Rod Brownstone welcomes Billy to the neighborhood with name calling and warnings that he won’t be living in his home for long because everyone who moves in, quickly moves out! Which character traits do you think best describe Billy at this point in the story? Why?
- When Billy first meets Hoover Porterhouse the Third he is terrified. What do you think causes Billy to trust Hoover? Would you have trusted Hoover? Why or why not?
- Compare Billy Broccoli to Hoover Porterhouse the Third. How are they alike? In which ways are they different?
- Hoover Porterhouse tells Billy that very few people have ever been able to see him in all the ninety-nine years that he has been haunting his home in Los Angeles. Why do you think Billy is able to see Hoover so easily?
- When the Broccoli family moved, Billy’s sister Breeze did not need to change schools. Because of this, she already had many friends at Moorepark Middle School. Do you think Breeze could have behaved differently toward Billy at school? Put yourself in Breeze’s position. How would you have treated Billy?
- The Hoove works very hard trying to help Billy dress so that he fits in with the kids at Moorepark Middle School. Describe how important it is that you look ‘just right’, or ‘cool’ when you are with people your own age. Do you think that it’s right/fair for students to be singled out because they dress differently? What message do your clothes give others about you?
- When Rod Brownstone took Billy’s tonsil jar to the school cafeteria and put it on the lunch table in front of Ruby’s seat, it was just about the worst thing that could possibly happen! How did it make you feel when you read that chapter in the story?
- Billy and the Hoove wanted nothing more than to take revenge on Rod Brownstone for his actions in the school cafeteria. As the story progresses we get the sense that Billy begins to have doubts about the original plan. How does this impact Billy and Hoover’s relationship? Do Billy’s actions influence Hoover in any way? Explain.
- Billy Broccoli and Hoover Porterhouse form an unusual friendship in this story. Why do you think they get along so well? Describe the ways in which they rely on one another?
- Hoover Porterhouse the Third is a strange friend. If you were given a chance to spend the day with him, would you? Why or why not? If you could spend a day with Hoover what would you do together?
- In the story Billy says, “You showed me how to believe in myself, Hoove. And that made me able to stand up to Rod.” Why is it important to believe in yourself? How does believing in yourself help you strengthen your relationships with other people? Describe how friends can support one another.
Motivate your students to write with these fun topics
- Imagine you woke up one morning and found Hoover Porterhouse the Third living in your closet! Write a diary entry about what your day with Hoover would be like.
- Do you think a ghost would make a good friend? Explain why or why not.
- Hoover dreams of seeing one baseball game played at every Major League stadium in America. Write about what you dream of doing one day.
- You are a reporter and have just been given the job of interviewing Hoover Porterhouse. Make a list of twenty questions you would like to have him answer.
- Which character was your favorite: Billy, Rod, Breeze, or Hoover? Create a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting yourself to your favorite character.
- Rod Brownstone had a favorite baby blankie he kept in a special secret place. Write a descriptive paragraph about something that you treasure. Do not name the item in your paragraph. Let’s see if we can guess what it might be just from your writing!
Conquering Creepy Bullies
Teach anti-bullying with these engaging classroom activities
Billy and the Hoove devised the flying baby blankie plan to get even with Rod Brownstone, the biggest bully of Moorepark Middle School. Fortunately Billy was able to rescue his pride and reputation by using his quick wits, newfound confidence and the help of his phantom friend, the Hoove. In the end Billy discovered that the school bully was not really that scary after all! Try some of these activities with your students to help them become better informed about bullying. Be sure that your students know the four types of bullying.
- Physical: this includes hitting or causing injury to a person
- Verbal: examples include teasing or insulting someone
- Social: this includes rejecting and excluding others
- Cyber: using digital medium to purposefully harm someone
Creating Beaded Bracelets
Brainstorm a list of short anti-bullying slogans with your class. Record the slogans on chart paper. Distribute beads of various colors and sizes to your students. Make sure you also have a supply of beads with letters. Have your students string the beads on elastic thread to create bracelets with anti-bullying slogans. “No Bullying Allowed,” “Include Everyone,” “Be Kind,” etc. are some slogans which will work well. The bracelets will serve as a message to others and will remind your students of their commitment to one another.
Place a shoebox in your classroom, within easy reach of your students. The students can decorate the box if you wish. Explain that the box will be private; only you will read what goes into the box. Students who are more comfortable writing down a bullying experience may do so, and place it in the box. They should put their name on their paper so that you will be able to discuss their bullying issue with them. Remind students that bullying is a very serious issue and that they must always be honest when putting something into the bullying box. This is a helpful tool for students who may have a difficult time verbalizing their problems.
