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4.4 310
by Jerry Spinelli, Seymour Chwast (Illustrator)

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Growing up, Jerry Spinelli was really serious about baseball. He played for the Green Sox Little League team in his hometown of Norristown, Pennsylvania, and dreamed of one day playing for the major leagues, preferably as shortstop for the New York Yankees.

One night during high school, Spinelli watched the football team win an exciting game against one of the


Growing up, Jerry Spinelli was really serious about baseball. He played for the Green Sox Little League team in his hometown of Norristown, Pennsylvania, and dreamed of one day playing for the major leagues, preferably as shortstop for the New York Yankees.

One night during high school, Spinelli watched the football team win an exciting game against one of the best teams in the country. While everyone else rode about town tooting horns in celebration, Spinelli went home and wrote “Goal to Go,” a poem about the game’s defining moment, a goal-line stand. His father submitted the poem to the Norristown Times–Herald and it was featured in the middle of the sports page a few days later. He then traded in his baseball bat for a pencil, because he knew that he wanted to become a writer.

After graduating from Gettysburg College with an English degree, Spinelli worked full time as a magazine editor. Every day on his lunch hour, he would close his office door and craft novels on yellow magazine copy paper. He wrote four adult novels in 12 years of lunchtime writing, but none of these were accepted for publication. When he submitted a fifth novel about a 13-year-old boy, adult publishers once again rejected his work, but children’s publishers embraced it. Spinelli feels that he accidentally became an author of children’s books.

Spinelli’s hilarious books entertain both children and young adults. Readers see his life in his autobiography Knots in My Yo-Yo String, as well as in his fiction. Crash came out of his desire to include the beloved Penn Relays of his home
state of Pennsylvania in a book, while Maniac Magee isset in a fictional town based on his
own hometown.

When asked if he does research for his writing, Spinelli says: “The answer is yes and no. No, in the sense that I seldom plow through books at the library to gather material. Yes, in the sense that the first 15 years of my life turned out to be one big research project. I thought I was simply growing up in Norristown, Pennsylvania; looking back now I can see that I was also gathering material that would one day find its way into my books.”

On inspiration, the author says: “Ideas come from ordinary, everyday life. And from imagination. And from feelings. And from memories. Memories of dust in my sneakers and humming whitewalls down a hill called Monkey.”

Spinelli lives with his wife and fellow writer, Eileen, in West Chester, Pennsylvania. While they write in separate rooms of the house, the couple edits and celebrates one another’s work. Their six children have given Jerry Spinelli a plethora of clever material for his writing.

Jerry Spinelli is the author of more than a dozen books for young readers, including Maniac Magee, winner of the Newbery Medal. His latest novel, Stargirl, was a New York Times bestseller and an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults.

Editorial Reviews

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.)
Publishers Weekly
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.
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
Ilene Cooper
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

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.77(w) x 8.53(h) x 0.72(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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 Library Binding edition.

Meet the Author

JERRY SPINELLI is the author of many novels for young readers, including The Warden's Daughter; Stargirl; Love, Stargirl; Milkweed; Crash; Wringer; and Maniac Magee, winner of the Newbery Medal; along with Knots in My Yo-Yo String, the autobiography of his childhood. A graduate of Gettysburg College, he lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, poet and author Eileen Spinelli.

