Common core
Common core

Never Fall Down

By Patricia McCormick

This National Book Award nominee from two-time finalist Patricia McCormick is the unforgettable story of Arn Chorn-Pond, who defied the odds to survive the Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979 and the labor camps of the Khmer Rouge.

Based on the true story of Cambodian advocate Arn Chorn-Pond, and authentically told from his point of view as a young boy, this is an achingly raw and powerful historical novel about a child of war who becomes a man of peace. It includes an author's note and acknowledgments from Arn Chorn-Pond himself.

When soldiers arrive in his hometown, Arn is just a normal little boy. But after the soldiers march the entire population into the countryside, his life is changed forever.

Arn is separated from his family and assigned to a labor camp: working in the rice paddies under a blazing sun, he sees the other children dying before his eyes. One day, the soldiers ask if any of the kids can play an instrument. Arn's never played a note in his life, but he volunteers.

This decision will save his life, but it will pull him into the very center of what we know today as the Killing Fields. And just as the country is about to be liberated, Arn is handed a gun and forced to become a soldier.

Supports the Common Core State Standards.

  • Grade level: 9
  • Interest Level: 9-12
  • Guided Reading Level: Z+


Describe how a particular story?s or drama?s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone. Compare and contrast texts in different forms or genres in terms of their approaches to similar themes and topics.

How does the author?s background influence his/her writing? Research the work of author Patricia McCormick. RL.9-12.6, W.9-12.7

How does the author introduce and develop the events in the story? Analyze a complex set of ideas or sequence of events and explain how specific individuals, ideas, or events interact and develop over the course of the text. RL.9-12.3

Determine the author?s purpose in the text, analyzing how style and content contribute to the power, persuasiveness, or beauty of the text. RL.9-12.6


Common Core Teaching Guide (Winter and Summer 2014)

This teaching guide includes Common Core strands, discussion questions, activities, and Guided Reading Levels for 25 new titles for Kindergarten through High School. [PDF]

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  • Publisher: HarperCollins
  • Imprint: Balzer + Bray
  • Format: Paperback
  • On Sale: 11/30/-0001
  • ISBN: 9780061730955
  • ISBN 10: 0061730955
  • ISBN 13: 9780061730955
  • Pages: 224
  • Trim Size: 5.31 x 8.00 in
  • Subcategory:

Publishers Weekly (starred review)“While never shying from the ugliness and brutality of this genocide, McCormick crafts a powerful tribute to the human spirit.”

Booklist (starred review)“Powerfully, hauntingly unforgettable.”

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)“This compelling chronicle deserves to be widely read, discussed, and reflected upon by a generation of young people who may be largely unaware of this dark chapter in world history.”

New York Times Book Review“A gripping account of the inner turmoil of a child soldier.”

The Horn Book“McCormick’s novel is one that needs to be read.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu“One of the most inspiring and powerful books I’ve ever read. Never Fall Down can teach us all about finding the courage to speak our truth and change the world.”

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) (starred review)“Following the pattern of excellence McCormick began with her novel SOLD, she has created another amazing story through skilled and patient research.”

Loung Ung, bestelling author of First They Killed My Father, and Lucky Child“Arn Chorn Pond is a fast-talking dynamo with endless energy and zest for life. In Never Fall Down, Patricia McCormick captures brilliantly the man, his heart, and his passion to make Cambodia and our world a better place for all. Arn’s against-all-odds survival story and McCormick’s crisp prose gripped me from the first page to the very end.”

Publishers Weekly (starred review)Praise for PURPLE HEART: “In this suspenseful psychological thriller…McCormick raises moral questions without judgment and will have readers examining not only this conflict but the nature of heroism and war.”

Kirkus ReviewsPraise for PURPLE HEART: “McCormick builds the plot subtly and carefully with rich, spare prose.”

ALA BooklistPraise for PURPLE HEART: “Gripping details of existence in a war zone bring this to life.”

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