The Sledding Hill
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that while he carefully avoids language, sex, violence, etc. in his own story, the author refers to it in other stories. He is being deliberately provocative here in a way that will trouble some parents, especially religious fundamentalists. He also loads the deck pretty heavily -- this is a diatribe, not an invitation to two-sided discussion.
What's the story?
Eddie has a lot to deal with. His father and his best friend, Billy, are both killed accidentally within a month, and Eddie is the one who finds both bodies. Now he's being haunted by Billy, who also is the narrator of the story. His mother is being drawn further in to a fundamentalist church, led by Reverend Tarter, who is a busy guy: he is also an English teacher at Eddie's school, is trying to manipulate Eddie into joining the saved, and is working with his congregation to get a book banned at school.
That book, Warren Peece is a fake book by the real author of this book, Chris Crutcher, who becomes a character in his own book when he gets involved in the effort to stop the banning. And that book happens to be the only meaningful thing Eddie has found to help him deal with his grief. So Eddie, though he hasn't spoken since he found Billy's body, is determined to save the book, and take down the Reverend at the same time.
Is it any good?
As is almost always the case when an author has a Point to make, the Point here comes before the story; too much of the book consists of characters acting as the author's mouthpieces. Though the author at one point makes a halfhearted nod to evenhandedness, this is an angry diatribe cloaked in humor, which doesn't make for three-dimensional characters or much emotional involvement on the part of the reader. But it's a mostly enjoyable read nonetheless, and it addresses a compelling issue in a way that will get kids talking.
Chris Crutcher is mad as, well, heck, and he's not going to take it anymore. All of his previous books have been the target of censorship efforts, and here he is taking on would-be banners directly, in a book in which they will find no bad language or sex acts or violence, but has content designed to be objectionable to them anyway. The whole book is Crutcher's way of saying, "Come and get me."
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about many issues addressed in this book: censorship, church/state division, racism, and more. Parents can ask their kids if it's ever right to ban a book, if there should be any restrictions on what children read, if religion has a place in school, and where the rights of each individual and family begin and end.