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Crash 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 310 reviews.
MeganJo More than 1 year ago
I read this book on the way back from a family vacation to the beach, it was so entertaining it made the 6 hour trip feel like 5 min.! As a middle school student myself I could really relate to all the characters. When you're reading this book, you become attached to all the characters wanting to laugh with them, cry with them, and you sometimes even get mad at them. In this book the main character Crash Coogan and his best friend Mike are the school's star football players, and don't forget bullies. They think they're really something special if they're only in 7th grade and they're already a household name. Other then being show offs, one of their favorite activities are making Penn Webbs life miserable, but being a football sensation isn't all it's cracked up to be, when Crash starts to figure out that Webb has something that he will never have, and it doesn't matter how many games they win. Crash starts to learn the hard life lesson of who your true friends really are.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is sooo hilarious. It is made for both boys and girls and is a must-read. I think the funniest part was when Crash got the idea that his grandpa would die if he didn't get a gift for him, so he gets a pair of red high heels. Even a 6 year old would find a more reasonable gift. The overall story teaches a good and enjoyable moral and would be great to recommend to preteens and teens.
coolioman123 More than 1 year ago
This book I can relate to a lot. The main character, Crash, is like me in most ways. We both like football and are good at it. We have friends who are good at it too. The only thing we don't have in common is that I don't have any grandfathers and he does. His grandfather was a sailor and my grandfather was a drunkard. He has one sister and i have two but they get on our nerves. There's this boy that just moved in a couple of years back and he's kind of geekish. They always do bad things to him but he doesn't really care. This geekish guy is slowly tearing his life apart. He wants to do bad things to him but not as bad as his friend wants him to. That's tearing him away from his friend. It's tearing the girl he likes away from him because she likes the geek and not him. He's tearing his sister away from Crash by protesting against a mall. And he's about to take his spot on the track team.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved how the author shows how even the toughest of kids have a soft spot. Literally from the first page, I was interested in the book. The way that the author uses an surprisingly accurate kid's point of view is hilarious! I would give it 10 stars if I could! Very touching!
schs More than 1 year ago
Crash is a great book! I loved reading it because it was so entertaining and relatable, it also contained alot of humor which added to the fun of reading it. The main characters are Crash Coogan, Mike and Penn. Crash and Mike are both star football players at their school. But they are both a bit self centered, bossy and sometimes they can be bullies. Crash also is ungrateful and sometimes doesn't understand or respect life and what really counts. But when Crash's grandfather becomes sick and has a stroke, he begins to understand how to respect other people and be thankful for what he has. I would definatlety reccomend this book to everyone but particularly people who like humor but also heart felt moments. I think some people would also enjoy because they could be able to learn a really important life lesson.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading just the first few pages i couldnt put the book down. Personally, i dislike reading but this book really stuck out to me. My friend knew i didnt like reading so she recommended this book to me because it doesnt have too many pages and the author did a great job with how dramatic the boys live is when others pick on him. Honestly i recommend this novel to all children and teenagers!
romancemistress More than 1 year ago
Crash is one of those books that I've seen included on recommendation lists for years, and I've always thought, "yeah, I should read that so that I can recommend it to boys," but I never did. I saw it included on a list last week as one of the 50 Best Books for Boys and had a lady come into the book store looking for it, and I thought, "that's it...that's just too much of a sign for me to ignore it any longer." So I read it this afternoon...yeah, it's that quick of a read and I really enjoyed it. Most of the readers talked about how funny it was, but I was more struck at the subtlety of the writing. John "Crash" Coogan is not that likable; he's a typical nascent jock, thinks he's got to be the best, the fastest, the toughest. He's not that bright, but doesn't seem to care although when the new dorky guy, Penn, named after some race Crash has never heard of, he finds himself both fascinated and repelled by him. I don't know if younger readers get the mix of those feelings. Crash seems to just be making fun of Penn, but really he's so deeply envious of Penn's caring and involved parents, his security in speaking up for or acting on his beliefs, his total comfort in the core of what makes him Penn that Crash just has to punish him. Eventually though it is both the boys' love for their grandfathers that makes them the same, and also it's where Crash is redeemed as a character. Jerry Spinelli wrote a lovely little book that boys and girls can learn something from...and adult readers can enjoy it, too. As for me, yep, I've got another boy-centric book that I can recommend to my customers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jerry spinelli is a genius! Wonderfuly writen fantastic way of telling how crash evolves through the storie. Great book on bullying. I've reas this book gazillions of times. Never gets old
