I have only read one book by Chris Crutcher, Whale Talk, and I enjoyed it very much. I read it several years ago, but it is one of those books that lingers in memory because of the extremely likable main character and the fact that it was such a moving, compelling story. I have every intention of reading more of Crutcher's work - and at the library where I work, I often recommend his books to kids who enjoy edgy, contemporary books, books about kids overcoming problems, books about sports, books about teens in difficult situations finding ways to overcome them and succeed. Often the kids come back to tell me how much they enjoyed the book, and to ask me for other recommendations. I love when that happens!
Crutcher's books are among many that are routinely challenged in public and school libraries across the United States. Earlier this month, he received a letter from a concerned parent who, after reading a portion of one of Crutcher's books, is in the process of challenging it (as well as every other one of his books) in an attempt to have them removed from the school. Crutcher has published an open letter in reply to that parent, which you can read here in its entirety.
I was impressed by his response, which was very thoughtful and much more respectful and evenhanded than I'd have been able to write. It brings up some interesting ideas that are important to keep in mind, whatever your opinions on censorship, when it comes to discussing the topic. I particularly liked this portion of his conclusion to the letter:
You're a guy with concern for your kid. So be concerned. Restrict him from whatever books and video games and television programs and movies you want to. Show him what you believe to be right and wrong. Lead by example. I don't have any right to stop you from doing that and I wouldn't try. But I will continue to write stories that reflect what I see, whether people like you choose to make personal attacks or not. In my view I have an obligation to the people who do believe they get something from my books, to continue to write, whether you want to take poorly-thought-out shots at me or not.
If you are looking to read some banned books for next year's banned book week, you might want to consider some of Chris Crutcher's. But why wait till then?