Seventh-grader jock Crash Coogan has been tormenting his skinny Quaker neighbor for years, but when a stroke leaves Crash's beloved grandfather severely disabled, he begins to realize that there are more important things in life than being a sports star. "Spinelli packs a powerful moral wallop, leaving it to the pitch-perfect narration to drive home his point," wrote PW. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Spinelli (There's a Girl in My Hammerlock) takes the brawny, bullying jock who is the villain in so many middle-grade novels and casts him as the narrator of this agile tale. Ever since first grade "Crash" Coogan has been tormenting dweeby Penn Ward, a skinny vegetarian Quaker boy who lives in a tiny former garage with his aged parents. Now that they're in seventh grade, "chippy chirpy perky" Penn becomes an even better target: not only does Penn still wear outdated used clothes, he joins the cheerleading squad. But even though Crash becomes the school's star football player and wears the most expensive togs from the mall, he still can't get what Penn has-his parents' attention and the admiration of the most gorgeous girl in school. And when his beloved grandfather Scooter is severely disabled by a stroke, Crash no longer sees the fun in playing brutal pranks and begins to realize that there are more important things in life than wearing new sneaks and being a sports star. Without being preachy, Spinelli packs a powerful moral wallop, leaving it to the pitch-perfect narration to drive home his point. All ages. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Mary Sue Preissner
Penn Webb and Crash Coogan are unlikely to become friends. Penn is new to town, puny, wears clothing from the second hand store, and he is a vegetarian and a Quaker. Crash is the star running back of the school football team, bullies others, and inflicts his opinions on everyone. For many years, Crash has bullied Penn. But during 7th grade, while coping with his sassy save-the-earth younger sister, overworked parents, the "hots" for a certain cheerleader, and an ill grandfather, Crash comes into his own. Spinelli humorously tells this coming of age story.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Countless books have an antihero who's a bully-jock. I don't remember ever seeing through the eyes of a character like that until I read Spinelli's book. Crash has sported this nickname since the Christmas he got his first football helmet and bowled over a female cousin who was coming to visit. As the years pass, he adds to his tough-guy image by becoming a football hero who battles his way down the field and tormenting Penn Webb, a sensitive, vegetarian, environmentalist. Crash has a thick cruel skin. When his beloved grandfather has a stroke, Crash begins to reevaluate the role he's lived for so many years. "I had always thought my name and me were the same thing," he wonders to himself, "Now there was a crack of daylight between them, like my shell was coming loose. It was scary." That crack widens until he begins to understand and like who he really is. Short chapters, humor, sports, and great characters make this a sure-win for reluctant readers and a great read aloud.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8A winning story about seventh-grade Crash Coogan's transformation from smug jock to empathetic, mature young man. In a clever, breezy first-person style, Spinelli tackles gender roles, family relationships, and friendship with humor and feeling. As the novel opens, Crash feels passionately about many things: the violence of football; being in charge; the way he looks in shoulder pads; never being second in anything; and the most expensive sneakers at the mall. Although a stereotypical bully, the boy becomes more than one-dimensional in the context of his overworked, unavailable parents and the love he has for his grandfather, who comes to live with the Coogans and then suffers a stroke. It is because of his affection for Scooter that Crash comes to appreciate Penn Webb, a neighbor and classmate whom for years Crash has tormented and teased about his pacifism, vegetarianism, second-hand clothes, and social activism. Penn relentlessly offers friendship, which Crash finally accepts when he sees Penn's love for his own great-grandfather as a common bond. The story concludes as Penn, named by his great-grandfather for Philadelphia's famous Penn Relays, wins the school race while the elderly man looks on. Readers will devour this humorous glimpse at what jocks are made of while learning that life does not require crashing helmet-headed through it.Connie Tyrrell Burns, Mahoney Middle School, South Portland, ME
Seventh-grader Crash Coogan is a jock, a jokester, and a tormenter of dweeb Penn Webb. The book gets off to a hilarious start as Crash recalls his first meeting with Penn at age six. Penn, recently arrived from North Dakota, wears a button honoring that state's bird, which proclaims, "I'm a Flickertale." Let the hassling begin. From there, the plot becomes rather predictable. Crash's beloved grandfather comes to live with the Coogans, and when he suffers a stroke, Crash finds himself with a vein of empathy that wasn't evident before. At the book's conclusion, Crash and Penn are pitted against each other in a big race, but Crash, knowing that Penn's great-grandfather is there to watch, makes the ultimate sacrifice of compassion over competition. Spinelli's writing style is great for kids in this age-group, fast-paced and funny. And while it's plain where events are leading Crash, the strongly drawn characters, rather than the plot, become the focal point. Even though girls will read this, too, here's one for the boys.
From the Publisher
"Readers will devour this humorous glimpse of what jocks are made of." --School Library Journal, starred review "Spinelli packs a powerful moral wallop, leaving it to the pitch-perfect narration to drive home his point."--Publishers Weekly
Read an Excerpt
My real name is John. John Coogan. But everybody calls me Crash, even my parents.
It started way back when I got my first football helmet for Christmas. I don't really remember this happening, but they say that when my uncle Herm's family came over to see our presents, as they were coming through the front door I got down into a four-point stance, growled, "Hut! Hut! Hut!" and charged ahead with my brand-new helmet. Seems I knocked my cousin Bridget clear back out the doorway and onto her butt into a foot of snow. They say she bawled bloody murder and refused to come into the house, so Uncle Herm finally had to drag his whole family away before they even had a chance to take their coats off.
Like I said, personally I don't remember the whole thing, but looking back at what I do remember about myself, I'd have to say the story is probably true. As far as I can tell, I've always been crashing--into people, into things, you name it, with or without a helmet.
From the Hardcover edition.