Young Adult Lit/Crit

March 18, 2008

DEADLINE Reviewed in the March Issue of JAAL

Filed under: Chris Crutcher/Author Study — sunyprof @ 7:33 am

JAAL’s reviews are free content and Jim Blasingame (who’s at ASU) is a terrific YA reader/teacher/appreciator. Do read his review of ( DEADLINE. He also interviews Crutcher in this issue but I can’t seem to find the interview in the online content. I’ll bring copies to class on TH. I apologize but for some reason I have not been able to post links successfully or to paragraph posts. I have no idea what’s going on here. But you can copy and paste the URL into your browser. Thanks! KES


March 13, 2008

My Kids’ Reaction to Chris Crutcher

Filed under: Chris Crutcher/Author Study — katefrazer @ 10:51 am

So last Friday, I brought in my nice newly autographed Chris Crutcher books to class and shared them with all of my students.  Needless to say, they were very excited that I met him and that I brought back autographed novels for our class. 

They have been reading various short stories from a whole bunch that I brought in, and many of them chose to read stories from Athletic Shorts, and they are loving them.  Now that I brought more of his work and some information about what meeting him was like, they are even more into his writing.  One of my more reluctant students informed his class how he loved Chris Crutcher and went to Barnes and Noble to get one of his books the night before. 

 It was really nice to see them excited about this, especially since I was too.

March 5, 2008

Author Study

Filed under: Chris Crutcher/Author Study — katefrazer @ 9:55 pm

Raph, Josh, and I focused on voice in our author study.  Our overall focus was for students to recognize Chris Crutcher’s voice and use this to help develop their own voice in their writing.  While reading Crutcher’s books the kids would be analyzing just what his voice is, how it is different from other authors, and thinking about the topics he writes about and how he mixes humor with serious topics. 

After looking at all of this, the plan is for the kids to be thinking about what stories they want to tell and how they can best do this.  Then they would go ahead and write their stories.  Voice is a tough concept and using an author study to focus on this would hopefully help kids take steps towards finding and refining theirs. 

Warm Up to Crutcher and the Main Event!

Filed under: Chris Crutcher/Author Study — sunyprof @ 9:34 pm

Take a YouTube look at Chris’ visit to a high school in San Mateo! KES

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.



Sledding Hill, 1st amendment, and public schools

Filed under: Chris Crutcher/Author Study — allison @ 10:51 am

Hi Everyone,

Sledding hill awakened my interest in the rights of students at public schools. This seems to be a recurrent theme in Crutcher’s books. I thought it might be worthwhile to discuss the rights of students. It seems like a constant anthem of high school kids to shout “first amendment,” but what they fail to understand, is that this is a limited right. At public schools, the right is more readily available than at private institutions.

Here are a few cases:

Tinker, 1969, a landmark case that ruled “school officials may not punish or prohibit student speech unless they can clearly demonstrate that it will result in a material and substantial disruption of normal school activities or invades the rights of others.”

This law is especially interesting if you have read Whale Talk. The protagonist wears bloody clothes to school for an entire week.

Since Tinker, student’s rights have been limited, and in a court of law, it’s doubtful that the bloody clothes would be allowed to stay. Did anyone follow the bong hits for Jesus story?

In regard to banning books from the library, it seems that when these cases go into court, they books keep their place on the shelves.

Keeping them in the classroom curriculum can be a little harder.

Here’s some key information from the above website:

“Brennan noted that the “special characteristics of the school library make that environment especially appropriate for the recognition of the First Amendment rights of students.” Nevertheless, he emphasized that his decision was a narrow one, limited to the removal of books from a school library, and not extending to the acquisition of books or their use in the school curriculum. Brennan also recognized that local school boards had “broad discretion in the management of school affairs,” and said that if a board acted solely upon the “educational suitability” of the books in question or solely because the books were “pervasively vulgar,” such actions would not be unconstitutional.

“Since Pico, First Amendment litigation involving book censorship in schools has usually turned on the rights of a school board to control classroom curricula by prohibiting the use of certain texts and/or an inquiry into whether a certain challenged text is “vulgar.””

Ok, there are some facts. Have at ’em.


February 29, 2008

Athletic Shorts, Mandy

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

Hi Mandy,

 I’m so glad you mentioned reading ATHLETIC SHORTS:

                Joyce: I am happy to know someone else read Athletic Shorts. I enjoyed it and was reminded of what someone said in class last week about how you can define a good story in that you want it to continue. This is exactly how I felt while reading Athletic Shorts. In each story, an important issue was tackeled, from being overweight to AIDS to racism. The fact that these issues can be explored in a short story in such a profound way speaks to the wonderful writing talent of the author. I am excited to talk about this text with you, as I don’t know if anyone else read it!  -Mandy

so…   Which was your fav? I would have to say mine is “The Other Pin.” It’s a good example of Crutcherian writing, has all the basics in his prose: the virtues of exercise, the non-traditional athlete, the power of parental expectations, subverting the normative, and (most of all) humor. Killer ending scene on the wrestling mat. That KO will go down in my mental history as one of the best outside of my own experiences with Knock Out Kings and Mike Tyson’s PUNCH-OUT!

