Discussion (SPOILERS)- Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Why do you think the book begins and ends with a porcupine necktie? Why a porcupine? Do you think the cacti fit into the porcupine theme? If so, why? And what is the significance of Stargirl plucking a thorn and pretending to use it to clean her teeth? Do you think Stargirl sending Leo a porcupine tie at the end of the books signifies something? If so, what?

Why was the story set in the desert?

Stargirl sees and hears things others do not. Do you think this actually represents something else? If so, what?

While she herself plays down the decision, why do you think the name Stargirl was used for the entire book? Is it even significant? What does it mean to you?

Why do you think Spinelli uses so many references to frogs?

People who never even saw you before are smiling at you and slapping your back and pumping your hand, and suddenly it seems like the whole world is calling your name, and you’re feeling so good you pretty much just float on home from school. And when you go to bed that night, the last thing you see before you zonk out are those eyes, and the last thing on your face is a smile. p46. Is this important in life? Would your answer be different in high school? Discuss the significance of this in relation to a student who is bullied, who rarely, if ever, feels this way.

It’s in the morning, for most of us. It’s that time, those few second when we’re coming out of sleep but we’re not really awake yet. For those few seconds we’re something more primitive than what we are about to become. We have just slept the sleep of our most distant ancestors, and something of them and their world still clings to us. For those few moments we are unformed, uncivilized. We are not the people we know as ourselves, but creatures more in tune with a tree than a keyboard. We are untitled, unnamed, natural, suspended between was and will be, the tadpole before the frog, the worm before the butterfly. We are, for a few brief moments, anything and everything we could be. p85. Do you think this is true? Is it a good or bad thing?

She explained that fillers are little items that are not considered important enough to be a story or to have a headline. They’re never more than one column wide, never more than an inch or two deep. They are most commonly found at the bottoms of inside pages, where the eye seldom travels. If the editors had their way, they would never use fillers. But sometimes a reporter doesn’t write quite enough words, and the story doesn’t reach all the way to the bottom of the page. The paper can’t have a blank space there, so the editor dumps in a filler. A filler doesn’t need to be ‘news.’ It doesn’t need to be important. It doesn’t even need to be read. All it’s asked to do is take up space. p92. Can this be applied to people? If so, what does this say about our society? If Spinelli is talking about people, then what is Stargirl’s true role?

And I think every once in a while someone comes along who is a little more primitive than the rest of us, a little closer to our beginnings, a little more in touch with the stuff we’re made of. p141. Do you agree? Discuss.

The echo of her laughter is the second sunrise I awaken to each day, and at night I feel it is more than stars looking down on me. p148. Who is he referring to in the second half of the sentence?

Does point of view make a difference? We are seeing Stargirl’s behavior from the point of view of someone who is uncomfortable with her behavior. Do you think your opinion of her would be different if we had read the story from Dori’s point of view?

How do you think the parents feel about all of this? They are not surprised when they return from the oratorical contest, almost as if they knew no one was going to be there. Do you think they had been through this before? Even though they remain calm, do you think they are in pain for their child?

It was wonderful to see, wonderful to be in the middle of: we mud frogs awakening all around. We were awash in tiny attentions. Small gestures, words, empathies thought to be extinct came to life. For years the strangers among us had passed sullenly in the hallways; now we looked, we nodded, we smiled. If someone got an A, others celebrated, too. If someone sprained an ankle, others felt the pain. We discovered the color of each other’s eyes. It was a rebellion she led, a rebellion for rather than against. For ourselves. For the dormant mud frogs we had been for so long. p38. Is this a good summary of the book? What significance does the ending have in the context of this quote? Is this state ultimately unsustainable?

Was the ending a good ending or a bad ending? Is it a warning?


When Leo falls for Stargirl, is he really choosing her, or is he choosing popularity?


When Stargirl arrives at Mica High School, people notice her. Name three ways in which her appearance of behavior differs from that of other students.

