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on February 12, 2003
I loved the book Whale Talk. It was the most enthralling book I've read. The author, Chris Crutcher, does a great job of keeping the reader's attention. I couldn't put it down. The main character, TJ, is a very captivationg guy. TJ's adopted parents are really cool. He is an Olympic hopeful in swimming. Cutter High, TJ's high school, is a very athletic school and if you don't play a sport you are considered a nerd and no one likes you. TJ could be a great football player, but he doesn't want to play any sports. When the top athletes start picking on Chris, a retarded boy whose brother was a top athlete that died, TJ steps in. He is determined to show the school that his misfit swim team is capable of winning a prized possesion, a letter jacket. The only problems are Cutter High doesn't have a poool and no swimmers besides TJ. So TJ used his determination to form a misfit swim team and show up the school. Along the way the team faces hurdles dealing with the jackets that no on wants them to have. At home TJ faces mnay problems. The ending is very intriguing and keeps you reading. Crutcher is an excellent writer that keeps you reading. I couldn't put the book down. The reason why I love the book so much is that it is dramatic, had a good conflict and kept me reading. Whale Talk is an awesome book that I'd recommend to anyone.
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on July 31, 2004
Irritated by high school hierarchy, athletically and intellectually gifted T.J. Jones offers every boy at Cutter High School a fair shot at donning the ultimate prize...a varsity letter jacket. But first he must lead his group of misfit Joes through a maze of high school bullies, Athletic Department meetings, and small town politics. T.J. is strongly supported by his family and teammates throughout his mission. However in the end, he discovers that by keeping his cool and outwitting his opponents, he can play the game, but not without suffering ultimate consequences.

Crutcher's characters resemble any reader's high school yearbook. The hero is the boy that everyone admires. The bullies never win any spelling bees. The misfit Joes each have classic identities... the know-it-all, the dysfunctional slow learner, the quiet kid, the heavy kid, the kid with no future. The Athletic Dept. consists of former hometown high school athletes refusing to relinquish their glory days. But the success of his novel lies in the fact that any reader will identify with the characters in some way. It leaves the reader with the encouragement that he/she can change the system with the right moves.

A must have for the high school library. Recommended for ages 12 and up. - JK
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on May 7, 2003
T.J. Jones' English teacher, Mr. Simet, challenges him to put together Cutter High's first-ever swimming team. The anti-establishment T.J. answers that challenge by forging a team in his image: a collection of loners and misfits. This attempt to sully the precious letter jacket has the football establishment that rules Cutter up in arms. T.J.'s role as the leader of this team makes him a target for a lot of pent up hostility not only within the school but also in the surrounding community.
Chris Crutcher weaves together a brilliant story about challenging the status quo and finding the common humanity that unites those who believe themselves alone in the world. The team T.J. puts together is symbolized perfectly by Icko, the accidental coach who lives at the gym and works shifts at two different fast food restaurants. Each of the other boys reveals himself and some way, and Crutcher demonstrates beautifully the depth of feeling within those who are most commonly overlooked.
The themes of racism and domestic violence may be disturbing to many readers, and rightly so. But they serve a purpose in the book; they remind us that those who are idolized and seen heroes do not always deserve such adulation. And those who truly strive to do good deeds are sometimes pushed by guilt over past failings. By presenting a book with such dynamic characters and heart wrenching storylines, Chris Crutcher gives us a book that forces us to think about what it means to be human.
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on February 24, 2002
This novel written by Chris Crutcher is by far my favorite book I have ever read. This is the first time I have ever read his work and I was amazed. He portrays the main character so well you can actually see it happening before your eyes page by page. It isn't just the main character though, it is everything, down to the smallest detail. I suggest that any teenager that enjoys reading or even if you don't and you are looking for an easy book report paper however you kind of want to enjoy the book, this is for you. My mother gave this book to me after she had read it so I knew it was going to be good, however I was not sure if it would interest me. It did, I am actually reading it again and I can not get enough of it. This book is astonishing and I do not want to overrate it or give it too much hype but it is truly a well-crafted novel. The story is about a teenage boy who is set apart from most kids at his school because of his background and the book just tells about how he can overcome it so easily and live life like anyone else and the challenges he may face along the way. I hope I have interested those reading into actually finding out more about this book. Although this book may not sound right for you, don't just take my word for it. I am sure others that have reviewed have nothing but the best to say about Whale Talk so check it out and see what Chris Crutcher does for you.
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on August 4, 2004
At Cutter High, jocks are highly revered and wearing a letterman's jacket is the ultimate status symbol. Gifted athlete, The Tao "TJ" Jones, could easily be a hometown hero, and excel on any of the high school teams. But, for reasons of his own, he opts out of playing organized sports, to the irritation of Cutter High's coaching staff. That is, until he finally decides to join the swim team, a sport he can easily letter in, and win that coveted letterman's jacket. Only problem is, there is no pool, and there is no swim team.