 However, I have to mention that the cameragun was a real treat in “In The Time I Get.”


February 28, 2008

The courage to be like Ms. Lloyd: Critical pedagogy in practice

Filed under: Chris Crutcher/Author Study — scrollman @ 8:32 am

I’m wondering how many teachers and future teachers in this class will bring books into the classroom that might potentially cause the type of community uproar that Warren Peece caused in Sledding Hill.  Will the lack of tenure scare new teachers into conforming to their department’s potentially rigid and obsolete curriculum?  When push comes to shove, will we put our jobs on the line to teach in the way we believe is best, or will we choose the many “safe” books out there that kids won’t read, but that administrators and parents will be more comfortable with.  From my own personal experience, even with tenure, administrators can still make your life miserable, even if they can’t take your job away.  When you begin to push the barriers of what is deemed acceptable, you bring upon yourself an increased amount of scrutiny and criticism.  It takes true courage and perserverence to be a teacher like Ms. Lloyd, and your students will love you for it.  You will have influenced their lives in ways that you wouldn’t think possible.  But there is a price to be paid for this type of pedagogy.  How many of us are willing to sacrifice our own jobs and peace of mind to do what we think is right?  To me, this is the essential question for any teacher who reads Crutcher.


Sarah Byrnes – the fun and the fanatic

Filed under: Chris Crutcher/Author Study — allison @ 7:53 am

Hi everyone,

As a co-facilitator for Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, I’d like to start as we usually do for our book discussions some personal response and some critical discussion.

Personally, I loved this book. It’s my favorite Crutcher book so far, and I think thats because the characters are so interesting and the relationships are so complex. My favorite part of this book was the idea of heroes. It made me think about the everyday heroes in everyday life. I think it would be a great exercise for students to write a story in which they show (as Crutcher does) how someone in their own life has been an everyday hero.

What did everyone think of Lermy’s CAT class? I think it could serve as a model for all of us. Crutcher writes in a blog  on his website

Educators are put into further difficulty, being asked to up the anxiety all the way around by testing kids into comas.  Good stories are one of few resources we have left to make connections with kids.  They provide a level playing field for adults to talk about real life with kids, while allowing both to keep their personal safety.”

I liked this quote  because it captures one of the problems that we face as teachers- having to teach to a test. Crutcher notes how books can make learning more relevant. More relevant than say, practicing reading passages for the state exams.

I called this post “the fun and the fanatic” because I want to bring up some of the controversy surrounding this book. Due to the issues of abortion and christianity that arise, there has been an uproar against some (hence the ‘fanatic’ part). What does everyone think? I think it could be a great book to include in the classroom as part of a larger discussion of how these issues can arise in school, how and why people get worked up about them,  and whether talking about these issues is a good or a bad thing.  What else would you discuss with your class? Would anyone choose not to include this book in their classroom curriculum?


February 27, 2008

The best ill-advised autobiography to date…

Filed under: Chris Crutcher/Author Study — kariredmond @ 8:18 pm

I just wanted to start out with some points for tomorrow night’s discussion on King of the Mild Frontier:

First of all I read this book first, and I am so glad that I did. I feel that this book gave me a great foundation on which to read the other assigned readings.  Not only did we find out where some of the characters from his stories came from specifically, but we are shown issues of particular interest that later make it into YA lit.

Part of this book that I found of particular interest was one that we discussed last week in our Elijah lit circle: trust/ respect for our elders.  CC questioned (with good reason) much of what he was told or taught by adults throughout his life and was often punished for it.  How do we use his ideas of credibility with students in our own lives/classrooms?

He tells us about his censorship issues through a story (told provactively in typical CC fashion) of a young African American child who was a victim of abuse and persecution within her own home.  Honestly, after reading this I felt a lot more open to the language and situations in the other novels.  How do you guys feel (especially those of you teaching currently) about the issues presented in this novel? Do you feel that your student’s are ready to read about the penis in the popcorn bag, even if they are hearing about it from other students already? I know we are going to delve into censorship even more next week but I thought that this novel was a perfect place to start.

Also, besides the ones that were pointed out… do you see issues/characters from the other novels that stemmed from CC’s experiences in KING? I like the idea of using this novel as a reference for the others, especially with the idea that we are in the midst of an “author study”. 

I cannot wait to discuss these novels with you in class tomorrow! I seem to be a “fan” of everything, but I am especially excited about this week’s text set!


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