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Reading Discussion Guides

Breakout by Paul Fleischman

About the Book

After a childhood spent in foster homes, seventeen-year-old Audelia “Del” Thigpen has finally done it — she’s broken free, leaving Los Angeles behind and heading toward a new life in a place far, far away. But Del’s plan hits a snag when she gets stuck in a traffic jam on her way out of town. In Breakout, Paul Fleischman introduces us to a young woman determined to make it on her own terms, and as the story alternates between the scene unfolding on the freeway and the staging of Del’s one-woman play eight years later, we witness her inspiring transformation.

Discussion Questions

  • Del describes herself as an outsider. What specific events or circumstances have caused Del to feel this way? What does she do to make herself feel, and appear, less like an outsider — to fit in? Did you ever feel like Del? What, if anything, did you do to fit in?
  • How do the drivers respond to being stuck in the traffic jam? How does this change as the day progresses? What does Del learn from the experience? Describe a situation that you first perceived as negative but ended up having a positive influence on your life.
  • How does Del’s life change as a result of having a child? Will Del’s childhood experience affect the way she raises her daughter? Should you choose to become a parent, how do you think your childhood experience will affect the way you raise your child?

Extension Activities

  • Create a scrapbook of Elena’s life, documenting the eight years between the time she left Los Angeles and the staging of her play in Boulder. Include souvenirs, snapshots, sketches, stories scribbled on napkins — anything Elena might have saved to chronicle her new life.


Paul Fleischman
Age Level: