Boys in the Boat: Discussion Questions and Ideas for Kids

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Our family chose to read the Young Readers version of Boys in the Boat and it was a fantastic read for all of us. Not only did we learn about this amazing story of commitment and determination, but we also learned about life during the Great Depression.

Book review and ideas for Boys in the Boat

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Boys in the Boat: Young Readers Version
Daniel James Brown

Genre: Non-Fiction
Length: 256 pages
First Published: 2016

View on Amazon | View on Goodreads


Publisher’s Description

The #1 “New York Times” bestseller about the Greatest Generation is freshly adapted for the next generation.

For readers of”Unbroken,” out of the depths of the Great Depression comes the astonishing tale of nine working-class boys from the American West who at the 1936 Olympics showed the world what true grit really meant. With rowers who were the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington s eight-oar crew was never expected to defeat the elite East Coast teams, yet they did, going on to shock the world by challenging the German boat rowing for Adolf Hitler.

At the center of the tale is Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, whose personal quest captures the spirit of his generation the generation that would prove in the coming years that the Nazis could not prevail over American determination and optimism.

This deeply emotional yet easily accessible young readers adaptation of the award-winning #1 “New York Times” bestseller features never-before-seen photographs, highly visual back matter, and an exclusive new introduction.”


My Goodreads Review

Follow the true story of nine working-class college boys who will defeat the odds and win the gold medal for rowing at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Their journey will inspire young readers everywhere while teaching them more about life in America during the depression.

I loved reading this story out loud to my boys. Even though we knew the final outcome, we felt the thrill and excitement of that final race as if we were there that day. Not only did we learn about the Olympic event and rowing, but the reality of life in America during the depression was woven smoothly into the story as we followed the life of Joe Rantz, one of the rowers. This was an inspiring tale of commitment, friendship, and hard work. I highly recommend this young readers version for tweens, teens, and families.


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Boys in the Boat Book Club Ideas

1. Decorate with Olympic-themed decor, including flags from various countries and medals.

2. Make and enjoy Banana Boats. Slice bananas in half lengthwise so they look like racing shells. Spread peanut butter or Nutella between the slices and sprinkle with chocolate chips, sprinkles, nuts, or other goodies. Complete the racing shell with thin pretzel sticks for oars.

Alternative: Make banana splits with ice cream with pretzel sticks for oars.

3. There are so many ways to make boats that float. Grab an idea that will work best for your group.

4. Host your own Olympic Competition and award medals to the winners. You can include any type of race or challenge. I would explore a few minute-to-win-it games and select the ones that work best for your group.


Boys in the Boat Discussion Questions

1. What did you learn about the sport of rowing? Is it a sport you’d like to try? Why or why not?

2. The boys in the boat had to learn to trust each other to perform at their best. Why was trust so important? How did they learn to do this? Have you ever been in a situation that required you to trust the people around you? Tell us about it.

3. How did Joe Rantz’s childhood affect him?

4. What did you learn about this time period in history by reading this book?

5. What was your favorite moment or scene in Boys in the Boat?

Additional Discussion Questions

Grab this set of questions designed to facilitate discussion for any book:

Click to download discussion questions for any book.


Helpful Learning Links: Boys in the Boat

Dig deeper with using the Boys in the Boat Literature study and online book club from Literary Adventures for Kids:

This YouTube video includes a few scenes of the boys rowing at the Olympics. It’s short but informative:



Additional Non-Fiction Young Reader Books


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Online Book Clubs for Kids

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