ABOUT THIS BOOK
Phyllis Naylor offers spirited humor and comedy in these books about the feud between the Hatford brothers and the Molloy sisters.
The novels are episodic, making them perfect choices for independent reading or read-alouds. Even the most reluctant readers will delight in the creative and clever ways the boys and girls plot their revenge.
The discussion questions in this guide encourage students to think about sibling and family relationships, friendship, the meaning of community, and humor. Teachers interested in bringing literature into all areas of the curriculum will find these books a perfect choice for linking language arts, social studies, science, math, and art.
The four Hatford brothers are convinced that their lives in Buckman, West Virginia, will never be the same since their best friends, the Benson boys, moved to Georgia. To make matters worse, a family with three girls, the Malloys, has moved into the Bensons’ old house!
The Hatford brothers have tricks up their sleeves for the Malloy sisters; not to be outwitted, the Malloys pay back in good fun.
In The Boys Start the War, the Hatford boys decide to make the Malloy girls so miserable that they will beg their parents to move back to Ohio. But the sisters are not so easily intimidated. They show their ingenuity and fighting spirit in The Girls Get Even.
The war between the Hatfords and the Malloys escalates in Boys Against Girls and The Girls’ Revenge. In A Traitor Among the Boys, the children are almost resigned to being neighbors. Though still full of tricks, the boys comfort the girls when Mrs. Malloy becomes lost on a mountain road during a blizzard.
Ask students who have had to move at some point in their lives to share what it was like to be the new kid on the block. Engage the class in a discussion of how neighbors can welcome a new family into the community. What can students do to make newcomers at their school feel welcome?
SIBLING RELATIONSHIPS–Ask students to describe the Hatford boys’ relationship with one another. Which boy appears to be the leader? What is Peter’s role in the war against the girls? How does he sometimes make trouble for his brothers? Describe the Malloy sisters and discuss their similarities and differences.
In The Boys Against the Girls, Eddie shows signs of growing up and appears to be feeling too mature to engage in activities with her two younger sisters. How are these feelings normal for a girl Eddie’s age?
In A Traitor Among the Boys, Mrs. Hatford tells her sons that they are to treat the Malloy girls like sisters. Discuss what Mrs. Hatford means. How does this demand provide a loophole for the boys to continue tormenting the girls?
In The Girls Take Over, Wally is described as being a loner. How does this characteristic affect his relationship with his brothers? Wally’s mother seems to expect him to do things that she doesn’t expect his brothers to do. Discuss why he is the one his mother places in charge of the yard sale in Boys in Control.
Engage students in a discussion about Eddie’s role in her family. Why do her parents hold her responsible when the Malloy girls get in trouble? How is this especially evident in The Girls Take Over?
FRIENDSHIP–Ask students to discuss whether the Hatford boys would have missed the Bensons as much if a family with boys had moved into the Benson house. The Hatford boys never give the Malloy girls a chance to be friendly. In A Traitor Among the Boys, Mrs. Hatford tells the boys, “You are going to be helpful, polite, friendly, and whatever else I can think of for as long as they live in our town.” (p. 5) How do the boys finally show friendship toward the girls?
In The Girls Take Over, the Malloys and the Hatfords engage in three different competitions. The Hatford boys say that they must stay on friendly terms with the girls so as not to appear jealous. Discuss how jealousy shapes the friendship of the boys and the girls. How would their relationship be different without jealousy and rivalry? How does baseball strengthen the relationship between the Malloys and the Hatfords?
The girls find a way to embarrass the boys in Boys in Control. How does their scheme backfire on them? Discuss how the boys and the girls come to a mutual understanding at the end of the novel.
GROWING UP–While it appears that the Malloys and Hatfords are growing up, they still do silly things and make immature decisions. How does the bottle race in The Girls Take Over prove this?
Caroline makes a really bad decision at the spelling bee in The Girls Take Over. Discuss what Caroline learns from her actions and whether this experience helps her grow up.
HUMOR–Ask students to share what they feel are the most humorous scenes in the novels. There are gross scenes, embarrassing moments, and clever dialogue in all of the books. How does each of these elements contribute to the humor in the novel? Eddie says in The Girls’ Revenge, “These pranks are getting a little stale.” (p. 3) Discuss whether Eddie is losing her sense of humor or just maturing.
SENSE OF COMMUNITY–In The Girls Get Even, Mrs. Malloy says, “There is such a wonderful sense of community here.” (p. 11) Would the Malloy sisters agree with their mother? Have the class talk about the meaning of community. Cite evidence in each of the novels that Buckman is a close-knit community. What role does this strong sense of community have in revealing the pranks played by the Hatford boys and the Malloy girls?
