I picked King of the Mild Frontier as this week’s booktalk for two reasons: because I hadn’t shared a booktalk of a nonfiction book yet, and because this book makes my audiences laugh and it makes me laugh. Which is especially ironic because Chris Crutcher’s novels usually make me feel depressed in a very cathartic way because they deal with LOTS of teen problems (I guess that 25 years as a child and family therapist + literary talent = Write What You Know).
Whenever I present this booktalk I ALWAYS have to pause for audience laughter. The kids laugh, the teachers laugh, and I ride a wave of laughter until the booktalk comes to an end. Speaking of which, if I’m booktalking King of the Mild Frontier it’s usually my closer, because it’s very hard to find another book that can follow this one.
Chris Crutcher is a modern-day success story. By that I mean he only became a success recently, because for most of his childhood and teenage years he was a dateless, broken-toothed, scabbed-over, God-fearing dweeb. Now most people who grew up like that would be too scared (or too smart) to admit it. But since Chris spent many years writing novels and stories for teenagers, he decided to take the plunge and tell all about the ups and downs of his early life. Well … okay, the ups were few and far between, but there were a whole lot of downs. Like the time he was beaten up in school for saying that if you stuck your hand in a furnace it would feel cold. Or the time he was thrown out of Sunday school for talking about Jesus Christ’s older brother Esus Christ. Or the time that he was hit in the mouth with a baseball bat while standing behind home plate … AND how that bat hit him so hard that when it swung back around, … one of his teeth was stuck in it … AND how the principal took that bat with the tooth still in it, and put it in the trophy case at school, with a sign that said “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME.” Read this book to find out how bad things happen to good people, how good things happen to bad people, and how to turn just about anything from your childhood into a story years later.