Topics for Discussion

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1. Why does Roberto's mother caution him about his friendship with Samuele? How much does she know about the Jews' plight?

2. Why does Roberto seem to like the idea of Italy being at war? Does the book tell us how the Italian people feel about the United States?

3. If Roberto really wants to be a gondolier, will it be possible for him to do so?

4. How do the German soldiers act toward the boys? Does their behavior change over the course of the novel?

5. Why are the two little Jewish girls so important to the story?

6. What are your feelings about the deserter? In your opinion, how should soldiers behave?

7. Could you, would you, eat the things Roberto and Samuele do to stay alive?

8. Why are the Ukrainian villagers so suspicious of Roberto in his German boots? What do you suppose they are thinking?

9. How is Roberto able to navigate the boat toward Italy? Would Samuele have been able to?

10. Does the story lead you to believe that Roberto would ever be able to kill another person?

11. Do you think Roberto's and Samuele's families knew what had happened to their children?

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