Itch. Michelle D. Kwasney; Henry Holt and Company, 2008.

Grade Level: 6-8

ISBN & Cost: 9780805080834 $16.95

©2008, used by permission of Henry Holt and Company


It is 1968 and Delores Colchester, known as “Itch,” moves from Florida to Ohio with her grandmother after her grandfather's death. Life is not the same. She struggles to make friends until she meets Gwendolyn and her hoity-toity friends. Gwendolyn seems perfect on the outside. She is pretty, smart, and a talented baton-twirler, but in reality she is hiding a big secret that Itch uncovers. Itch decides she needs to speak up about this secret.


General Review: 

Kwasney does not shy away from themes about abuse. In her first novel, Baby Blue , she tackles domestic violence. In her latest work she explores psychological and physical child abuse. Readers will be touched by different relationships in this work. The relationship between Itch and her grandfather almost bring tears to the reader's eyes. Readers will not be able to put this novel down until they discover whether or not Itch can remain friends with Gwendolyn after speaking up. This is a satisfying story that does not leave the reader disappointed.


Themes: Grandparents; Mothers; Child abuse; Friendship; Schools; Death; Grief


Author information: 

Something About the Author, Vol. 162, 77-78 pp.

Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2010. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center.

Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale 2010.


Discussion Questions: Standard 3; Benchmark 3

•  What are the differences between Florida and Ohio? (Climate; Agriculture)

•  Have you ever moved to a new city or state? What did you miss when you moved? How did you feel? Was making new friends easy or hard?

•  Has anyone you loved died? (Relative, Friends or Pet) How did you feel? How did you deal with the death? What was your favorite memory of the person or pet?

•  Does being popular or being with the popular kids in school matter? If so why? If not, why not?

•  Discuss what makes a family. (Discuss the differences between Itch's family and Gwendolyn's family).

•  Discuss what you would have done if you were in Itch's position and discovered your friend was being abused.

Study guide available on Michelle Kwasney's website:



•  Have students do research on musicians, especially the ones listed in the book. Examples of musicians include Frank Sinatra and the Beatles. Find some records and a record player to bring in and have students listen to music. Display or show a phonograph. Standard 1, Benchmark 5

•  Learn more about the author, Michelle D. Kwasney, by accessing her website, . Standard 5, Benchmark 1

•  Research the states of Ohio and Florida. Choose a format (poster, report, PowerPoint etc.) to share findings. Standard 3, Benchmark 2

•  Have students research child abuse, and then choose a format to share findings. Standard 1, Benchmark 3

•  Have a social worker or case worker speak to class about child abuse and what they can do if they know someone being abused. Standard 7, Benchmark 1

•  Use a print or electronic dictionary and thesaurus to learn about the words Itch mentions throughout the book, especially the ones that made her “Favorite Words List.” (Ex.insipid, pulverized) Standard 1, Benchmark 4

•  Have students interview parents or grandparents with a focus on sayings that they might have heard growing up. Looking for sayings like the ones Itch mentions that her gramps used to say to her. Ex. “If you can't run with the big dogs, stay under the dang porch.” Standard 7, Benchmark 1

•  Read one of the books mentioned in the work by Itch. Ex. Witch of Blackbird Pond Standard 5, Benchmark 1


Similar Books for Further Reading: 

•  Picture of Hollis Woods, Patricia Reilly Giff, 2002

•  Olive's Ocean, Kevin Henkes, 2003

•  Bud, Not Buddy, Christopher Paul Curtis, 1999

•  Walk Two Moons, Sharon Creech, 1994