Author Feature-Crystal Allen


Spirit of Texas Reading Program

Middle School

Featured Author

Crystal Allen

Crystal Allen

How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy
The Laura Line

Crystal Allen was born in a military hospital in Germany and was the youngest of five children. She spent most of her young years in New Albany, Indiana, wearing a wig to school her entire fifth grade year because she hated her hair.Allen had two dates to an eighth grade sweetheart dance in which she was a candidate for Sweetheart Queen - whoops! She apologized to both boys forgetting that one had asked her very, very early. It was awkward for awhile, but then the three of them shrugged, got on the dance floor and shook what their mommas gave them. It ended up being one of the best dances ever!

She is the author of middle grade novels, How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy (Balzer and Bray 2011), The Laura Line (Balzer and Bray 2013), and the new chapter book series, The Magnificent Mya Tibbs. Crystal lives in Sugar Land, Texas with her husband, Reggie, two sons, Phillip and Joshua, and diva dog, Angel. 



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Book Trailer


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Book Quiz

Printable Copy

How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy

  1. Lamar’s brother Xavier has won a lot of trophies for 
    1. His Good Grades 
    2. Basketball 
    3. Writing Essays
    4. Bowling
  2. Lamar’s home town Coffin, Indiana is named for 
    1. Its famous coffin factory 
    2. A record-breaking graveyard 
    3. Levi Coffin, the underground railroad conductor 
    4. The largest coffin store in the Midwest
  3. On the Fourth of July, 
    1. Everyone will go to the YMCA and watch basketball 
    2. Sergio and Lamar will go to MVP Camp 
    3. Billy Jenks will organize a bowling tournament 
    4. Bubba Sanders, a famous bowler, is coming to Coffin
  4. Billy wants Lamar to 
    1. Help him cheat bowlers out of their money 
    2. Join his father’s landscaping business  
    3. Be his best friend 
    4. Help him with math
  5. Makeda isn’t sure she wants to talk to Lamar because 
    1. He wears his hair in an afro 
    2. She is too shy 
    3. He used to prank her and call her names 
    4. She likes Sergio better.
  6. Lamar goes to see Dr. Avery on a Saturday because 
    1. His asthma has gotten worse 
    2. He has hurt himself while bowling 
    3. His father made him an appointment 
    4. He wants to play soccer
  7. The one remaining space on the mantel at Lamar’s house is important to him because 
    1. His mother reserved the space for Lamar’s first trophy before she died 
    2. It is a perfect place for his dad’s bowling trophy 
    3. Lamar wants Xavier to put his next basketball trophy there 
    4. It will be where they put the last family picture with their mother
  8. While Lamar is pulling the fire alarm at the YMCA, Billy Jenks is 
    1. Keeping a lookout in the hall 
    2. Stealing the laptops from the computer room 
    3. Watching Xavier and Billy’s brother play in a very important basketball game 
    4. Bowling at Striker’s
  9. Lamar uses the money he “won” with Billy to 
    1. Buy a bowling ball and some equipment 
    2. Pay for Makeda’s camp and buy her dinner 
    3. Get a new computer so he can write an essay 
    4. Pay his fine and hire a tutor for Xavier
  10. Sergio and Lamar 
    1. Never speak to each other and go their separate ways 
    2. Swear off girls forever 
    3. Talk things over and become friends again 
    4. Quit bowling and take up soccer



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Academic Program 

Printable Copy 

How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba Sized Trophy

Program Title: Bowling Physics

Introduction/Purpose of Program:

In the book,  How Lamar's Big Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy,  Lamar Washington is a bowler.  Having bowled for years, he now instinctively knows how hard to throw the ball and where to aim so that as many pins as possible fall down.  He is not consciously thinking about physics, , but he is using principals of physics to achieve good results.  In this activity, we will use principles of physics and bowling to measure how objects with various masses affect stationary objects when propelled with similar force toward the stationary objects. 

This lab can be used for 6th and 8th grades. 

TEKS (Science, Force and Motion):

  • 6th Grade (8) Force, motion, and energy. The student knows force and motion are related to potential and kinetic energy. The student is expected to:
    • compare and contrast potential and kinetic energy;
    • calculate average speed using distance and time measurements; 
    • measure and graph changes in motion; and 
    • investigate how inclined planes and pulleys can be used to change the amount of force to move an object.
    • identify and describe the changes in position, direction, and speed of an object when acted upon by unbalanced forces; 
  • 8th Grade - (6) Force, motion, and energy. The student knows that there is a relationship between force, motion, and energy. The student is expected to:
    • demonstrate and calculate how unbalanced forces change the speed or direction of an object's motion;
    • differentiate between speed, velocity, and acceleration; and
    • investigate and describe applications of Newton's law of inertia, law of force and acceleration, and law of action-reaction such as in vehicle restraints, sports activities, amusement park rides, Earth's tectonic activities, and rocket launches.

Detailed Description:

Make the pins by putting the same amount of ballast material (sand, gravel, water) in each bottle. Use a scale or a measuring container to assure that the amounts are equal. 

Arrange the room so that there are "lanes" (clear spaces), one "lane" for each group. These may be marked with a piece of masking tape to position the ramp.  The masking tape should be 2 to 3 feet from the head pin. 

