King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography by Chris Crutcher



King of the Mild Frontier

King of the Mild Frontier by Chris Crutcher ISBN: 0060502495

Plot Summary: Chris Crutcher chronicles his life, from his childhood to his job as an adult, and how his life led him to write for teens. His parents had a happy marriage, though his mother was always drinking. His brother was very good at tricking Chris, which led to a lot of funny situations. And Chris deals with not being good at sports or with girls for many years. As an adult, Chris works as a therapist. It is in this work that he meets everyday heroes; people who must deal with difficult circumstances but rise above and do what it is right. These Encounters with heroes lead Chris to become a young adult author. This is a funny and heartfelt story about the trials and tribulations of growing up, and what’s on the other side.

Critical Evaluation: Chris Crutcher writes in a very genuine and straightforward manner. The tone is conversational and somewhat self-deprecating, as Chris shares rather embarrassing stories about his childhood and his strengths and weaknesses. It makes the whole experience of reading the book very accessible and down to earth, which I appreciate. This gives me the impression of Chris as an approachable and humble author, who does his best to relate to his readers.

This is not really an exciting book. There are plenty of funny moments, especially when Chris discusses his involvement in sports, and moving moments, like when Chris talks about some of his encounters with patients as a therapist. Some of the other books I’ve read this semester were hard to put down; there was so much going on and so much at stake I just had to keep reading. In contrast, I could read this book at a more leisurely pace, put it down to start something else, and come back to it later. That might make it a tougher book for a reluctant reader to get through, but I don’t think of this as a downside to the book. I believe that this book will most appeal to those who have already read Chris’ other books, and they will be motivated enough to complete the book.

Reader’s Annotation: Even authors have to deal with pimples, and bullies, and gym class. In his memoir, Chris Crutcher talks about his childhood, and how he finds inspiration for his books.

Information about the author: Chris Crutcher was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1946. He grew up Cascade, Idaho. Before becoming an author, Chris taught in Washington and California and acted as director of an Oakland alternative school for almost ten years. He also has 25 years of experience as a child and family therapist specializing in abuse and neglect.

These experiences led him to become a YA author. His numerous books are critically acclaimed, and he is one of the most frequently banned authors in America, which he considers an accomplishment. He continues to write novels and is a contributor to Huffington Post and the Voices from the Middle Column. He lives in Spokane, Washington.

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

Curriculum ties, if any: This could be tied into any class that was talking about a particular Chris Crutcher book, or for a discussion of how one’s life influences their writing.

Booktalking Ideas: I would definitely sell this to teens who have read Chris Crutcher. I would also emphasize that it is funny and heartfelt. Chris’ experiences as a teenage boy, with pimples and masturbation should resonate with other teenage boys, though I probably won’t bring those particular examples up in a booktalk.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  Chris chronicles most of his life in this book, so at certain points he is younger, and at other points older than the teen readers we are targeting. He writes it as an adult, and is unapologetic in his descriptions of somewhat racy or controversial topics (there is mention of masturbation, but no details). Since most of his books are YA titles for older readers, I imagine this is read by the same age, despite being told in a more adult way.  Booklist suggests this title for grades 8-12, and School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly for grades 8 and up.

Challenge Issues:

  • Sexual situations
  • Language

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

This is a true story, so it obviously has true accounts of Chris’ life, but also of incidents he has been involved in or witnessed. As such, it does no one any good to avoid these subjects. Chris Crutcher also talks at some length about heroes in a way teens might not expect, which I think is important for teens to read about.

Why did you include this book? : I think of Chris Crutcher as a YA heavyweight, so it seemed only natural to include one of his titles in my project. I was attracted to his memoir because I thought it would provide a better understanding of all of his other books and that devoted fans of his would also be interested in learning more about his background.

Reference Page:

Very brief biography (2013). Chris Crutcher website. Retrieved from


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