In Fleischman's Whirligig, what is the real reason the strange man asks Brent for directions?

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The real reason that the strange man asks Brent for directions is to distract him. The man wants to occupy Brent's attention so that he will be less likely to detect any suspicious movements in his direction.

First, the man thrusts a small address book in Brent's direction. Then, he...

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The real reason that the strange man asks Brent for directions is to distract him. The man wants to occupy Brent's attention so that he will be less likely to detect any suspicious movements in his direction.

First, the man thrusts a small address book in Brent's direction. Then, he points Brent to a particular address in the book. He tells Brent that he is headed to his brother's house in San Diego and wants to know how to locate the address in the city.

For his part, Brent instinctively leans in to get a closer look at the address on the page. However, he turns after he catches a flash of movement in his direction. Upon turning around, he sees a scruffy-looking boy in the process of trying to grab his back-pack. In a split second, Brent realizes that the man and boy are working as a team. Feeling helpless, Brent yells loudly and manages to draw the attention of the bus drivers.

In response, the boy releases his grip from Brent's backpack and eventually leaves with the strange man. So, the real reason the strange man asked Brent for directions was to distract him.

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This incident happens in Chapter 5, titled “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Brent had just gotten off the bus in San Diego when a man asked him if he knew where a certain address was. Brent knew he couldn’t help him much, but he turned his head and looked at the man’s information anyway. Just like that, another man had his hand on Brent’s backpack and was getting ready to grab and steal it. Brent was savvy enough to quickly realize he had been deliberately distracted and almost duped. He yelled “Leave me alone!” loud enough for the bus drivers to hear and to turn in his direction. The robbers left without success. It took a while for Brent to calm down after such a traumatic exchange. But he showed maturity in how he handled the situation.

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