endersgame-ebook.pngAndrew Wiggin, nicknamed Ender by his sister, is not like the other kids at school. Some of his classmates mock him because he is a genius, but most pick on him because he is a "Third", a third born child to his parents in a society that law limits two children to a household. Society frowns upon families with three or more children, and so from his very birth, he is viewed as an outsider. At school his peers call him things like "Turd the Third" and his jealous/sociopathic brother Peter is always reminding him of his poor social status.


Ender is also closely monitored by military officials who are in need of a commander to lead their troops against the "Buggers", an insect like alien species that previously came close to invading Earth and ending all of humanity. Buggers are feared across the globe and are the reason for the foundation of Battle School, where an elite group of children train to become military space commanders.


When Ender is only six years old, Colonel Graff of the International Fleet convinces him to join Battle School. He reasons with Ender that his very existence as a Third, even though it was government sanctioned, is a encumbrance to the well-being of his family. When Ender says that he feels as if his father "didn't want me," Graff responds with "No one wants a Third anymore. You can't expect them to". Graff reminds Ender that "Your brother hates you because you are living proof that he wasn't good enough. Your parents resent you because of all the past they are trying to evade".


The unwarranted hate that Ender receives for simply being a Third raises a questions of social values. Social values are always changing with time and so what was looked down upon 100 years ago, might now be acceptable to society today. This is apparent in history with things like the color of one's skin, as well as in one's sexual orientation. The fact that Ender is looked down upon for being a Third should make one take into consideration his or her own social values.


At Battle School Ender and his classmates are completely isolated from Earth (the school is a satellite) and must adjust to a schedule of classes, computer training, and the all-important battle games made to simulate fighting the enemy buggers. The difference between Ender and the other children? The military views Ender as the one who will end the war between the humans and buggers. As a result, Ender is singled out, made to face obstacles other students would never be put up against, and pushed almost to his breaking point. He feels despair because he "...now knew what he hated so much. He had no control over his own life. They ran everything. They made all the choices. Only the game was left to him". Ender is promoted to an army while years younger than the rest of them, made a commander of a squad soon after, and, after defeating every unfairly stacked battle simulation, graduates to Command School years ahead of his peers. Once at Command School Ender is isolated more than ever as a part of the military's strict preparation. However, as the challenges he faces become more difficult, the question arises, has Ender been pushed too far?



enders-game.jpgEnder's Game may be a brutal, shockingly violent adventure story on the surface, however there is more to this book than the reader may originally find. Ultimately, Ender's Game is about fear, control, solitude, friendship, and, above all else, love. Ender faces many challenges at Battle School ranging from troubles fitting in amongst his friends to the intense war-like situations he must contend with in battle simulations, but his biggest challenge is dealing with his inner demons. His biggest, reoccurring challenge is overcoming his fear that "... he was a killer, only better at it than Peter ever was". Ender fears becoming like Peter so much that thoughts of Peter consistently haunt him. Factually, Ender seems to have all the answers; strategically, he can defeat any opponent; however, emotionally, Ender has moments when all he can do is lie in bed and cry himself to sleep. In these moments, Card reveals the future savior of the Earth to be just as human as anyone else. All of his fears, doubts, and nostalgic memories make Ender a relatable character.


What's also great about Ender's Game is that it appeals to such a diverse group of students both inside and outside the science fiction genre. Ultimately it is a coming-of-age story about a boy who doesn't feel like he fits in anywhere. Ender faces bullies and ostracism, and must learn to adapt to a new environment - things many adolescents face at some point in their lives. Though Ender may be different than the students reading this book, he struggles with things many middle or high school students also struggle with. Ender wants to find someplace where he feels he "belongs", where he doesn't seem abnormal, and where he can have friends rather than enemies. What student (or person of any rage, really) wouldn't want that? In addition to the normal trials and tribulations of adolescence, Ender must also learn to succeed when the tables are stacked against him, make friends out of enemies, and live up to the high expectation of saving the world. Students may not be challenged with saving the world quite yet, but they do know what it's like to have people expect things out of them and the stresses that ensue. Bullies and challenges are things most readers will be able to relate to.Ender also struggles with a sense of self. From the very beginning of the book it is clear that Ender fears being a "killer" like his brother Peter. However, the violence and killing Ender has tried so hard to resist is the same thing he is being taught and told to do. Throughout the book Ender fights this fear of becoming like Peter, a fear that at times cripples his ability to act. This struggle to find one's true self and not live in a sibling's shadow is something many kids struggle with.


For older students, the world depicted in Ender's Game can lead to thought-provoking questions about the role of government, religion, and warfare. In Battle School students are pressed to the breaking point, especially Ender. Is this rough treatment of children justified by the fact that they are being treated this way to help protect the world? Ender wins the war by destroying the Bugger's entire planet. Is this morally acceptable? Would they have attacked Earth if given the chance? The world Ender lived in was one in which a single group controlled almost every facet of life. Parents were only allowed two children (Ender was called "third" as a derogatory term for being an additional child), religion was outlawed, and one common language was instituted for the entire world. What are the negative and positive aspects of such a uniformly globalized world?





