Chris Crutcher was born on July, 17, 1946 in Cascade Idaho, which is small logging town in the mountains of west central Idaho. He is the middle of three children. Although his parents were both readers, Crutcher read only To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee in high school. Crutcher earned a B.A. degree in sociology and psychology from Eachster Washington State College, where he also spent much of his time swimming. He is a distance runner and swimmer; athletics appear throughout his works. Crutcher taught in an alternative school in California, returned to Spokane, Washington, where he worked as a child and family therapist, he is now a full time writer who works with the Child Protection Team in Spokane. Crutcher has never married and lives alone.
Six short stories, which feature characters from previous Crutcher books, deal with several issues including AIDS, athletics, love, death, friendship, racism, and father-son relationships. The characters are drawn from The Crazy Horse Electric Game, Running Loose, and Stotan! They are quick reads (Athletic Shortsis 160 pages), aimed at grades 8 to 12.
Despite its YA rating, Athletic Shorts appeals to adult readers with its wit and willingness to address universal issues such as death. An example of his rye humor in A Brief Moment in the Life of Angus Bethune, is Angus' description of learning to dance in anticipation of being the Senior Winter Ball King,
"I went out and spent hard-earned money on dance lessons, dance lessons that sent not one but two petite, anorexic-looking rookie Arthur Murray girls off sharpening their typing skills to apply at Kelly Services. Those girls had some sore pods." From: Crutcher, Athletic Shorts. 11.
Death is featured in The Time I Get and Goin' Fishing, with sympathy for those left behind for example, Louie says to Darren In the Time I Get,
"You get angry that you didn't do every little thing just right when the person was alive, and you get angry at the person dying. It's crazy, I know, but you do. And sometimes you hate everybody in the world who isn't feeling as much pain as you are, and as much as anything you hate God, if you can still believe in Him, for not stepping up and fixing things." From: Crutcher, Athletic Shorts. 150.
"As the title suggests, athletics are part of the selections; and Crutcher, as usual, is best at accurately portraying the world of high school teammates and coaches-readers can practically smell the sweat." From: Todd Morning review in School Library Journal Vol. (September, 1991): 278.
"The issues of father-son relationships, sexuality, and the testing of personal limits - all central themes in young adult literature- are explored from an unconventional perspective in Athletic Shorts." From: Horn Book.
Ironman is a heart warming book in which Bo Brewster struggles to deal with his relationships with a dictator-like father and an English teacher who takes pleasure in humiliating him. After an outburst in English class, Bo is forced to join the early morning Anger Management group with other students who need to work on their problems and control their anger. His reluctance to join the group changes over time as he bonds with the other group members who rally behind him as he trains for the Yukon Jack Triathlon.
Chris Crutcher's style is captivating as he tells the story through third person prose and Bo's first person unsent letters to Larry King. He developed Bo's character very well as his letters pour
"out his dreams, and his life story." From: O'Malley. Booklist. 1240.)
Crutcher also confronts the issue of homosexuality in his story as Bo learns that someone close to him is gay, The issue is handled well as Bo comes to terms with the news. Crutcher's characters seem too exaggerated at times, each with complicated lives, but he weaves them all into a well told story. A criticism of Ironman faults the book for reading too much like a television movie.
"And the bad guys are so bad." From: Gorman, The New York Times Book Review. (July 2, 1995): 13.
Staying Fat for Sarah Brynes presents numerous themes that are popular with young adult authors today, but centers on the
"insidious and far reaching effects of child abuse." From: Vasitakis. 336. Horn Book. (May/June, 1993): 69.
Crutcher presents the other issues such as abortion, suicide, religion, family relationships and vigilante justice through assorted minor characters in such a way that they are neither sugar coated or preachy. Eric Callhoune, Moby as his friends know him, partly because of his physical appearance and partly because of his swimming talent is one of the main characters, the other is Sarah Brynes,
"truly one of the ugliest human beings outside the circus. When she was three,. . . she pulled a pot of boiling spaghetti off the stove onto herself, leaving horrible burn scars. . . Her father, . . . allowed only the medical attention required to keep her out of danger. Almost nothing reconstructive was done." From: Crutcher. Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes 1993, p.
Together Sarah and Eric face the world and its cruelties until something inside Sarah snaps and she retreats into a world of silence. Eric must find the courage and the strength to understand Sarah's actions and to fight back for both of them.
The story is told in the first person through Eric's voice and thoughts. Once again, Crutcher has managed to do what he does so well, develop characters that we not only like but genuinely care about. Unlike many of Crutcher's books, this one features a very strong female (Sarah). There are no neat, happy predictable endings here. Just when you think you know what is going to happen, Crutcher throws you a curveball. Overall, it is an well rounded book that is an easy read and raises many thought provoking questions. Recommended for grades seven and up and sports enthusiasts of all ages.
"This type of novel is what many of today's YA s are looking for: sophisticated characters and plot, with a healthy sense of black humor." From: Lockwood, 218. School Library Journal. (March, 1993): 39.
The above two lists are taken from: Rip Roaring Reads for Reluctant Teen Readers. Gale W. Sherman. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 1993.
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Created March 19, 1996 and is continuously revised