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love this book! It's about John Coogan also known as Crash. It starts out as a memory when he is six years old, and how he met Penn Webb. Penn is the only kid that doesn't call him Crash. After the memory, it comes back to the present. Crash and Mike (Crash's best friend) go to the same school. They just started middle school, so did Penn. When Mike and Crash tryout for football they see Penn Webb trying out for cheerleading... Find out what happens in Jerry Spinelli's, Crash.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this for my sixth grade summer reading...it is REALLY good! I read this in three hours!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Looks funny and cool. Im about to read it for school. I hate school
ljs0 More than 1 year ago
thanks it sounds like a good book for a 6th grader that thinks hes tough ljso 5
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is so awesome! When I was reading this, I couldn't pull myself away. Jerry Spinelli did a great job making the story of Crash( the main character) and all the other charcters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this book for part of my sixth grade summer reading. I love it! I bought it this afternoon and finished it at 8:37. Im probably going to read it again in august to refresh my memory. Someone i know had a stroke so when Crash grandfather had a stroke i was so upset.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amaze balls!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book in school and it was so amazing. I thought this book was funny yet it taught an important lesson. In this book Crash Coogan and Mike Deluca (football stars) start being really mean to Penn Webb. Then comes along Jane Forbs. (Crash has a crush on her.) Then when Mike pulls a prank that goes way to far.And that leaves Crash thinking about his choices and he is also thinking is Penn that Dorky.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You did a nice job wording your response that it made me ask my guardian to buy it. NICE JOB APRIL 12!!!!!! &hearts
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a alsome book!
ReviewsComingatYA More than 1 year ago
I have taught Spinelli's Stargirl for the past few years, so I'm already a big fan. His straightforward charisma with his characters and plot has been a refreshing look into the lives of young people and the issues that plague them. While Crash first appeared in 1996, I didn't come across the book until this year, and I'm so glad I did. Here is a book that explores the life of a successful football player and the ins and outs of acting like one towards those who are not athletically talented.  Crash Coogan is a very talented football player, and he has the jock attitude to match. As a young boy, he meets his new neighbor Penn Webb, and while the two seem to get a long for awhile, Penn and his Quaker parents are just too different for Crash's scene. After years of declining Penn's requests for dinners and friendships, Penn finally gives up and leaves Crash alone. Not long after, Mike Deluca, a football player, moves into neighborhood and quickly befriends Crash. To them, playing practical jokes on Penn is enough entertainment to make it through the school day.  Crash's little sister is also growing up and deciding what values are important to her, including stopping the mall that is going to be built with the help of her real estate mother and building a wildlife habitat in the backyard. Crash realizes that a lot of this new influence on his sister is coming from Penn, the "peace" badge wearing nerd from next door. While Penn and Abby seem to have it all figured out, Crash soon realizes he doesn't, and finding out what's important to him becomes the central focus of the novel. I read the book in one sitting, for the simple reason that I had to know the outcome. The fast paced, page turning chapters are simply delightful. Crash's first person narration over the course of time portray his coming of age mentality and genuine feelings of being an athlete and a true friend. Even when he pulls pranks on Penn, Crash's internal struggle is apparent. Perhaps my favorite character, Abby brings a unique voice to the book. A young activist and animal lover, the interactions with her mother over discussions of gender equality are hilarious and endearing. Being the polar opposite of her brother lightens Crash's man vs. self crises and presents a quality to the book that would otherwise be missing with only a male protagonist.  The story itself reminds me a lot of Stargirl in the fact that main character is searching for a true identity. Isn't that what growing up is all about? It's really hard to find an author who so closely identifies with being young and confused, yet I see that connection with every Spinelli novel. Like me, you may have missed this one in the 90s, but rest assured the plot and principles are still relevant today. Definitely pick this one up soon!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It really is a great book. I recomend that you read it. I am 12 and it was kinda easy but it was good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice book but it relly was but l did not like the ida of having the baby and football and the crash but evrey thin els was bad
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago