88 pages 2 hours read

Alan Gratz

Ground Zero

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 2021

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.

Symbols & Motifs

The Stuffed Tasmanian Devil

Taz’s Tasmanian Devil stuffed animal is a motif representing both survival and destruction. To Taz, it represents luck and survival because he randomly grabbed the stuffed animal shortly before escaping the North Tower on 9/11. He carries it with him as a form of protection, and he presumably always has it with him since it is the reason he earned the nickname Taz. Before parting with Reshmina, he gives it to her so that she might have some luck, too. A stuffed animal does not actually bring luck, though, and Reshmina knows that “it wouldn’t serve her any real purpose” (303). The gesture does show a shift in Taz’s character because in the beginning of the novel, he merely apologizes “with a shrug” for the impossible situation the villagers are in (31). When he gives the stuffed animal, a deeply personal object, to Reshmina, he shows that he does care about her survival.

It is significant, too, that the stuffed animal is a Tasmanian Devil and not a docile or friendly animal. When they meet, Taz explains to Reshmina that a Tasmanian Devil “spins around and destroys things” (64), which Reshmina thinks “certainly sounded American” (64). Taz, bearing the name of the animal, thereby embodies the animal’s destruction.