by Barbara O'Connor

howtosteal.jpg ABOUT THIS BOOK

Georgina Hayes is desperate. Ever since her father left and they were evicted from their
apartment, her family has been living in their car. With her mama juggling two jobs and
trying to make enough money to find a place to live, Georgina is stuck looking after her
younger brother, Toby. And she has her heart set on improving their situation. When
Georgina spots a missing-dog poster with a reward of five hundred dollars, the solution to
all her problems suddenly seems within reach. All she has to do is “borrow” the right dog
and its owners are sure to offer a reward. What happens next is the last thing she


1. Where are Georgina and her mother and brother living at the beginning of the story?
Why are they living there?

2. How does Georgina come up with the idea of stealing a dog? Why does she decide to
go ahead with her plan, even though she knows it is wrong?

3. Why does Georgina think that Carmella is going to be rich? What does she actually
find out when she gets to know Carmella?

4. What are the two mottos that Mookie shares with Georgina?

5. Compare Georgina’s life with her friend Luanne’s. What are some of the differences
in how the two girls live?

6. List two of the times Mama uses her “mean voice” with Georgina. Why do you think
she does this? Do you think Mama is really a mean person?

8. List all the potential problems that could arise from stealing a dog. How does
Georgina address each of these problems in her list of rules for stealing a dog? Does
she forget anything?

9. Find three instances where Georgina gets frustrated with Toby. Why do you think she
is so impatient with him? Do you think she really thinks he is dumb?

10. Reread the last four pages of the book. Do you think the story has a happy ending?
Why or why not?

11. Imagine that the book is written from another character’s perspective. How do you
think the story would be different if Toby or Mama were the narrator?

12. If you were in Georgina’s situation, would you have stolen Willy? Why or why not?
Have you ever done anything you knew was wrong because you thought you had a
good reason for it?

13. Do you think Georgina is a good person? Use examples from the story to support
your argument.

14. On p. 49, Georgina says to Mama, “Maybe you could act like a mother.” Do you
think Mama acts like a mother? Is she doing everything she can to take care of her


1. Imagine that you are Georgina and it is a year after the events in the story took
place. Your father has just come back to Darby and wants to see you. Would you
forgive him? What would you say to him? Write a skit in which your father
comes over and you tell him your feelings and ask him any questions you have.
Include a paragraph at the beginning that describes the scene—where you and
Mama and Toby are living now.

2. Draw a map of Darby, North Carolina. Include all the places where Georgina and
her family spend the night—the old abandoned house, Carmella and Willy’s
house, and any other locations you can remember from the story.
The map should include the kids’ school, Whitmore Road, the abandoned
house, the Texaco station, the apartment where Georgina used to live,
Luanne’s house, the various places Mama works, the Quiki Mart, and the
parking lot where the car breaks down.

3. Write a passage from Luanne’s perspective that takes place the day you find out
Georgina is living in a car. Describe your day at school, your thoughts about
Georgina’s appearance and behavior, and how you feel when you discover your
friend’s secret.