This is a book that I found when I visited the Douglas County District Library Media Center. Crash by Jerry Spinelli, is classified as a High-Low book for High School Students. This means that it is a high-interest, low-readability book. It deals with a number of issues that are relevant to High School Students, such as; bullying, friendships, identifying values, illness of a grandparent and stereotypes.When I visited the Library Media Center, this book immediately caught my eye. I knew that I would be teaching mostly boys and much of the literature that I was familiar with had girls as the main characters. Not this book. Crash is about a boy, Crash Coogam and his relationships.
We first meet Crash when he is digging in his mother’s flowerbed prior to his starting 1st grade. While he is digging, Penn Webb, another boy of the same age, comes walking by. From Crash’s descriptions, we learn that Penn is quite different from him. These differences, and how Crash deals with them, are a major theme of the story. Even as a young child, we notice that Crash is mean to Penn. Crash continually makes fun of Penn and does things that aren’t nice to him. We learn that Penn is a Quaker and a vegetarian; both of which, Crash cannot understand. There is an indication, from some of his actions, that Crash is actually jealous of Penn and his family.
The story then jumps to right before Middle School when a new boy moves into the neighborhood, Mike Deluca. Mike and Crash hit it off right away as they like similar things, football being the main thing they both enjoy. At this point, Crash tolerates Penn. He has stopped picking on him and generally tolerates him. However, after Mike moves into the neighborhood, he encourages Crash to start picking on Penn again. The two of them bully Penn and Penn takes it.
Crash is a coming of age story, focusing on the interactions of two very different boys. There is a secondary story line that involves Crash’s sister, Abby, that runs through the story and relates to the environment and this helps girls relate to the story. A quick read for higher level kiddos, but full of discussion points. The chapters are short, so they do not discourage struggling readers. The layers of complexity make it an easy book to use in an integrated classroom: it is easy to differentiate.