Literary Guide for Todd Hasak-Lowy’s “33 Minutes… Until Morgan Sturtz Kicks My But”

33 Minutes… Until Morgan Sturtz Kicks My Butt by Todd Hasak-Lowy

This week’s title in our Summer Reading Resource series is Todd Hasak-Lowy’s 33 Minutes… Until Morgan Sturtz Kicks My Butt, a story that offers a fresh take on a common middle school experience. Narrated by seventh grader Sam Lewis, the story is a full-length novel yet spans only a few hours of a day in the life of a somewhat average middle school student. Sam’s narration weaves together real-time experiences, thoughts, and emotions, with memories, self-reflection, and background information in order to tell the story of a changing friendship.

The story begins at 11:41am in a middle school social studies classroom, where Sam waits anxiously for the time of day to arrive when Morgan had declared that he will kick his butt. It is not until much later in the story that we learn about the true roots of the animosity that exists between Sam and Morgan. As Sam anxiously experiences the next 33 minutes of his life, he guides readers through the ins and outs of a middle school lunch period and does a lot of reflecting upon past experiences with Morgan, his parents, and his math team – and the connections between the three. Through Sam’s reflection, a secondary story begins to form alongside the real-time narrative. Each moment of anxiety that Sam experiences, and each interaction with a friend, peer, or authority figure that takes place before the time scheduled for butt-kicking inspires Sam to reflect upon himself and his relationship with Morgan – allowing readers to begin to understand the differences between the two characters and the choices that each one made that lead them to drift apart so drastically.

The experience of outgrowing a friendship can be incredibly painful, but is one that many children experience as they leave childhood and become teenagers. While there are lots of books with female protagonists that address this experience, well-written books featuring male protagonists having the same experience are few and far between. 33 Minutes… Until Morgan Sturtz Kicks My Butt is a powerful piece of middle grade fiction for this reason, as it provides a modern and accessible take on the challenges of growing up from a male perspective.

Using the accompanying literature guide, readers of 33 Minutes… Until Morgan Sturtz Kicks My Butt can strengthen skills in reading comprehension and creative writing, while also learning strategies for reflecting deeply upon themselves and the relationships that they have with those around them. A list of critical thinking questions, suggestions for furthering understanding of the story with reading and writing activities, and a mini-lesson centered around the use of sociograms can help to support tween readers in connecting with the story and strengthening their skills in thinking deeply about themselves and the world around them.

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