Young Adult Lit/Crit

March 3, 2008

Chris Crutcher/Author Study

Filed under: Chris Crutcher/Author Study — sostrom @ 12:13 pm

Jon, Kari and I came up with several activities for our Crutcher author study.  Here are a few:

  • students create a parody of Chris Crutcher novel.  The idea sprang from this article called “Chris Crutcher – Hero or Villain?”  These were some student responses to the Crutcher formula:As the students I talked to at the English Festival confirmed, Crutcher’s novels are also formulaic, and very predictable. When I asked them to work in small groups and outline a new Chris Crutchernovel, they had no trouble. One group created The Multiple-Choice Crutcher: a high school gymnast/golfer/hockey player/wrestler is having a rough time with his parents/school/coach/girlfriend; his brother/sister/girlfriend/best friend is killed/has a terminal disease/disappears/is convicted of a capital offense; his brother/sister/girlfriend/best friend is sexually/physically abused; he comes to terms with his life and wins/loses the big game/match, play by play.

    Another group wrote a parody, Chinese Checkers. The best Chinese checkers player in Barracuda High School has a run-in with the principal over the toasted cheese sandwiches in the cafeteria and quits the team in protest. He is suspended for scrawling “No More Soggy Cheese Sandwiches” on the cafeteria wall. He watches as his girlfriend, trying to make him a crispy toasted cheese sandwich, is electrocuted by a faulty toaster plug. In despair, he goes to his coach, a martial artist and damn good Cantonese cook, who teaches him to meditate, convinces him to get back on the team, and shows him how to make toasted tofu burgers. In the last chapter, our hero narrowly loses the championship to the crew at the local Burger King. The principal, meanwhile, dies on the way to the hospital, a massive coronary from blocked arteries.

  • students generate interview questions to communicate with Crutcher via blog, wiki, Skype or a classroom visit
  • include some kind of contact with the author (as Karen is doing).  Perhaps creating a class blog or wiki on the author and his/her books would be appropriate; this way, the author could participate in the study via the internet (as CC is doing with our blog).  Along these lines, Skype (video conferencing software) is a wonderful way to directly communicate with the author without having to physically be in the same space
  • in The Sledding Hill, Ms. Lloyd asks her students to “give me the one line in the book that meant the most to you: made you laugh or cry or angry or just made you wiser, or if you hated it, a line that it evidence why” (87).   I envision a classroom full of student-selected lines from all the books they read.  Students could share the line, then physically post it on a “quote wall” or post it online to the class blog or wiki.  Students could also share their choices with the authors.  This would be ongoing, not limited to the author study.
  • students could adapt a novel to the stage as students in Kentucky did with The Sledding Hill.





  1. Sarah,

    Thanks for being the first one in our group to post about the author study. I think you just about covered everything that our group talked about so I figured I would add some controversy and problematize (as Karen so often likes to do) the idea of actually having a class do an author study in high school. I don’t know if this is the kind of activity we would want to mandate to our students, even in small groups. From my experience, it’s kind of rare for my students to want to read the same books, and I imagine would be more rare for two or more of my students to want to read a number of books by the same author. Maybe this kind of project could be done on an individual basis, as one of many possible projects relating to YA lit. This way, we wouldn’t end up forcing kids to read books they aren’t interested in. If it so happens that two or more students are interested in reading multiple books by the same author, great: an author study could be a fantastic project option. But if we require something like this, we could very well end up doing what we’ve been so critical of all semester: turning kids off to books.


    Comment by scrollman — March 3, 2008 @ 1:13 pm

  2. I don’t share your concern about author studies. I would find them problematic only if they lack a critical and clear focus.

    Actually kids love to read books by the same author–if it’s an author they love. Look what’s happened w/the Stephanie Meyer books. And often they will read them over and over again. I met w/a group of students from Cortland HS today and they talked eagerly about the authors they like.

    Seems perfect to capitalize on that interest w/an author “study.” It was amazing for students to see the fan clubs that gathered around the YA authors at last year’s Rochester Teen Book Festival.

    I heard today about the author studies kids do at Cortland HS. This is 9th grade. The assign. requires them to read “classic” authors and find a common theme. The problem that one parent of a child in this class has observed is that the kids often substitute reading the online notes for reading the books.

    All of the ideas your group discussed are very interesting. I love the parody assignment.

    What is your focus? Or have you, of course, developed multiple foci for such a study?


    Comment by sunyprof — March 3, 2008 @ 10:19 pm

  3. I love the parody idea also. However that first posted idea, which I saw a number of years ago, really gave a WIDE view of the formulaic aspect of my stuff. There were too many /’s I mean, that could describe almost any novel. The more kids can make fun of things, though, the more they learn about them because the more creative they are, the more fun they can make, and creativity is what it’s all about. CC

    Comment by Chris Crutcher — March 4, 2008 @ 5:37 am

  4. Chris,

    I think that your books have a certain type of “formula” but I would not call them formulaic. You work within a certain context, but you are always authentic within the framework you’ve developed. I made this argument last week in class when I compared you to a blues singer: a blues artist will always be singing “the blues” but the good ones are able to keep things honest and fresh within that medium.


    Comment by scrollman — March 5, 2008 @ 8:53 am

  5. This discussion is very interesting to me, as I hope to someday have my novel, Courage in Patience, paired with Chris Crutcher’s IRONMAN. Chris graciously allowed me to integrate elements of IRONMAN into Courage in Patience; in my book, IRONMAN is the focus of a censorship campaign. The thing I love the most about Chris’ work is that he writes from a place of truth. He does not talk down to his audience but rather acknowledges the not-so-nice aspects of life while demonstrating that life most fully lived is lived in an authentic way. Witness the dilemma of Ben Wolf in DEADLINE– I don’t want to give away the ending but those of you who have read it and “gotten” it see what I mean when I speak of living life to the fullest when one lives in the harsh light of truth.
    Thanks for allowing me to contribute-
    Beth Fehlbaum, author
    Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse

    Comment by Beth Fehlbaum, author — March 6, 2008 @ 11:48 am

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