Discussion Guide: THE SECOND CHANCE OF BENJAMIN WATERFALLS by James Bird

The Second Chance of Benjamin Waterfalls by James Bird
Ages 10 -14
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A middle-grade novel by James Bird about a boy sent to his Ojibwe family to straighten out his life.

Benjamin Waterfalls comes from a broken home, and the quickest fix he’s found for his life is to fill that emptiness with stuff he steals and then sells. But he’s been caught one too many times, and when he appears before a tough judge, his mother proposes sending him to “boot camp” at the Ojibwe reservation where they used to live.

Soon he is on his way to Grand Portage, Minnesota, to live with his father – the man Benny hasn’t seen in years. Not only is “boot camp” not what he expects, but his rehabilitation seems to be in the hands of the tribal leader’s daughter, who wears a mask. Why? Finding the answer to this and so many other questions prove tougher than any military-style boot camp. Will answers be enough for Benny to turn his life around and embrace his second chance?


Praise for The Second Chance of Benjamin Waterfalls:

“The bravado and feigned indifference in Benny’s voice is spot-on for a kid hiding the pain of his father’s abandonment, and the times he lets himself contemplate how truly awful it felt to be left behind are heartbreakingly realistic. ….It’s a hard lesson, but it’s grounded in love, and readers will be happy to see Benny and his father get their second chances.” — BCCB

“Bird’s strengths include his multidimensional characters (each of whom has flaws that they struggle to overcome) as well as the vivid descriptions of Grand Portage, Minnesota, home of the Gitchi Onigaming Ojibwe. 
Of equal importance is the more understated message that Indigenous ways of knowing and approaches to problems can be extremely effective, despite the dominant culture’s insistence on discounting them. … Benny’s progress is heartening and sure to encourage readers.”— Booklist


More books by James Bird

The Brave by James Bird
Ages 9-12
On sale now!

A New York Public Library Best Book of 2020
A School Library Journal Best Book of 2020
A Book Riot Best Book of 2020

“An amazing debut full of heart, authenticity, and courage.” —School Library Journal, starred review


Perfect for fans of Rain Reign, this middle-grade novel The Brave is about a boy with an OCD issue and his move to a reservation to live with his biological mother.

Collin can’t help himself—he has a unique condition that finds him counting every letter spoken to him. It’s a quirk that makes him a prime target for bullies, and a continual frustration to the adults around him, including his father.

When Collin asked to leave yet another school, his dad decides to send him to live in Minnesota with the mother he’s never met. She is Ojibwe, and lives on a reservation. Collin arrives in Duluth with his loyal dog, Seven, and quickly finds his mom and his new home to be warm, welcoming, and accepting of his condition.

Collin’s quirk is matched by that of his neighbor, Orenda, a girl who lives mostly in her treehouse and believes she is turning into a butterfly. With Orenda’s help, Collin works hard to overcome his challenges. His real test comes when he must step up for his new friend and trust his new family.