Ender's Game Chapter 1 with Illustrations

Interview with Author Orson Scott Card - Ender's Game




Recommendations for Teachers
Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game is a great book to teach to young adults due to the acknowledgement of many teen issues such as bullying, sibling rivalry, and peer pressure. Many students may also enjoy reading about a hero that is young like them. Students tend to react well to books they can relate to, and to have a hero they can relate to will make the book that much more exciting for them. Ender, the young hero of the novel, can be a lesson to young students that age should never hold you back from achieving greatness.

A major issue facing young students in today’s society is the issue of bullying, rather than be physical bullying or cyber bullying. Ender, the main protagonist of the novel, faces bullying from his fellow students as well as his own brother, Peter. Teachers could have students journal about times when they have felt bullied, or when they themselves were the bully. General questions for journal writing could include:
*How did you feel when Ender was be
ing bullied?
*Can you remember a time when you were being bullied? How did you react to your bullies?
*What could Ender do and what can you do to avoid bullying? What steps can a student take to deal with bullying

The above journal questions can help students to identify with and possibly feel compassion for Ender. Students should not have to read their entries aloud because they may feel insecure in doing so, but at least they were able to express their ideas and opinions in their own way

Another interesting issue brought up in Ender’s Game is sibling relationships. On one hand, Ender has a rivalry with his antagonist brother, Peter. On the other hand, Peter has a solid, strong relationship with his sister, Valentine. Most students have siblings and can identify to one of these relationships. Students can discuss in class how they deal with sibling rivalry, or how they appreciate their sibling and get along. Students can discuss or answer the following questions:

*Is your relationship with your sibling more along the lines of Ender’s relationship with Peter or Ender’s relationship with Valentine?
*If you are an only child, does reading a novel like this make you appreciate being an only child, or long for a brother or sister?
*How would you feel if your worst enemy/opponent was your own sibling? How would you react to this? How would you feel?

Students can discuss their own experiences with siblings and their unique sibling experiences.

Finally, students can discuss the idea of peer pressure and overall pressure to succeed. Ender is forced to lead an army at such a young age. Students are probably not leading armies, but they are faced with an enormous amount of school work on top of extracurricular activities and sometimes even jobs. Students often feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders, especially in high school and can therefore relate to Ender. Some great discussion questions could include:

*How do you deal with pressure from school and life in general? How do your pressures compare to Ender’s pressures?
*Can you relate to Ender in the sense of feeling overwhelmed? What is currently overwhelming you?
*What would you advise Ender to do in order to lessen his load? What would you do if you were Ender?

Ideas for Class Activities:

1) Have students rewrite parts of the book from other character's perspectives (ex. Peter's thoughts when Ender is chosen).

2) Interview excercise with kids being different characters from the book - who is the most convincing Ender? Graff? Beans? Peter? Valentine? Bugger?

3) Power Struggle - Which character has the most power and in what context? You could take Ender, Graff, Bean, Bonzo, Peter, and Valentine (just to name a few) and have students get in to groups of 5. Each group goes up in front of the class and presents their hierarchy of power to the class and explains their reasoning. It would be interesting to see where students place each character. For instance, who has more power, Ender or Graff? Graff is seemingly controlling Ender but at the same time Graff's career lives and dies by Ender's decisions.
4) Create a game for Ender - Ender plays an incredibly weird, almost mind reading, adventure/fantasy game on his desk at the battle school. Throughout this game Ender encounters all sorts of strange scenarios (a giant, a castle, a rug made out of snakes, etc...) yet somehow, these scenarios create a sense of problems that are bothering Ender while also predicting his future. The student's job would be to create a storyboard of an imaginitive story that Ender might have played through on his desk. These scenarios could help describe a problem Ender may have had or they could predict a situation and outcome that he would soon deal with.

5) Journal Entry/Letter Home - Have students write a journal entry or letter as one of the characters in the book. What would Ender write in his journal after the first day at battle school? What would Bonzo write when Ender is first transferred to his team? What would Valentine write to Ender? What would Peter write after Ender is selected for battle school and he is not? Students can choose any character they wish so long as they try to put themselves in that character's shoes.

6) Create a Cover - The cover for Ender's Game is very dated and doesn't show much about the book. Ask students to design their own cover for the book.

7) Connect to Current Events - Use the idea of children used as soldiers in Ender's Game to lead a class discussion on real child soldiers in African civil wars. This may be an opportunity to interest students in doing more research or reading on the topic.

8)A film adaptation of Ender’s Game is set to be released in in the future. Having students watch the film and compare the film to the novel might be a great way to get students excited about the story. The students could even simply watch the trailer or clips online and then create their own cast list for each of the major characters in the novel. For example, who would you cast as Ender? As Peter? Then students can discuss why they chose that specific actor or actress. The students could also write a screenplay of their favorite scene and discuss the changes or stylistic direction they went with.

Ender's Game Teaching Ideas by Britt Kaufmann