images.cgiCrunch by Leslie ConnorCrunch2

Katherine Tegen Books, 2010.

328 pages, hardcover.

First-person narrator Dewey is as quaint as his name. In fact, the whole of Leslie Connor’s juvenile fiction novel Crunch is quaint.

The second eldest child in a family of seven, Dewey is left in charge of the Bike Barn while his parents are away.[yes, the Bike Barn is literally their barn.] A fuel crises that has been looming for weeks strands the Marriss parents near the Canadian border while their children are left to fend for themselves much further down the coast. Feeling the crunch, people have turned to bicycling, which would be good news but for Mr. Marriss being away and the Bike Barn repair shop is left to 14 year-old Dewey and the next in line Vince (age 13). The demand for parts and repairs is uncommonly high and Dewey struggles with keeping up (another crunch). He does admirably, but when bicycle parts go missing as well as bicycles themselves, Dewey has more than he can handle—almost.

Crunch is one part mystery and one part morality tale. Connor does keep the reader guessing as to whom the Thief could be, agonizing alongside Dewey as the story progresses and the situation becomes more dire. The greater or more pervasive mystery is when and if Dewey parents are going to make it home. Yet, of all the situations this conflict could find a story in, Dewey and his siblings are amongst the least frightening scenarios.

The Marriss’ have it pretty good, modeling a good down-home sustainable lifestyle. They live on a farm with goats and sheep and chickens, have a big garden and a barn where they build and repair bicycles. Town is a (relatively) short bicycle ride, as is the beach. They know their neighbor and have friends in the community, including a police officer who pedals in to check on them. The children are capable and fairly independent (each having chores—remember those?). The Marriss family and Crunch illustrates how “going back isn’t going backward” (87).

Lilly “Lil” is 18 and put in charge of the younger siblings which include a set of 5-year-old-twins. She is an Artist who actually sells. Her artistic outlet is paramount. I had to remind myself she was 18, though she is oft referred to as an adult.  Lil does contribute to sibling dynamics in that she and Dewey have their power struggles–after which Dewey thinks he should apologize.

The Marriss family is so stinking cute. I want to move in right away. Crunch is refreshing in its depiction of wholesome family dynamics and the strength of community. Even the cranky, dubious neighbor has his charm by story’s end. I suppose a younger reader would read more tension into the text, but I felt perfectly safe the whole time, exciting only enough energy to want to smack Lil or Dewey a time or two for being annoying.

That Crunch imagines an unsavory time in an idyllic setting lightens otherwise fearsome environmental messages. While the very real warning is still there, the solution is as well—families and communities that work together will be just fine; though learning to ride and maintain a bicycle wouldn’t hurt either.


Recommended for ages 10 and up. Good for boys and girls. For those interested in small business models and/or mechanics. And for those interested in reading a story with a non-dysfunctional family for a change.


note:  I didn’t know what a derailleur was and Sean found a diagram of a bicycle for me to look at while reading.  You or yours may want to have one on hand  if you are unfamiliar with bicycle construction; as Crunch is built to instruct as well as entertain…


speaking of bicycles… have you been over to the husband’s new bike blog: Sean’s Cyclebabble? I know Carl V. and Logan have {thanks guys, for leaving notes here and there}…

Published by L

I read, and I write. and until recently, I sold books.

2 thoughts on “granola

  1. This sounds like a lovely book, and one that I may put into EJ’s pile of books to possibly read…she has a hard time choosing books like me…too many to choose from with too little time to read. 🙂

  2. By the way, I was meaning check out your husband’s blog, but time got away. My oldest is very much into cycling. He is on his school’s cycle team, and he has taken to building his own bikes. The one bike of his thatI have seen turned out nice. He loves to tweak around with his bikes (yes…he seems to be collecting them now)…same with his Dad. My husband grew up cycling but more along the lines of BMX racing whereas Ben is doing road racing as well as cyclocross racing with his school team. I also am into cycling (last year got into it) but not like the boys. Okay…off to check out his blog.

thoughts? would love to hear them...

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