The Mighty Crashman by Jerry Spinelli
|The Mighty Crashman by Jerry Spinelli|
|Genre: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Lovely book about growing up, friendship, difference, family dynamics, and grief. Spinelli tells a simple story, but weaves in multiple layers of emotional meaning. It's equally attractive to girls and boys.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 172||Date: August 2008|
John Coogan is nicknamed Crash because he once charged his younger cousin Bridget and shunted her through the back door, down the steps, and onto her back in the snow. She screamed blue murder. He got a nickname. And Crash is an apt monicker. He's big, fast, and rough - a typical boy. He likes mock-fighting and football, and he doesn't have much time for the wimpy, geeky side of life.
Penn Webb is the wimpy, geeky side of life. Penn and his family are Quakers, so they don't play violent games. To Crash's disgust, that includes water pistol fights. To Crash's further disgust, Penn doesn't eat meat, wear designer clothes, or compete socially. Far from trying out for the football team, Penn becomes one of the cheerleaders.
So, as you can see, Crash and Penn aren't a friendship made in heaven. And as this is Jerry Spinelli, who tells the truth, albeit kindly, they don't become unlikely allies. Far from it. Crash does what many sporty, macho boys do, and he torments the weedy Penn. He would never show a weakness. But it's obvious, even to Crash, that it's Penn's parents who show up for all the matches while his parents are busy working. It's Penn's quiet brand of courage that attracts the interest of the most gorgeous girl in the school.
And when there's a crisis, perhaps it's Penn who has the answers...
I love Jerry Spinelli. He's easy to read and he doesn't indulge himself with pages and pages of unnecessary words. He knows his audience and he sticks to a simple, but always beautifully observed, story. He taps right into children's minds and thus his emotional landscape is always instantly recognisable. He's kindly too - although his characters don't always behave with honour, there's always a path for them to follow, and a way to make things right. He describes right and wrong with great good humour, wisdom, and understanding, and he allows his characters to find their own route to the right decision.
For all these reasons his books are always uplifting and inspirational reads. They don't lecture, but neither do they descend to saccharine. They're simple tales, well-told.
The Mighty Crashman will appeal to both boys and girls, and although the tale is short and simple, the underlying emotional truths will make it a satisfying read for children from about seven right up to the last years at primary school and even into the early years of secondary.
My thanks to the nice people at Orchard for sending the book.
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