Study Guide

Crash Change

By Jerry Spinelli

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Chapter 9

Mostly it's checking everybody out. Seeing what they look like after the summer. Almost everybody looks different, changed at least a little bit. And not just different, but different better. (9.2)

Does this sound familiar at all? Have you ever had this experience—either when going back to school in the fall or just seeing people you haven't seen for a while?

Crash is young enough that he sees getting older as a good thing. That's not the case for all the characters, though.

Chapter 20

As usual, when he came to his picture in the hallway gallery, he had to stop and say, "Now there's a handsome young man. I wonder who that is."

The painting shows this sailor with his white hat cocked down to one eyebrow and his mouth open like he's saying something. (20.2-20.3)

This is the first time we hear about the portrait of Scooter, but of course, we see it again after Scooter has his stroke. Take a minute to compare and contrast this scene with the one at the end of the book, when Scooter revisits his portrait.

Chapter 29

On the other team, Uncle Herm did most of the passing. Abby and Scooter were receivers. Whenever Scooter got the ball, I tried to picture him as a speedy little kid in the streets, but I couldn't do it. (29.15)

Sounds like Scooter has lost some of his speed in his old age. He kept the adorable nickname, though. Fair enough. Riddle us this: is it easier to picture what someone young might look like as an older person or what an older person may have looked like when they were younger? Why? Do you think your answer has anything to do with your age?

Chapter 30

I stood at the doorway, looking. He was sleeping on his back. He wore a tank-top undershirt. And he was old. I had never seen it before, not in the kitchen, not at the football games [...]. But now, sleeping in the bed of my ten-year-old sister [...] he was just about as old as anybody I ever saw. (30.24)

What is it about seeing Scooter in his sister's room that makes Crash see his grandfather with new eyes? Have you ever had an experience like that?

Chapter 33

My mom says he has to learn to walk again. She says he doesn't talk too good, and he doesn't remember stuff. (33.2)

After his stroke, Scooter has to deal with some of the same challenges that infants face. It's super sad. Watching that change in his grandfather makes Crash think about a lot of things.

Chapter 34

Dear Mr. Scooter: My parents and I are very sorry to hear about your illness. We hope you get well very soon. In order to help you, I am sending you this jar of mud from the Missouri River. (34.32)

Penn had planned to save the mud for his own use, but he changes his mind. He probably thought Scooter needed it more. How does this gesture affect Crash?

Chapter 35

Abby was on the bed, jabbering away. He was propped up on the pillow. His face—everything—was different. His mouth was sort of crooked, like he was smirking; only I knew he wasn't. (35.11)

When Crash goes to visit Scooter in the hospital, he's disturbed by how much his grandfather has changed. This, in turn, inspires some changes in Crash himself—but for the better. On another note, how does Crash know his grandfather isn't smirking? Could he be wrong?

Chapter 36

Crash Coogan. The Crash Man. Suddenly the name didn't seem to fit exactly. I had always thought my name and me were the same thing. Now there was a crack of daylight between them, like my shell was coming loose. It was scary. (36.26)

Crash. The Crashmeister. Crash-a-lama-ding-dong. The Crash Man, making observations about his identity. And, yeah, we can see how that would be a little scary. He's identified himself in one way for such a long time. If he gives up a big part of that identity, who will he be? Answer: a nice guy.

Chapter 39

I miss him very much. Most of all, I miss the stories that he used to tell me about the old days. Sometimes he makes me sad when he says that he feels himself disappearing like the prairie. (39.10)

Penn quotes his great-grandfather here, saying that "he feels himself disappearing like the prairie." What does he mean? Explain the metaphor.

Chapter 44

I'm trying to get back the old safe-in-the-bed-boat feeling. I can't quite make it. Before, it was like Scooter was captain and we were the mates. Now it's turned around. We're the captains. You don't feel so safe being captain. (44.20)

Crash knows that it's his turn to be the captain. Why is that scary?

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