By December first of the year, Stargirl has become the most popular person in school. Describe what other students do to show admiration for her.

Think about the setting of the story, which takes place in an Arizona desert community. Identify passages that help you “see” the plants, animals, terrain, and climate in Leo’s town.

Archie is a mentor and friend to Leo and other kids in the neighborhood. Cite examples from the book that show how Archie helps one of the main characters.

Identify a character in the story who shows courage. Explain how the character is brave.

What does Archie mean when he says, “When Stargirl cries, she does not shed tears, but light”?

What questions would you ask Leo if you interviewed him as an adult?

Stargirl notices and cares about bad things that happen to other people but often seems to be unaware of bad things that happen to herself. If she were to visit your school today, what would she notice? What would she ignore? Give reasons for your answers.

Over the course of the book, Leo changes. Compare and contrast Leo’s appreciation of “little things” in life at the beginning of the novel and at the end.

When Archie and Leo drive out to the desert, Archie writes a single world on a scrap of paper and stuffs it in a hole. What do you think is written on the paper? Create a new scene for the book in which the two discuss Archie’s message.

When Leo returns to Arizona after living in the East, someone else is living in Archie’s house. Where, in your opinion, is Archie? How does that fit with Archie’s view of the universe?

Toward the end of the boo, Leo chooses membership in his peer group over his affection for Stargirl. What is your opinion of Leo’s choice? Why?

Do you think Leo’s life is improved for having been involved with Stargirl? What makes you say that?


What do you think might happen if someone like Stargirl came to your school? And, thinking about the characters in the novel where would you stand in relationship to Stargirl? Would you make fun of her, join her and make her your friend, ignore her?

What do you think was in the note that Archie put into the hole with Barney?

Discuss the ideas and values that Archie and Stargirl share?

What are the character flaws of the main characters in the novel? Leo is clearly not without flaws, and Stargirl is not without flaws. Discuss their flaws.

Who is the most admirable person in the novel? Would you, could you be like that person?

What was the significance of Senor Saguaro, of Barney, of Cinnamon? What do they have in common?

Discuss what surprised you about the setting in this novel. Discuss some of the things…


As the saying goes, “love is blind.” How is this truly the case with Leo and Stargirl? Looking back, how can you tell that Leo was falling for her? And does he stay in love with her, even after she moves away?

Professor Archie Brubaker is the voice of reason throughout the novel. Archie has many thoughtful insights into the personality of Stargirl, and at one point says about her: “You’ll know her more by your questions than by her answers. Keep looking at her long enough. One day you might see someone you know.” Now that you’ve finished the novel, what do you think Archie means by this statement?

While Stargirl is a guest on “Hot Seat,” Kevin asks her why she changed her name. Do you accept her reason why she did this? How is “Stargirl” an ideal name for her? Think about the possibility of changing your name several times. Do you think your name is an integral part of who you are, or can you imagine yourself with another one?

In the beginning, Hillari Kimble seems to be the only person who openly dislikes Stargirl. But then others begin to feel the same way as Hillari. Do you think that groups of people need a leader, like Hillari Kimble, to turn opinions against another person?

Do you, as a reader, like Stargirl? If you were a student at Mica High, would you reach out to her like Dori Dilson, or reject her like Hillari Kimble? Do you think the students of Mica High are ultimately too harsh on Stargirl?

Popularity, fitting in, and “sameness” are all key themes in Stargirl. Find places in the novel that reinforce these themes and discuss. Do you think Stargirl ever wanted to be popular? How might she define popularity?

After Stargirl changes back to “Susan,” Leo says “she looked magnificently, wonderfully, gloriously ordinary. She looked just like a hundred other girls at Mica High–I had never been so happy and proud in my whole life.” How did you feel when you read this part of the novel?

