Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus is an incredible book about three middle school students who overcome many obstacles to “fit in.”
Thirteen-year-old Aven is an ordinary girl, almost. She was born without arms. Her loving stepparents encourage her to do everything on her own. When Aven is in kindergarten, she begins making up wild stories about how she lost her arms including the story about how her arms were burnt off in a wildfire in the mountains of Tanzania. By fifth grade, the wild stories become a game between her and her friends. One day, Aven concocts a story about rescuing a puppy tied to the train tracks. Everyone is amused by the stories which show how her friends have accepted Aven as an equal.
Aven’s life is happy. She loves playing soccer, has several close friends, and enjoys school. That is until Aven is in eighth grade. This is when Aven’s dad decides to become manager of Stagecoach Pass – a rundown western theme park near Phoenix. Aven’s family sells and donates most of their belongings and makes the long move from Kansas to Arizona.
This book is a must-read for middle schoolers who are facing the challenges that middle school can cause.
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus Activities
Novel Study Samples
Grab a free sample of Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus Novel Study. This sample includes the first vocabulary practice, a set of comprehension questions, and a constructed response question.
Activity #1 – Symbolism in Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
The Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus is full of symbolism. This activity asks students to explain eight symbols. The handout contains Google Slides as well as printables for this activity. An answer key is also included.
This activity and the comparing characters activity explained next are included in this pdf.
Activity #2 – The Audiobook
Activity #3 – Comparing the Characters from Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus to Other Book Characters
Students with Challenges
Not long after Aven moves to Arizona, she meets Connor. Like her, Connor hides out in the library during lunch. He doesn’t want the other students teasing him because of his Tourette syndrome.
Aven trips over the boy on the sidewalk again. This time, Aven sits down and talks. She learns that Zion does not want to eat in front of others because he is self-conscious about his size. Aven begins eating lunch on the sidewalk with Zion every day.
Soon, Connor joins Aven and Zion and the three become great friends.
Have students compare the challenges that Aven, Connor, and Zion have with other characters in the literature they have read.
- Have students discuss the challenges and triumphs of these characters. How are their challenges alike and different?
- Have students consider how they can use empathy to better understand and connect with others.
- Have students write a journal entry or letter from the perspective of one of the characters in the book. Have them consider the character’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
The printables below include T-charts, web organizers, and Venn diagrams to aid students in thinking about different characters. I recommend that students keep the facts/details positive by telling how the characters faced and overcame obstacles.
Comparing the Characters from Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus to Other Book Characters
If you missed the link above, here it is again.
In this printable, students compare two or more characters that have special needs. This list offers suggestions; however, several of the printables are open-ended. Simply add characters from stories your students have read.
- Wonder by R.J. Palacio
- Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
- Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
- Al Capone Does my Shirts by Gennifer Chodenko
- The Cay by Theodore Taylor
- Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr
- Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
- El Deafo by Cece Bell
- Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin
- Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
- The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker
Activity #4 – Bullying
Have students create a poster, skit, video, and so on that shows the effects of bullying. Students can research statistical information to add to their campaigns.
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Check out Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus Novel Study on TPT.