Discussion Guide

Download an Activity and Discussion Guide — perfect for an upper elementary or middle school classroom, boy or girl scout troop, library, or book club. Primary Source has created an excellent curriculum guide on Burma related to the book. Also, feel free to use this youtube video of the author reading.

Mitali Perkins reading an excerpt of BAMBOO PEOPLE

And here are some brilliant discussion questions created by librarian Kelley McDaniel of Portland Middle School:

1. What do you know about Burma?

2.  Look at the map of Burma and read A Brief History of Burma, Why I Wrote Bamboo People, and Burma vs. Myanmar. Now that you know a little bit about Burma, what do you wonder or want to know more about Burma … ?

3. When Chiko’s father was taken, he called out, “Take care of your mother, Chiko.” (p.6) and although Chiko replied that he would, he does not think that over the four months that have passed, he has kept that promise. In what ways has Chiko taken care of his mother? In what ways has he not? Do you think Chiko has kept his promise, or failed to? Why?

4. Initially, Chiko sees Tai as uneducated but realizes that Tai has knowledge and skills that have enabled him to survive, whereas Tai initially thinks that Chiko’s knowledge and skills are not very practical. (p.56) Who are you more like: Chiko or Tai and what is the value in having the knowledge and skills that you have? Would you rather have the other knowledge and skills? Why or why not?

5. (p.82) “It’s done. Tai is going to confinement and I’m not. So why do I feel like the one who’s condemned?” What do you think of Chiko now? What do you think of Tai? Have you ever been in a situation like this? Which character were you and how did you feel?

6. (p.123) “Send Tai to Yangon instead of me.” Why do you think Chiko made this decision? How do you think he felt? What do you think Tai thought and felt? What do you think the other boys watching and listening thought and felt?

7. Do you think the Captain especially targeted Chiko and Tai? Why or why not?

8. What are some of the things that bamboo is used for? Do you use bamboo for anything?

9. Do you agree that, “[a] man full of hatred is like a gun … he can be used for only one purpose, to kill”? Why or why not?

10. Tu Reh’s father, Peh, says “I won’t command you my son. A Karenni man must decide for himself. Leave him for the animals. End his life now. Or carry him to the healer. It’s your choice.” (p.149) Do you think Peh wants his son to make a certain choice? Why or why not?

11. The Grandfather reads a well-known passage from the Bible (pp.170-171), Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

There is a right time for everything:
A time to be
A time to kill, a time to heal;
A time to cry, a time to laugh;
A time to grieve, a time to dance;
A time for scattering stones, a time for gathering stones;
A time to embrace, a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to find, a time to lose;
A time for keeping; a time for throwing away;
A time to tear, a time to repair;
A time to be silent, a time to speak;
A time for loving, a time for hating;
A time for war, a time for peace.

This prayer was made into a song in the 1960s (written by Pete Seeger, but made famous by The Byrds) What does this prayer/song mean to you? Does it remind you of anything?

12. Why do you think the people in the refugee camp refer to Chiko as “your soldier” when they are talking to Tu Reh? Do you think that Chiko is Tu Reh’s soldier? Why or why not?

13. Why do think the book is called Bamboo People? Do you think that is a good title? Why or why not?