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worksheet level 3
Try not to look at the transcript while doing these exercises! Always read the
instructions and all the information in the tasks before listening. Listen as many
times as you like.

The thunderbolt kid

1 Before listening: Bill Bryson is an American author who has written many
travel books. These include: The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America
(1989), Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe (1991), and Walk About (2002).
He has also written a science book A Short History of Nearly Everything (2004) as
well as books about the English language.

He is married to a British woman and has lived in England for most of his adult life.
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (2006) is a memoir of growing up in the
middle of the US during the fifties. This excerpt is from the first chapter which
describes America in 1951, the year of Brysons birth. Have a look at these
questions about the first part of the listening and see if you can decide which is the
correct answer.

a In 2006 the population of America is almost 300 million. What do you think
was the population of America in 1951?
200 million
150 million
75 million

b In October that year a youth is arrested for having a suspicious brown


powder. What did this turn out to be?
drugs
make-up
instant coffee

c Which of the following were not available then?


transistor radios and small computers
shopping malls and supermarkets
credit cards and dishwashers

d On 5 December New York had a air-raid drill. How do you think the people
reacted?
they panicked and ran to shelters
they ignored the drill completely
they were happy to take part in the drill

e Who did not have to take part in the drill?


people eating in restaurants
people working in banks
photographers

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f Husbands and wives both wanted to work. What do you think one journalist
was worried about?
that this was not normal behaviour
that this would affect mens position as the head of the house
that women wouldnt be able to look after children and housework as well
as work

g What do you think Bryson says about married women wanting to work?
before the (second world) war this was illegal in some states
this has never been a problem
in 1951 it was illegal in some states

2 In the second half of the listening Bryson talks about his mothers attitude
to food. He has an amusing writing style and one reason for this is the way he
exaggerates the truth. How does he exaggerate the following?

a The food in the fridge was


very expensive
very old
never eaten

b The fruit cake was made


during the colonial period
during the second world war
in the 1940s

c His mother did all her cooking


during the colonial period
during the second world war
in the 1940s

d She thought all food was OK to eat


unless it was really horrible
even if it was really horrible
as long as it was fresh

3 Finally he talks about some of his parents habits. Write the answer using no
more than three words.

a His parents grew up in _________________________________

b They tried not to _________________________________

c His mother washed and dried _________________________________

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d The sugars, jams etc came in small _________________________________

e Both parents were happy when


restaurants started to have
portions of _________________________________

which they could take away.

4 Listen for vocabulary: although Bryson is American he now uses many English
words, for example he says autumn instead of fall, and aluminium instead of
aluminum. Did you notice the American words he uses for the following?

a drugs
b motorways
c waste-disposal units

5 After listening: have a look at the Bill Bryson official website


http://www.randomhouse.com/features/billbryson/bb_title/display.pperl?isbn=97
80767919364&view=excerpt and answer these questions:

a Which part of the house was called the burns unit?


b When did he know it was time to eat?
c His father only liked the taste of two things, what were they?
d What dishes does he mention?

6 After listening: there is a vocabulary worksheet that goes with this podcast.

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answers level 3
Why not look at the transcript before checking your answers?

The thunderbolt kid

1 a 150 million
b instant coffee
c transistor radios and small computers
d they were happy to take part in the drill
e people eating in restaurants
f that this would affect mens position as the head of the house
g before the (second world) war this was illegal in some states

2 a The food in the fridge was very old


b The fruit cake was made during the colonial period
c His mother did all her cooking in the 1940s
d She thought food was OK to eat unless it was really horrible

3 a His parents grew up in the Great Depression


b They tried not to throw anything away
c His mother washed and dried paper plates
d The sugars, jams etc came in small (disposable) packets
e Both parents were happy when restaurants started to have portions
of maple syrup which they could take away

4 a narcotics
b freeways
c garbage disposals

5 a The kitchen
b When you could hear baked potatoes exploding in the oven
c Burnt food and ice-cream
d Baked Alaska, lobster Newburg, chicken cacciatore (Do you know
what these are?!)

Listening tip: if this was an IELTS monologue listening you only hear the
recording once. The most important thing is to spend time reading the questions,
understanding them and predicting the answers.

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