Saturday, July 19, 2008

King of the Mild Frontier - An Ill-Advised Autobiography

1. Bibliography: Crutcher, Chris (2003). King of the mild frontier: an ill-advised autobiography. New York, NY: Greenwillow

2. Genre and Awards:
Young Adult/Non-Fiction
ALA Best Book for Young Adults

3. Synopsis:

In his autobiography, Chris Crutcher reveals how he came to be a banned book writer. His stories about growing up in a small town are so funny, yet tender. He tackles tough subjects like religion and death with a tenderness and vulnerability that make this one great book!

4. Characters:
Of course, the main character is Chris Crutcher. However, his older brother is integral in the more funny moments of his awkward adolescence. His parents and his grandfather also make important contributions to the creation of a banned book writer.

5. Plot:
Through often hilarious, yet touching vignettes about his journey growing from a five-year old boy to a fifty (something) year old man, Chris Crutcher reveals how he became the man he is today. He reveals a lot about how he is inspired to write his books, and what he thinks the meaning of life is.

6. Needs of adolescents:
Many adolescent boys would connect to an acne-prone, masturbating, sort of in the middle of the popularity scene, boy. Chris reveals some of the more embarrassing parts of his adolescence that most kids will connect with. He is honest about both being bullied and being a bully himself. He talks about religion honestly and openly. He also reveals painful things about his own family, that lead back to his main question, “…why do bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. It came from my inner editor, that part of me that forces the wordy writer in me to dump ninety percent of all modifiers: Ask both questions again, minus the adjectives. ‘Why do things happen to people?’ Just because” (Crutcher 166-167). Chris Crutcher’s book will connect with adolescents who love his book, and who maybe don’t like it so well. They can understand his writing process, and (especially in Arkansas) connect with the small town mentality and the just get by attitude.

7. Possible Classroom Uses:

This book would be an excellent read aloud book for a junior high or high school classes, with some possible editing needed. It would also be great for individual readers and small group discussions. It could lead to thinking about creating autobiographies, and sharing funny stories. It could also lead to important discussions about censorship, and why or why not Chris Crutcher should or should not be banned, and what censorship means.

8. Appropriate Age Range

King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography would be great for junior high or high school students, and their parents.

9. Personal Reactions:
This book had me laughing out loud! I could identify with many of his escapades as ones from my family. His real look at religion was refreshing and honest. Chris Crutcher’s voice is honest and revealing. While I was reading, I was thinking about how a classroom in a small school would react to some of the chapters, and how much they would enjoy this book! One review I read about this book called it the best adolescent lit book for adults if they only knew about it. I think parents and kids would really enjoy this together. I highly recommend it!


Tara said...

I definitely want to read this book! I am not usually into non-fiction, but firmly believe biographies are the way to go if you are going to venture out there. I loved the Chris Crutcher book we read for class and would love to hear him tell his own stories. It sounds like his own relationship with his brother probably influenced the relationship he wrote between the boys in Deadline, which is always interesting to see. I am intrigued to the point of interest!

Miss Martha said...

Once again, you hit my wallet! I had to read your response to this autobiography because of your comments in class last week. I remember reading some Erma Bombeck when I was in junior high and finding it hilarious and fascinating. Hilarious because her stories were full of humor, and fascinating because she was so willing to be frank and imperfect as an adult. Not only do I agree with your assessment for this book, but you've also reminded me how important it is for us, as adults, to share with kids that adults are people, too -- we are flawed, clumsy, and not ever in the place, position or economic strata we expected to be. AND, we were also kids once, and we haven't (completely) forgotten what that was like. Kids love connecting with adults as people. Chris Crutcher's autobgiography sounds like a natural lead-in for many an activity on intergenerational friendship, sharing family lore, and getting a good laugh out of reading. Wait . . . could reading be fun ?!?

Katy H said...

Once again, you continue to make me love Chris Crutcher! This sounds like a hilarious book, and I can't wait to read it. Like Tara, I don't usually get into autobiographies, but this one sounds worth reading. I was already becoming a fan of Chris Crutcher, but now I'm hooked. Thank you!