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

"A truly exceptional book."--Washington Post

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. Bestselling author Chris Crutcher's controversial and acclaimed novel follows a group of outcasts as they take on inequality and injustice in their high school.

"Crutcher's superior gifts as a storyteller and his background as a working therapist combine to make magic in Whale Talk. The thread of truth in his fiction reminds us that heroes can come in any shape, color, ability or size, and friendship can bridge nearly any divide."--Washington Post

T.J. Jones hates the blatant preferential treatment jocks receive at his high school, and the reverence paid to the varsity lettermen. When he sees a member of the wrestling team threatening an underclassman, T.J. decides he's had enough. He recruits some of the biggest misfits at Cutter High to form a swim team. They may not have very much talent, but the All-Night Mermen prove to be way more than T.J. anticipated. As the unlikely athletes move closer to their goal, these new friends might learn that the journey is worth more than the reward. For fans of Andrew Smith and Marieke Nijkamp.

"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.'"--Publishers Weekly

An American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults

New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age


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

"Featuring narrator T.J. Jones's darkly ironic appraisal of the high school sports arena, this gripping tale of smalltown prejudice delivers a frank, powerful message about social issues and ills," wrote PW in a starred review. Ages 12-up. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


School Library Journal Review

Gr 8 Up-T. J. Jones, the mixed-race, larger-than-life, heroic, first-person narrator of this novel, lays out the events of his senior year, with many digressions along the way. The central plot involves T. J.'s efforts to put together a swim team of misfits, as he tries to upset the balance of power at his central Washington high school, where jocks and the narrow-minded rule. However, a number of subplots deal with racism, child abuse, and the efforts of the protagonist's adopted father to come to grips with a terrible mistake in his past. Crutcher uses a broad brush in an undeniably robust and energetic story that is also somewhat messy and over the top in places. T. J. himself is witty, self-assured, fearless, intelligent, and wise beyond his years. In fact, he has all of these qualities in such abundance that he's not an entirely plausible character. The novel's ending sweeps to a crescendo of emotions, as T. J.'s mentally tortured father saves a life and atones for past sins by diving in front of a bullet and dying in his son's arms. Young adults with a taste for melodrama will undeniably enjoy this effort. More discerning readers will have to look harder for the lovely passages and truths that aren't delivered with a hammer.-Todd Morning, Schaumburg Township Public Library, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.