Tangerine Discussion Guide
- Grades: 6–8
About this book
by Edward Bloor
Paul Fisher's family is moving from Texas to Florida for a number of reasons. The most important one seems to be so that Paul's older brother Erik can impress the football scouts at some major universities. Indeed, most of what his parents do seems to be part of what Paul calls "The Great Erik Fisher Football Dream." It is not that Paul is jealous. He, too, possesses some tremendous athletic ability on the soccer field despite being legally blind. But Erik is the favored son, indulged by parents, teachers, coaches, and friends, even though Paul knows that Erik's behavior is less than perfect. The move to Tangerine, Florida, might just open the eyes of everyone in the Fisher family.
Look back through Tangerine and choose what you think is the most important word or concept from this book. Don't just choose the title or a character's name — choose a word that is actually in the book that you feel sums up what the whole book is really about. Share your reasoning with others. Did any of you choose the same word? Explain the insights into Tangerine 's theme that your choice of most important word offers.
Paul fears his brother's physical retaliations, is angry at his father's apparent favoritism toward his brother, and resents his mother's apparent inability to see Erik for what he really is. Erik, therefore, appears to be the root of Paul's problems. Is this true? Is Erik the main conflict that Paul faces? If Erik is what caused and continues to cause Paul's problems, what caused, and perhaps continues to cause, Erik's problems?
Paul's subdivision was built on a foundation of termite-infested ground, next to a field that constantly burns muck fires, near a school that is built on land that becomes a sinkhole. In what ways is the setting of the town of Tangerine a metaphor for Paul's life? What is it that eats away at Paul's foundation? What fire burns constantly in Paul's life? What is it in Paul's life that collapses just as the ground collapses into a sinkhole?
The volunteer firefighter on page 15 says, "Muck fires don't go out. They're burning all the time.... Sometimes the rain'll damp them down, but they're still smoldering." What is Paul's muck fire that is always burning? What are the muck fires for Paul's parents, for Erik, for Antoine Thomas? At the end of the book, the wind has shifted and the odor and smoke from the muck fire is blowing away from Paul. Is that symbolic of what has happened in Paul's life?
On page 244 as he digs in the ground behind his home on the day of Luis's funeral, Paul admits that he is finally seeing things that he has never seen before. What can he now see on page 244? What is the dirt of his life that was "burned, buried, plowed, coated and landscaped?"
Choose one of the following characters from Tangerine: Paul, Erik, Joey, Theresa Cruz, Vincent, Mr. Fisher, Mrs. Fisher. Create a scrapbook that this character would have made. Include artifacts mentioned in the novel or inspired by details in the text. Under each item, write a brief paragraph from the character's point of view that explains why this item was included in the scrapbook.
On page 268, is Paul right to tell his father that the issue is his father's eyesight? Is Paul the only one who sees things clearly? In what ways are Paul's parents blind? Is his mother still blind to Erik even after she discovers the jewelry he has stolen? Are Paul's friends at Tangerine Middle School blind? What about Joey? Is Erik blind or does he clearly see the choices he is making?
- On page 257, Paul's father says "We wanted to find a way to keep you from always hating your brother." Paul replies by saying "So you figured it would be better if I just hated myself?" Do you think his parents understood what their lie did to Paul? Would you have done what they did? What might the relationship have been like between Paul and Erik if Paul had always known the truth?
- Near the end of the novel, even though Erik's eyes are now "mere slits," (p.270), is it possible that he sees things clearly for the first time? What is the "cage" that he has made for himself? (p.292). Could his pacing perhaps be because he remembers what he has done to Paul?
- On page 204, Paul's mother says, "Give some credit where credit is due. Who do you think makes all of this possible? Who do you think holds this whole thing together? Your father?" What is the "whole thing"? Does she hold everything together? How does she do that? Is she more aware of her family situation than Paul's father?
- When confronted about the construction problems that the Lake Windsor subdivision faces, Mr. Fisher says, "I can't change the past, but I'm putting some big changes in place — for now and for the future" (p. 236). Is he perhaps referring to changes other than construction changes? How are Charley Burns's actions, or lack of actions, with the development of subdivisions similar to Mr. Fisher's actions, or lack of actions, with the development of both of his sons? Ultimately, Charley Burns cannot stand the truth about his actions and he has a fatal heart attack. In what way does Mr. Fisher experience a heart attack? Will he survive his heart attack?
- Consider the following statements and explain how each would apply to Erik, Paul, Mr. Fisher, Mrs. Fisher, Antoine Thomas, and Luis Cruz: Ignorance is bliss. Ye shall seek the truth and the truth shall set you free.
Other books to compare and contrast
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Crash by Jerry Spinelli
Here's to You, Rachel Robinson by Judy Blume
Iceman by Chris Lynch
Farm Team, Hard Ball, and Striking Out all by Will Weaver
About the author
A former middle and high school teacher, Bloor lives with his wife and children in Florida. Tangerine is his first novel.
Discussion guide written by Kylene Beers and Teri Lesesne, both of whom teach children's and young adult literature at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas.