Study Guide

Crash Family

By Jerry Spinelli

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Chapter 1
John "Crash" Coogan

I cut him off. "My father is starting a new business. He works seventy hours a week. Sometimes more." (1.20)

Hmm. Do you think working 70 hours a week is a good thing or a bad thing? What does Crash think? How can you tell?

Chapter 2
Penn Webb

"Who did you say you got your name from?"

"My great-grandfather. He named me after the Penn Relays. Not many children have a great-grandfather. My dad says I'm really lucky." (2.34-2.35)

Penn Webb also says his great-grandfather is his best friend, which is maybe the sweetest thing we've ever heard. Except for how much Crash loves his grandfather. That's pretty sweet, too. What's your relationship like with your grandparents? Does it seem realistic to you that both of these boys are so close to their grandfathers, or does that seem strange?

"Do we have a great-grandfather?" I said.

She went, "Shhh!" and gave me a dirty look. She whispered, "I don't know. Ask Mommy." (2.48-2.49)

The Coogan family seems pretty close, but neither Crash nor Abby know if they have a great-grandfather. That's a telling detail. So, what does it tell you?

Chapter 13
Abby Coogan

Abby raised her arms and swung around with a grin as big as a hoagie roll. "We all ate a meal together!"

I headed off. The living room was getting dark. I twirled my finger. "Whoopee. Just like a real family." (13.74-13.75)

Abby's excitement over a simple family dinner suggests that it doesn't happen in the Coogan household very often. What do you make of Crash's reaction?

Chapter 17

Sometimes I wish we could turn the day upside down so that their main time at home would be in the morning, before they get all worn out. I'll tell you, at the end of the day it doesn't take much to crush a parent. (17.9)

It sounds like Mr. and Mrs. Coogan don't have much energy left by the time they get home to their kids. You can almost hear the disappointment in Crash's words. Can you relate? Now, take a minute to flip the script. What do you suppose this moment is like from his parents' point of view?

Chapter 39

A couple weeks ago we got an assignment: Write an essay about someone you know. Tell what that person means to you.

I wrote about Scooter. Not about the stroke and the rehab and all, just the good stuff. (39.2-39.3)

Why do you think that Crash chooses to focus on the "good stuff"? Are there any other characters in the novel who choose that tactic in life? Do you think that's a good strategy? Why or why not?

Chapter 45
Mr. and Mrs. Coogan

"Well, with Scooter home now—" She squeezed my shoulder, stared into my eyes. "Now really, would you rather have my money or my time?"

"Your money." (45.7-45.8)

It's totally unclear if Crash is joking with his mother here, by the way. What do you think? Does he mean it about the money? In any case, he seems to appreciate having her at home…eventually.

Chapter 46

The thought came to me: they would have liked each other, Scooter and Henry Wilhide Webb III. Two storytellers. (46.8)

This thought about how his grandfather and Penn's great-grandfather would have been friends is the seed of Crash's friendship with Penn. Even after Scooter becomes ill, he's still guiding Crash.

Chapter 48
Mr. and Mrs. Coogan

"There was a minute back then when I was actually afraid you might forget what I look like."


"I know it sounds silly. But that was just before I told my boss I was going part-time." (48.18-48.20)

Mrs. Coogan says all of this to Crash after they find Scooter looking at the portrait she did of him years ago—when she was a kid and he was on one of his frequent sea voyages. She didn't see much of her dad when she was a kid, and she was afraid she'd forget what he looked like, so she painted a picture of him. With that in mind, do you think Mrs. Coogan's fear that her kids might forget what she looks like sounds silly? Why or why not?

"He wasn't home very much in those days, so when I did see him, I looked and looked at him until he was locked into my mind's eye." (48.15)

We learn that Scooter was away at sea for much of Mrs. Coogan's childhood. How does she seem to feel about that situation? Explain your answer.

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