ABOUT THIS BOOK
High-school-student Bo Brewster writes to talk show host Larry King to share his feelings about training for a triathlon and about his broken relationship with his father. With the help of his swim coach, Mr. Serbousek, and his anger-management coach, Mr. Nak, Bo strives to win the biggest reward of his life--the love of his father.
ABOUT THIS AUTHOR
Chris Crutcher's dad was an Air Force pilot, and his parents were "just passing through" Dayton, Ohio, when Chris was born on July 17, 1946. Crutcher claims his parents "were in Cascade before I got dry," referring to Cascade, Idaho, the small lumber and logging town of about 950 people, where he was raised.
As a youth, ALAN award-winning and six-time ALA award-winning author Chris Crutcher was not an outstanding student. He attributes his academic non-achievements to having an older brother who was "real bright. He was the valedictorian of the class, and I don't think he got anything under an A minus the whole time he was in high school. I got a good picture of what that was like and decided I didn't want anything to do with it."
Have students list names of talk show hosts. Then allow students to choose one host with whom they would feel comfortable talking. What is it about this particular host that makes them feel comfortable? Ask students why they think there are so many talks shows on the air today? What does this say about our society?
When Bo learns that he must join Mr. Nak's Anger Management Group in order to avoid being expelled from school, he is upset (p. 19). What did Bo gain from being in Mr. Nak's group? How did Bo contribute to the well-being of the other members? How would the outcome of the Yukon Jack's Triathlon have been affected if Bo had never been a member of Anger Management?
Courage and Honor (Fear)
Mr. Nak tells Bo that anger is a cover for fear (p. 143). He said to "think of fear as a person who's going to be around whether he's invited or not (p. 144)." Have students draw an outline of a person. Ask them to segment the outline and label each segment with one of Bo's fears, and to write a short paper explaining to what degree Bo has conquered his fears by the end of the novel.
Compare Bo's understanding of trust at the beginning of the novel with his understanding at the end of the novel. Bo mentions publishing a self-help manual for teenagers entitled Teens Who Trust Too Much (p.18). Have students design a self-help pamphlet that Bo might have designed at the end of the story. What might Bo warn teenagers about in this pamphlet? What suggestions would he offer for developing and recognizing trust in a relationship?
Family and Relationships
Bo's father thinks that Mr. Nak has "no sense of what a father-son relationship truly is; how tightly the band between the two needs to be stretched so that the son does not take over" (pp. 158-159). To what lengths does Mr. Brewster go to make sure that his son does not take over? Compare Mr. Brewster's behavior to that of his own father. On the last page of the book, we learn that Mr. Brewster goes back to the psychologist. Have students write a script of the conversation that might have taken place between the counselor and Mr. Brewster which they can act out.
When Mr. Serbousek reveals to Bo that he is homosexual, Bo turns his back on him. How does Bo come to terms with this discovery? What does he learn about prejudice and bigotry from Mr. Nak and from Mr. Serbousek? What other examples of prejudice are found in the novel? What steps can teenagers take to make prejudice less prevalent in their schools?
Bo says that "a true Ironman participates in the Hawaiian Ironman contest, where he or she swims about two-and-a-half miles, bikes a hundred, and runs a full marathon..." (p. 12). Have students research the Hawaiian Ironman contest. When does it take place? How do people train for it? Have students compare this contest to Yukon Jack's Eastern Washington Invitational Scabland Triathlon. In what ways would Bo need to change his training in order to be prepared for the Hawaiian Ironman contest? Design a workout that Bo might follow in order to be ready for the Hawaiian Ironman.
Mr. Nak says that Valentine's Day is the most important holiday for the Anger Management group because "it's supposed to be a celebration of people's good feelings for one another" (p. 127). Have students choose a member of the Nak Pack and create his or her Valentine's Day box that reflects the personality of that group member. Have students write Valentine's Day cards to the other participants from the perspective of their chosen person.
The members of the Nak Pak chose music and recorded inspirational messages for Bo to listen to as he competed in the Yukon Jack's Triathlon. Have students choose songs with messages and beats that they think would be beneficial for a competing triathlete. Instruct students to record their selections and to write a paper explaining the reasons for their choices. Allow them to share their tape with the class.
In one of his letters to Larry King, Bo imagines talking with him about Constitutional Rights for kids. Have students create a questionnaire for adults that focuses on Constitutional Rights for kids. Compare the adults' responses with what Bo thinks most adults would say. Ask students themselves to look closely at the statement. Are there times when teenagers are impulsive and adults should intervene? How can Constitutional Rights for kids and the role adults need to play in their children's lives be compatible?
Choose a passage from the novel, perhaps the first paragraph of Bo's initial letter to Larry King. Rewrite the paragraph so that all words run together and there is no punctuation, (i.e. At4:30eachmorningIawakentoyourvoice Ilietransfixeduntilfive...etc). Ask a volunteer to read the passage so that it makes sense. Then let students divide into pairs and rewrite the paragraph using the correct punctuation. Allow students to compare their paragraphs with each other before they check it with the original. Ask students what they learned about the importance of punctuation in a passage. What are the differences in the pauses people make when they encounter a comma, period, semi-colon, etc.?
Teachings Ideas prepared by Jane O. Wassynger, English teacher, Greenville Middle School, Greenville, SC.
Upon Mr. S's request, Bo researches the meaning of the word Stotan. He discovers that a Stotan is "a cross between a Stoic and a Spartan" (p. 80). He also learns that the term was "coined by an Australian track coach named Perciville Cerruti about thirty or so years ago in describing Herb Elliot, world record holder in the mile" (p. 80). Have students define Stoic and Spartan. Based on their knowledge of these two words, have them write a new definition of Stotan. Allow students to discover why Herb Elliot was referred to as a Stotan. Who were the Stotans in Bo's life? In what way do they fit the definition? Ask students to consider who might be the Stotans in their own lives and why?
An ALA Best Book for Young Adults
An ALA Quick Pick
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Horn Book Fanfare
x "With its highly charged intensity channeled into riveting prose, an array of eccentric and strong characterizations, and dramatic plot climax...Ironman is a combination of the psychological and the sports novels at their best."--Starred, Booklist
"Crutcher has consistently penned exceptional reads for young adults, and Ironman is one of his strongest works yet."--School Library Journal
"The heart of the story...rings thoroughly true....[Crutcher is] a terrific storyteller with a wonderful handle on what it's like to be an adolescent."--The New York Times Book Review
x "Crutcher again demonstrates his genius for tackling big issues and thought-provoking philosophies in an accessible and entertaining way."--Starred, The Horn Book
Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher[0-440-21390-8]
Chinese Handcuffs by Chris Crutcher[0-440-20837-8]
The Crazy Horse Electric Game by Chris Crutcher[0-440-20094-6]
Hoops by Walter Dean Myers[0-440-93884-8]
Running Loose by Chris Crutcher[0-440-97570-0]
The Shadow Brothers by A.E. Cannon[0-440-21167-0]
Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher[0-440-21906-X]
Stotan! by Chris Crutcher[0-440-20080-6]