Cover image for Whale talk
Title:
Whale talk
Author:
Crutcher, Chris.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Greenwillow Books, [2001]

©2001
Physical Description:
220 pages ; 24 cm
Summary:
Intellectually and athletically gifted, TJ, a multiracial, adopted teenager, shuns organized sports and the gung-ho athletes at his high school until he agrees to form a swimming team and recruits some of the school's less popular students.
Language:
English
Reading Level:
1000 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR UG 6.1 10.0 49654.

Reading Counts RC High School 7.2 16 Quiz: 24937 Guided reading level: NR.
ISBN:
9780688180195

9780060293697
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

There's bad news and good news about the Cutter High School swim team. The bad news is that they don't have a pool. The good news is that only one of them can swim anyway.

A group of misfits brought together by T. J. Jones (the J is redundant) to find their places in a school that has no place for them, the Cutter All Night Mermen struggle to carve out their own turf. T. J. is convinced that a varsity letter jacket--unattainable for most, exclusive, revered, the symbol (as far as T. J. is concerned) of all that is screwed up at Cutter High--will be an effective carving tool. He's right. He's also wrong.

Still, it's always the quest that counts. And the bus on which the Mermen travel to swim meets--piloted by Icko, the permanent resident of All, Night Fitness--soon becomes the cocoon inside which they gradually allow themselves to talk, to fit, to bloom.

Chris Crutcher is in top form with a cast of characters--adults, children, and teenagers--fighting for dignity in a world where tragedy and comedy dance side by side, where a moment's inattention can bring lifelong heartache, and where true acceptance is the only prescription for what ails us.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 8-12. Crutcher's fans will recognize the author's signature style and subject matter in his new novel, his first in six years. Adopted, biracial high-school senior The Tao Jones (his birth mother seems to "have been a little too `spiritual'") is well-adjusted on the surface. A smart, likable kid with a great sense of humor and athletic ability, he glides through academia with everything an adolescent boy needs--decent grades and female companionship. What T. J. doesn't need is competitive sports, which Cutter High School jocks and coaches see as a personal snub. T. J.'s resolve weakens, however, when English teacher-coach Mr. Simet makes an unconventional offer: Be the anchor of the swim team and pick your fellow fish. Perfect, especially since racist football bully Mike Barbour has taken up letter jackets as a cause. It seems developmentally disabled Chris Coughlin has been wearing his dead brother's jacket, and Mike is annoyed. If Chris, naturally comfortable in the water, is on the swim team, T. J. reasons, Chris will earn a jacket of his own, and Mike will be put in his place. The veteran author once again uses well-constructed characters and quick pacing to examine how the sometimes cruel and abusive circumstances of life affect every link in the human chain, and a heartwrenching series of plot twists leads to an end in which goodness at least partially prevails. Through it all, as expected, shines Crutcher's sympathy for teens and their problems. For more about the book, see the Story-behind-the Story on the opposite page. --Kelly Milner Halls


Publisher's Weekly Review

Crutcher's (Running Loose; Ironman) gripping tale of small-town prejudice delivers a frank, powerful message about social issues and ills. Representing one-third of his community's minority population ("I'm black. And Japanese. And white"), narrator T.J. Jones voices a darkly ironic appraisal of the high school sports arena. Despite his natural athletic ability (at 13, he qualified for the Junior Olympics in two swimming events), T.J. has steered away from organized sports until his senior year, when Mr. Simet, a favorite English teacher, implores him to help form a swim team for the school (and thereby help the teacher save his job). T.J. sees an opportunity to get revenge on the establishment and invites outcasts to participate on the team; he ends up with "a representative from each extreme of the educational spectrum, a muscle man, a giant, a chameleon, and a psychopath." As might be expected, he accomplishes his mission: his motley crew of swimmers is despised by more conventional athletes (and coaches). The swimmers face many obstacles, but their dedication to their sport and each other grows stronger with every meet. The gradual unfolding of characters' personal conflicts proves to be as gripping as the evolution of the team's efforts. Through T.J.'s narration, Crutcher offers an unusual yet resonant mixture of black comedy and tragedy that lays bare the superficiality of the high school scene. The book's shocking climax will force readers to re-examine their own values and may cause them to alter their perception of individuals pegged as "losers." Ages 12-up. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal Review

Gr 7-Up Chris Crutcher's moving story (Greenwillow, 2001) is effectively brought to life by talented actor Brian Corrigan. With his calm voice, he becomes T.J. Jones forming a swim team composed of boys who do not fit into typical high school society. With no facilities at Cutter High School, they must practice during the night at the local fitness center. They become close friends, sharing past traumatic experiences during the bus rides to the swim meets. Corrigan does not flinch at the slang or cuss words. The different characters are presented through minor changes of his slightly nasal voice. The fast-paced narration helps to minimize the chance to become maudlin with the challenges these boys face. Corrigan remains dispassionate even during the truly sad climax. This would be a excellent selection to motivate special education students to read the novel as they listen.-Claudia Moore, W.T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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