Crash Coogan is cool. He’s the star of the school football team… and he’s a bully.

Penn Webb is small and weedy. Penn Webb hates violence; he’s a ‘Peace’ badge wearing vegetarian. Crash and Penn are not destined to get along.

In all the action, the conversation, and even in his few backfiring attempts to show-off, Crash always manages to be on top.

From the day Penn moves into the neighbourhood, Crash torments him mercilessly. But no humiliation seems to bring Penn down. Crash is intrigued. The question slowly dawns on him: could it be that in some way Penn is actually stronger than he is?

Spinelli is a master of books about character. In the selfish and conceited preoccupations of this kid’s life, Spinelli finds those hidden inklings of humanity which can grow into extraordinary strength and greatness.

He draws out Crash’s insecurities and almost undetectably heals them one by one. That annoying little sister whom he discovers he could never live without; his too hard-working mother who learns the importance of time at home; his ailing grandfather who teaches Crash it’s ok to cry; and the family’s newfound poverty which grounds his ‘must-have’ moods.

While Crash doesn’t end up the same as Penn, he does discover a new best friend. 10-15 year old boys have to read this. Teachers have to read this. And (boys, don’t look), even girls should read this.

Here is a home-made book trailer that sets the scene. 


Clare Cannon lives in Sydney where she is the manager of Portico Books.

Clare Cannon lives in Sydney where she is editor of The Good Reading Guide and manager of Portico Books,...