TJ Jones has issues. Born to a drug-addicted mom, TJ struggles to control his volatile temper and come to terms with his early years, when he was abused and abandoned. His mixed-race heritage makes him a real stand-out in his small northwestern town, where he confronts bigotry and bullies. Determined to do things his own way, TJ sets about assembling an unlikely swim team composed of a group of high school rejects and misfits. With the love and support of his adoptive parents and sage counselor, Georgia, TJ deals with his own inner demons, while helping his teammates achieve a level success and acceptance they have never before experienced. "Whale Talk" is a story about speaking your own truth and having the courage to be yourself, even in the face of intolerance and violence. Recommended for ages 12 and up.
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on April 11, 2004
In the novel Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher, a group of misfits, led by T.J. Jones, form a swim team at Cutter High School. You may think, why misfits, but T.J. wanted to change the whole idea of what an athlete is. His goal for the season was to have every person on the swim team letter. This may sound easy, but T.J. faced a lot of angry people from the athletic group and organizers after starting this team. One of the main reasons for the public's hostility is that no one on the team is "normal". T.J is part black and part Japanese, and is also adopted. He is just one of the seven swimmers on the team, and each one has something unique about them. Despite their differences, the team grows very close after spending so much time together at workouts and at meets. Each person learns something about the other and tends to understand why each one is the way they are. The team doesn't only learn about each other, but comes to an understanding that no one, not even the popular kids, should be judged and labeled. They learn to accept people foe the way they are and also that they aren't the only ones who are put down or shunned, and that many other kids at Cutter High feel the same way as they do. After reading this book, I learned that it is extremely important not to label people because you haven't given them a fair chance for them to show you who they really are.
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on December 15, 2004
What appears to be a formulaic, let's root for the underdog sports story, is anything but in author Chris Crutcher's entertaining, sarcastic, yet truly poignant look at the trials and tribulations of life and high school in his book Whale Talk. It tells the story through the eyes and experiences of T.J. Jones. He is a gifted yet troubled young man who along with Coach Simet, and a wily fast food clerk turn assistant coach nicknamed Icko turns a group of social outcasts; Jackie, Dan, Chris, Tay-Roy, Simon, and Andy, into the "Cutter Mermen." Their initial goal was to win the coveted letterman jackets that their school worships thus earning the respect they deserve while indirectly making the popular jocks look stupid. But in the process they learn much more. While swimming may seem to be an unusual choice it fits in nicely with the stories underlining theme. Along the way there are issues of abuse, intolerance, class struggle, fate, tradition, value of teamwork, and various other painful secrets that will converge in an ultimate showdown that changes everyone's life forever. More than just a teen story it is about the choices everyone makes in their lives and the lessons that can be learned if one truly listens to the world around them.
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on January 10, 2002
Whale Talk is a fantastic book. It is about a teenager�s life that has to deal with many issues. T.J. is a Japanese-African-American teenager that has to deal with a lot of racism. T.J. is a great athlete that isn�t involved in any high school sports because the coaches would enjoy public humiliation of the player or T.J. This all changes when T.J. gets the help and permission from his English teacher, Mr. Simet, about setting up a swim team because his high school has no swim team. T.J. then finds some losers from his high school who don�t know a thing about swimming. However, a team and a bond suddenly form among the swim team members.

Whale Talk is a great young adult book that involves a great leader with a passion for swimming. This book clearly looks into the minds of current high school teenagers. Although this book is primarily for young adults, the story line will most likely entertain older readers.

An astounding book to read. If you like sports, drama, and comedy, then this book is great for you. There are many characters that Crutcher has added to this novel, each with a sense of pride and humor. If you like Crutcher as an author, then by far you will like this novel.
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on June 28, 2002
Chris Crutcher as a former high school counselor has once again shown that he is in touch with the figure of the teenager. The hero of his story, The Tao Jones, is a multiracial 17-yr. old caught in right-wing extremist militia country north of Spokane, Washington.
A kid with fabulous physical gifts who was nonetheless apathetic about athletics at Cutter High and indeed constantly bickered with the football jocks, T.J. took a challenge to form a swim team for the school, which he deliberately populated with the school misfits. Initially a poor group of athletes other than for the T.J., the players all learn skill, stamina; and most importantly a spirit of togetherness, intimacy, and cooperation.
Many of the other characters of the book are grossly dysfunctional hicks; and T.J.'s parents are constantly having to deal with the cases of pathological families in the neighborhood. One of these entanglements provide a tragic ending to the story.
Thus Whale Talk is an excellent book on teenage factional conflicts, team spirit and the potential of all kids, humor, and the tragedies of a dysfunctional world.
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on October 20, 2004
I don't know where to start . . . I loved this book.

I have read hundreds of kids' books -- to my boys, and by myself, while scouting new material. This book has no rivals. It's the most powerful and insightful kids' story I have read.

The hero -- a gifted but iconoclastic adoptee -- latches on to the misfits in his school, finds the goodness in each, and forms them into a family of sorts: a rag-tag swim team. Along the way, they confront and overcome various stereotypes, young and old bullies, narrow-minded school administrators, violence, and family demons. Oh, yeah, it's a fun book too. The oddball kids are entertaining, and their characters are well-developed to the point that you'll be sad when the story ends.

Neither you nor your kids will be disappointed in this book.
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