Draw a Bully
Pass out drawing paper to your students. Direct them to draw a picture of a bully. Tell them that while they are drawing, you will do the same. Make sure that the students cannot see your picture. Draw a picture of a very beautiful/ handsome child. When everyone has fi nished drawing, tell the students that you would like to tell them a story about a bully you encountered in school. Relate a personal experience you may have had or choose an appropriate book to share with your class that has a bully as the main character. When you have finished telling your story, tell the class that you would like to show them the picture of the person who was the school bully. Then have them show you their pictures. As a class, compare the students’ pictures with the teacher’s picture. Point out that not all bullies are mean looking. Dispel stereotypes of bully appearances and focus on bully behaviors. Encourage your students to realize that bullies are identified by what they do, not what they look like.
Sticks and Stones
Begin this activity by asking your students what they think of the saying “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names CAN really hurt me!” Ask if anyone has ever heard a different version of this rhyme. Ask your students which they believe is truer. Encourage them to think of times when they have hurt someone’s feelings or when someone may have hurt their feelings.
- Provide an example of a time you have witnessed or have been the subject of bullying. If students seem comfortable, allow them to share their own experiences.
- Give each student a light gray paper ‘stone’. Have them write a behavior or experience that could hurt someone, such as name calling, fighting, hitting, etc.
- Next have them wrinkle the ‘stone’ and then try to smooth it out. Remind them that being hurt isn’t forgotten. The wrinkles will always be there.
- Have your students sit in a circle and pile the stones in the middle. Ask your students to think about ways to prevent these things from happening.
- Create and post a list of your ideas for the class.
Thanks to Teach Peace Now which partly inspired the above activity.
Teach Students About Helping Others and Responsibilities
The Hoove improves in helping others!
Hoover Porterhouse the Third couldn’t wait to get out and hyperglide all around town! Unfortunately for him, he could fly only just so far until his ghostly grades showed some improvement. Helping Others and Responsibility are subjects the Hoove, and your students, are certain to master with these super-easy service projects.
- Have your students practice reading a favorite book until they become fluent. Then have them read it to younger students in your building. If you have access to transportation, they may even be able to read to children in a local hospital or senior citizens in a nursing home.
- Hold a book drive. Collect new books which can be donated to children in poverty or disaster areas in the United States.
- Create, color, and laminate bookmarks for patients in Veterans’ hospitals.
- Encourage your students to read newspapers to senior citizens in nursing homes who have trouble reading small print.
- Check with your local food bank and conduct a food drive. Deliver the food and have your students help stock the shelves.
Investigate Ghosts and the Homes They Haunt
Develop research skills and encourage your students’ natural curiosity about this spooky topic
History is rich in ghostly lore. Encourage your students to explore the unique subject of ghosts and their haunted dwellings by delving into past and present history. Have them use the ghostly facts below as a springboard for some creepy research of their own.
- In Washington, D.C. the White House is said to be haunted by the ghosts of past presidents Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, William Henry Harrison and Andrew Jackson. Have your students research the qualities which are unique to each presidential ghost.
- Dolly Madison’s ghost is rumored to haunt the White House Rose Garden. What could have caused the gardeners to stop their work?
- In Adams, Tennessee, John Bell, his wife, and their nine children were bothered by a famous spirit who became known as the Bell Witch. She has become one of the most infamous ghosts in American ghost lore.
- The Flying Dutchman was a sailing ship that disappeared off the coast of South Africa. It is said that anyone at sea who lays eyes upon this ‘ghost’ ship is certain to meet a terrible end. Have your students search for evidence of this famous ghost ship’s last sighting. What became of the sailors who spotted this vessel?
- Captain Kidd was a famous privateer who buried his booty along New Jersey’s shoreline, specifically along the coastline of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Has any of his treasure been discovered?
- Lady Jane Grey ruled England for only nine days. She was put in prison and remained there for seven months before she was executed in the Tower of London along with her father and her husband. Her ghost has been haunting the Tower ever since! Can your students learn more about other famous royals who haunt the Tower? Your students could present their findings as interviews, newspaper articles, travel guides, short graphic novels/ comic strips, research reports, etc.
About the Authors
Henry Winker is admired by audiences of all ages for his roles as the Fonz on the long-running series Happy Days, and in such fi lms as Holes and The Waterboy. He is also an award-winning producer and director of family and children’s programming, and the author (with Lin Oliver) of the critically acclaimed Hank Zipzer series. He lives in Los Angeles, California.
Lin Oliver is a television producer and writer, and the Executive Director of the Society of Children’s Writers & Illustrators. She co-authored (with Henry Winkler) the New York Times bestselling middle-grade series, Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever and wrote the series Who Shrunk Daniel Funk? Lin resides in Los Angeles, California.
Classroom guide written by Kathy Casey