Each month for the next four months (April-July) we’ll be sharing book club notes for Noughts and Crosses, Knife Edge, Checkmate and Double Cross.
Perfect for classrooms, libraries and book clubs, these notes will get you talking.
NOUGHTS AND CROSSES
Callum is a Nought – a second-class citizen in a world run by the ruling Crosses. Sephy is a Cross, the daughter of one of the most powerful men in the country. And in their world, noughts and Crosses don’t mix. As tension escalates and a bomb explodes, both Callum and Sephy are drawn into the conflict while they struggle to be together.
What the critics say . . .
’Will linger in the mind long after it is read’ Observer
‘Inspires the reader to wish for a world that is not divided by colour or class’ Sunday Times
’Intelligent, emotional and imaginatively wicked’ Benjamin Zephaniah
QUESTIONS TO DISCUSS
1. AN UNEQUAL SOCIETY
Noughts & Crosses is set in a world where one group within society are treated as second-class citizens due to the colour of their skin – an apartheid society. Although this has clear parallels with the history of our own world, Malorie Blackman has reversed the more familiar historical situations so that the group discriminated against are those with white skins- noughts.
– How well does this reversal work in making you see things from another perspective?
– The Sunday Times states that the book ‘inspires the reader to wish for a world that is not divided by colour or class’. Do you agree?
– Does the book feel inspiring in this way to you?
– How does the discrimination in this society affect something so simple as a trip out to Celebration Park?
– Consider this day out from the perspectives of both Callum and Sephy. Does anything make you angry?
– Are there any elements/details about discrimination which surprised you?
2. THE POWER OF WORDS TO HURT
‘Blank by name, blank by nature,’ says Lola, a classmate of Sephy’s (page 87); and Callum is horrified when Sephy (chapter 5) uses the term ‘blankers’ in the heat of the moment.
– How hurtful are derogatory terms of this nature? What does it say about the person who uses them?
– Is Callum’s father, Ryan, right when he defends his use of the term ‘blanker’ by saying (chapter 28), ‘We name it, we claim it.’?
– What terms are used by the Noughts to describe the Crosses? How do you think Sephy would feel if Callum described her in such a way?
– What is the best way to respond if faced with someone using a similar term about yourself?
3. SEPHY AND CALLUM
We first meet Sephy and Callum on a beach, thinking of their futures – and of each other.
– How different are their expectations of the future? Their ambitions? How realistic are they?
– They kiss for the first time but Sephy is not keen. When do you think she begins to think of Callum as more than just a friend?
– How difficult is it for Sephy and Callum to have a relationship, given their different backgrounds? What problems still exist between people who fall in love, yet have different family backgrounds – whether by race, religious belief or class attitudes?
4. FIGHTING FOR EQUALITY
The Noughts who want equality are fighting the injustice and working towards equality in more than one way. One approach is that of the
Liberation Militia – and the other from Alex Luther and his protests.
– Callum’s parents, Ryan and Meggie, take opposing views (chapter 28); which do you think has the stronger argument?
– Can violent protest ever be justified?
– What is the attraction of the LM to the Noughts who get involved?
– How does Sephy decide to get involved? (see chapter 89) How does she feel she can make a difference?
– If you were Callum, which route would you follow? And if you were Sephy?
5. THE LIBERATION MILITIA – AND THE McGREGORS
At different times throughout the book, each of the McGregor men become involved in the Liberation Militia: firstRyan and Jude, then Callum.
– Why do Ryan and Jude join in the fi rst place? What triggers them to become active in the fight?
– After his early resistance, why does Callum become involved? How does he change as a result?
– Do you feel that any of them deserve what happens to them? If so, why? If not, why not?
6. A SINGLE CHOICE
– How does Jasmine’s choice to sack Meggie affect both families?
– What do you think might have happened if Jasmine had stood up to Kamal and stood by her friend?
7. A MISSED MEETING
Callum races to catch up with Sephy as she leaves for boarding school. But he is too late.How do you think the story would have developed if he
had been able to reach her before she left?
– How does Sephy feel when she believes Callum has chosen not to be with her?
– What effect does their parting have on each- and on their choices from this point onwards?
8. THE KIDNAP
Why do you think Callum is prepared to be involved in this plot? How can he betray Sephy like this?
– If the ransom demand had been successful, what do you think the LM would have done with Sephy? What would have happened to Callum?
– Why does Jude hate Sephy so much, right from the beginning? Why does he blame her for so much that has gone wrong for his family?
9. FINAL CHOICES
Kamal Hadley offers choices to both Callum and Sephy (chapters 114-115).
– What would you do if you were in Callum’s position? Or if you were in Sephy’s?
– If either had agreed to what Kamal wanted, do you think there could have been a future together for them?
10. AND FINALLY . . . THE ENDING
– Did the ending surprise you? Did you expect the author to save Callum and allow Callum and Sephy to be together at the end?
– Do you feel the book would have been weaker if she had allowed a happier ending? Or more enjoyable?
Join the conversation on Twitter: #NoughtsandCrosses