In The Girls Take Over, the Hatfords and the Malloys get in trouble when Caroline falls into the river. They must clean the police station for their punishment. Discuss why the sergeant places Jake in charge of the group. How do the Malloy girls turn this punishment into further rivalry? Debate whether community service should be punishment or strictly volunteer work.
CONNECTING TO THE CURRICULUM
LANGUAGE ARTS–In The Boys Start the War, the Hatford boys describe the Malloy girls as “three live wires.” (p. 43) Ask students to choose a word or phrase that describes the Hatford boys. Then have students use a thesaurus to locate at least 10 additional adjectives that would aptly describe these boys and the Malloy girls.
The boys and the girls have become somewhat friendly in A Traitor Among the Boys. What evidence is there at the end of the novel that the author was planning to write another story in this series?
In The Girls Take Over, the newspaper runs a story about “the dramatic rescue of Caroline Malloy.” (p. 52) Ask students to write that story.
SOCIAL STUDIES/DRAMA–In A Traitor Among the Boys, the town of Buckman is about to celebrate its 200th anniversary by having the Buckman Community Players present a play about the history of the town. Ask students to research the history of their city or town from its early beginnings to the present. Then divide the class into four groups and assign each group a period in the town’s history to present as a one-act play. Have students wear authentic dress.
In Boys in Control, a pair of bloomers that belonged to Amelia Bloomer are found in a frame at the yard sale that Mrs. Hatford is running for the Women’s Auxiliary of the Buckman Fire Department. Ask students to research Amelia Bloomer and draw a picture of the bloomers that she designed. Have them investigate her relationship to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
Divide the class into small groups and ask them to write and perform a cheer for the Buckman Badgers baseball team.
SCIENCE–In The Boys Start the War, each student in Mrs. Applebaum’s class writes a paragraph about the world’s greatest invention. Ask students to research inventions of the 20th century. Then have each student select and write about the invention they think has made the greatest contribution to society.
There is a blizzard in A Traitor Among the Boys. Have the class discuss the hazards of a blizzard. What is the difference between a storm warning and a storm watch? Ask students to make a list of things that a family should do to prepare for a blizzard.
In The Girls Take Over, Peter Hatford gets the chicken pox. Ask students to research the disease and make a pamphlet that might be distributed at Peter’s school to inform parents about chicken pox. Information should include: symptoms, treatment, incubation period, etc. Ask students to consider what constitutes an epidemic.
MATH–In The Girls Revenge, the Malloy girls have to pay their dad $175 for a new sports coat. If each girl is responsible for paying one-third of the cost of the coat, how much money must each earn? List the different jobs that the girls can do. How much money per hour can they expect to earn? Calculate how long it will take the sisters to pay their dad.
ART–In Boys Against Girls, Wally Hatford tells the Malloy girls that an unknown creature called the “Abaguchie” has been spotted in Buckman. Have students draw a picture of the creature that Wally, the artist among the Hatford boys, might have drawn and shown to the girls.
The vocabulary in these books isn't very difficult, but students may find some unfamiliar words that they should try to define using the clues from the context of the stories. Such words may include:
The Boys Start the War: vaporize (p. 7), humiliation (p.36), cordial (p. 45), and hostage (p. 119).
The Girls Get Even: debut (p. 3), grievance (p. 12), gullible (p. 44), coup (p. 39), and truce (p. 127).
Boys Against Girls: unnaturally (p. 15), intercept (p. 95), and dismay (p. 122).
The Girls' Revenge: precocious (p. 1), fiasco (p. 98), swagger (p. 98), and exasperation (p. 145).
A Traitor Among the Boys: loophole (p. 51), humility (p. 73), and treacherous (p. 113).
Boys in Control: braying (p. 49) and deliberately (p. 82).
The Girls Take Over: adrift (p. 6), warrant (p. 75), and visualize (p. 89).
OTHER TITLES OF INTEREST
A COMPLETE LIST OF BOOKS IN THE BOY-GIRL BATTLE SERIES:
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
BOYS IN CONTROL
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
THE GIRLS TAKE OVER
Dell Yearling / Delacorte Books for Young Readers
THE BOYS START THE WAR
THE GIRLS GET EVEN
A SPY AMONG THE GIRLS
THE BOYS RETURN
Dell Yearling / Delacorte Books for Young Readers
A TRAITOR AMONG THE BOYS
THE GIRLS’ REVENGE
BOYS AGAINST GIRLS
Prepared by Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville, South Carolina.