Gary Paulsen is one of the most well-known authors of literature for children and teens. His most famous novel is Hatchet, about a boy named Brian who survives a plane crash and has to fight to survive. Paulsen also wrote several sequels to Hatchet, several non-fiction books, and many stand-alone fiction titles. The Crossing is not as famous as some of Paulsen’s other books, but personally it’s one of my favorites.
A lot of people think that booktalks have to be roller-coasters of suspense with cliffhanger endings. But The Crossing is one of my favorite examples of a story that is slow, steady, and profound. And so my booktalk doesn’t have a cliffhanger at all, just hints about that profound ending that is waiting around the corner. Remember that you choose which books you want to share, and you choose how you’re going to share them. If you don’t find a cliffhanger that you can use for a hook, see if you can find other ways to capture your audience’s interest, like empathetic characters and memorable plot details. No offense to Brian, but I can’t picture his character nearly as well as I can picture Manny, a boy who dreams of having so much money that he can afford to throw it away.
Manny is fourteen years old, and he lives on the streets of Juarez, Mexico. He has to beg for money and food from the American turistas, who are so rich that they can afford to throw money away, just for the sport of watching Mexican children fight for it. Manny has been fighting for most of his life. He has never known a day without hunger, and he has never had a home. But he dreams of crossing the border to America and starting a new life; a life where he will wear new pants and a new shirt with silver snaps and a new belt with a large buckle and new boots, and he’ll have so much money that HE can afford to throw it away. But first Manny needs to cross the border to America, a border that is so dangerous that hundreds of Mexicans risk arrest and even death to cross it every night. In order to make the crossing, Manny will need courage, strength … and money. His situation looks hopeless.
But things are about to change. Because Manny is about to meet a strange man … an American soldier with ghosts in his past and nothing in his future. And when Manny and this soldier meet, it will completely change both of their lives.