Author Jerry Spinelli plays two major events in the novel off of each other: the basketball championships and the oratorical contest. After Stargirl wins the oratorical contest, Leo says that “the cheering is as wild as that of the crowd at a championship basketball game.” Stargirl is the focus at both events but in very different ways. How is she rejected at one and accepted at the other? And how does this acceptance ultimately lead to rejection?

The Ocotillo Ball at the end of the novel represents a turning point. Do you think Stargirl made a deliberate attempt to say good-bye at the ball? What do you make of the students’ behavior at the ball, and what does this tell you about the student body of Mica High as a whole?

Archie says about Stargirl, “Star people are rare. You’ll be lucky to meet another.” Do you think Leo was grown-up enough for his relationship with Stargirl? How about the students of Mica High? Will Leo ever figure Stargirl out?

What is the irony at the end of Stargirl? Is Stargirl popular after all? What happens to the “popular” kids in the story-do they stay popular?


You may have heard Polonius’ famous quote from Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet: “To thine own self be true.” If most people agree with this as a noble goal, why are we so often, like the kids in Stargirl, uncomfortable around people who are different? How do you react when you encounter someone who is different? What does that say about you?

Does Stargirl seem in total control of who she is, or do others influence her? What role do those around her play in her identity?

What are the most important qualities in a friend? Does Stargirl have these? How so? What about Leo?

Do you think Stargirl wants to be popular? How does she handle her popularity? And while we’re on the subject, why do so many people want to be popular in the first place? Is it really all it’s cracked up to be?

Does Stargirl seem connected to her surroundings? Why or why not? Does this make her happier in any way? Does she ever seem disconnected?

How would you describe Stargirl and Leo’s relationship? Do the two of them seem happy? Why or why not?

What’s your favorite Stargirl quirk? Do you have any quirks like her?

What role does the show “Hot Seat” play in defining students at the school?

What happens to her identity when Stargirl returns home from her speech competition?

What happens to Leo’s identity after his relationship with Stargirl? How does it change?

What are some of the rules Mica High society that Stargirl breaks? What are the consequences for that rule breaking?

According to the student body, what is Stargirl’s worst offense? What does this tell you about what Mica High society values the most?

Stargirl agrees to try to become more normal after Leo tells her that she is not connected. Why is she so horrified to discover he thinks she’s not connected? Do you agree with Leo, or do you think she is more connected than he realizes? Why or why not?

Characters in Stargirl seem to constantly be on a popularity roller coaster. Sometimes they are up, and sometimes they are down. What does this tell you about the dangers of basing your self-esteem on what other people think of you?

How does Stargirl help Leo become more connected to the natural world? What is something that Leo learns as a result of this experience?

Why does Stargirl wish there were national enchanted sites? Can you think of any places you think should be designated “enchanted sites”?

Do any of the other characters show a connection to nature? Does the fact that Archie names his cactus, for example, show us a deeper tie to the natural world?

Is there something particular about the desert setting of this novel that makes the natural world more compelling to Stargirl?

What do Archie and Mr. McShane teach Stargirl and Leo about mockingbirds and Moas? Does that tell us anything about our connections to the past and the natural world?

Does Leo’s relationship to the past change over the course of the novel? How does he view his own personal past as an adult?

What has Archie learned about the past through his digs and through his research?

Besides when she dances in the rain, when else does Stargirl show an appreciation for something that is pretty common? Does Leo ever share in this appreciation?

Stargirl and Leo prefer to walk when they could drive. Why do you think this is?

Does Leo ever honestly love Stargirl? If so, when? Does Stargirl ever honestly love Leo? If so, when?

Why is it so hard for many people to love and accept Stargirl?

What is the difference between self-love and arrogance? What do you think Stargirl would say to answer this question? What would Hillari’s answer be?

What are some of the things that the students learn from Archie? And what makes the retired professor such a good teacher?

Is Stargirl a teacher? How so? Can you be both a teacher and a student at the same time?

What is the most valuable lesson learned by any of the characters in this novel? Why?

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