Nationally recognized author Chris Crutcher spoke to ninth grade health students today regarding the characters that helped inspire his book “Whale Talk.” Crutcher discussed the ways in which he incorporated some of his experiences as a coach and child abuse and neglect therapist to develop the novel, and he elaborated on how voices and situations of real children were incorporated to make the book relevant to young readers. “It was interesting to hear the true story and history about the characters in his book,” said Cassandra Floch ’13. An advocate of intellectual freedom, Crutcher also spoke to students about censorship and book banning. “If the stories come from people your age, then they should be stories you can read,” said Crutcher.
“Whale Talk” is a novel for young adult readers focusing on a group of teenagers coming of age and facing a variety of difficult circumstances including racism, abuse and bullying. Students were particularly interested in learning about the real life characters that inspired the book. Crutcher responded by telling students about TJ, the protagonist, whose character is determined to create camaraderie among a group of teenage misfits. Crutcher explained how TJ is able to demonstrate strength of character because he is in a safe place despite his history of difficult experiences.
A group of students also enjoyed lunch with the author and benefited from further discussion about his writing style and recent works. His presentation to middle division students focused specifically on censorship and intellectual freedom issues. Crutcher has written 14 novels for young adults. He is also the author of “A Guide to Teaching Challenged and Banned Books,” which features classroom activities and discussion questions about Chris Crutcher novels.