Students may be in pairs or in groups of three or four.  Give each group at least two different types of ball and 10 pins.   Have students set the pins up in a bowling pattern about 3 inches from a wall or other backdrop (you can make a backdrop of cardboard or wood if no wall is available).  This is to prevent the pins from scattering too far to the back. One student will carefully position the ball at the head of the ramp and release it.  The other students will observe and record whether the pins are knocked down or not, how many are knocked down,  how they look when they land, and how far they scatter with each type of ball used. 

Each group should roll at least two different types of ball to see what occurs with each one. The rest of the group will note how many pins fell, which ones fell, and make a diagram showing how they fell.  All students in the group should have a chance to roll a ball and hit the pins.

Students will record their observations in journals or on paper.  Some outcomes they may want to record are:  What are the effects of ball size on the pins?  Do heavier balls knock down more pins than lighter balls?  What patterns do the pins make when they fall? Also, if different heights were used for the ramps, how did this affect the results?   Eighth graders should also include which of Newton's laws are demonstrated by the activity. 

Each group will write a brief lab report describing their results.  This report should include diagrams of the fallen pins, several graphs showing who threw which balls and how many pins were knocked down, and any conclusions that they can draw about the effects of stationary objects being hit by moving objects.  

Evaluation of the report may be done using a rubric, or it may be a participation grade.  A rubric is included, but you may want to develop your own. 

Program Related Books to Display or Book Talk:

  • Abramovitz, Melissa. Bowling. Lucent, 2014
  • Allen, Crystal. How Lamar's bad prank won a Bubba-sized trophy. New York: Balzer & Bray, 2011.
  • Cruickshank, Don. Bowling. AV2 by Weigl, 2014

List of Supplies:

  • Bowling pins made of 10 plastic bottles of equal size and shape (water or soda bottles 16 or 20 ounce size, all one shape; one liter water bottles all one shape; 2 liter soda bottles)
  • Sand, pea gravel, or water to put in the bottles as ballast so they will be stable while standing.
  • Three or four balls of different sizes and weights.
  • Suggestions; tennis ball, small playground ball, golf ball, croquet or bocce ball, softball, baseball.
  • Scale to weigh balls (and possibly ballast material)
  • Container for transferring ballast to bottles (may also be used to measure ballast amount if not using scale for this purpose)
  • Enough ramps 2 to 3 feet in length (or of varying lengths) to accommodate the number of groups of students
  • Supports for the ramps, either uniform in height or of different heights for each ramp
  • Rulers, yardsticks, tape measures for measuring how far the pins scatter
  • Journals or paper and pencils or pens to record findings, make charts, and write up the results.
  • Incentives: The lab write-ups may be displayed.

Professional Resources (print and electronic):



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Active Programs

Printable Copy

How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba Sized Trophy 

Bowl-A-Rama Game Night


To promote the library and to provide a recreational time for middle school students.

Detailed Description:

This program is modeled on a bowling alley atmosphere like Strikers, the bowling alley in How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy. Like a bowling alley, it can include concessions, arcade games, and pool games. There is a basketball component in honor of Lamar's brother Xavier.

The program can be done entirely on computers, completely without electronics, or some combination of both.

If the facility can accommodate food and drinks, have a concession stand with pizza, chili dogs, nachos, sandwiches (hamburgers optimal, but other types such as submarine sandwiches, chicken patties, or fish might be possibilities as well) and soft drinks in cans or bottles. The concession stand would need several volunteers to help with food preparation and collection of money. Consider charging enough to break even, make a small profit, or ask for monetary donations so the food would be available at no cost. This can be simplified by just having chips and soft drinks if funds and/or volunteers are not available. Donations of food from local businesses, or volunteers might provide and prepare the food.

Suggestions for games:

Bowling: Buy an inexpensive bowling game at Oriental Trading Company, or also make bowling pins with one or two liter bottles (begin saving these early, and have other staff members collect as well). Fill them about 1/4 of the way with sand or pea gravel so they will stand up better.
There are also several online bowling games that participants can play free. These are noted in the Resources for Participants.
As an alternative, consider having gaming consoles available or rent or borrow them (PS3 or PS4, Xbox 360 or Xbox One with Kinect, or Nintendo Wii) there are bowling games to go with these. Several well-reviewed ones are available from online vendors, as noted in the resource list below.

Basketball: A good, inexpensive indoor option for basketball is a Nerfoop, available from Amazon and major big-box retailers. Or, make them using the resource listed in the Professional Resources section, and use real basketballs, inflatable beachball-type balls, or playground balls.

Basketball is available on the Kinect Sports Rivals game for Xbox One.

Pool: Purchase a fairly inexpensive tabletop pool game from Amazon or Walmart. There are instructions for making one in the Professional Resources list but it seems less expensive and surely less work to purchase it. Or, play pool using a game console. Game Party 3, noted for Wii but also available for the Nintendo game console, has a pool game.

Arcade games: Play many of these sorts of games, like PacMan, Pinball, Centipede, and others, online with any computer. Selections are included in the Resources for Participants.

Schedule an amount of time that is long enough for everyone to have an opportunity to play a variety of games, but not so long that they get bored; perhaps 2 to 3 hours, depending on the population.

Make sure to begin planning with plenty of advance time, at least several months in advance if planning alone, or a little less time (six weeks minimum, probably) if there is help from other staff members and/or volunteers.

Program Related Books to Display:

  • Abramovitz, Melissa. Bowling. Lucent, 2014 (non-fiction, grades 5-8)
  • Cruickshank, Don. Bowling. AV2 by Weigl, 2014. (non-fiction, grades 3-6)
  • Forrest, A. J, and Lisa Iannucci. Bowling for Dummies. N.p., For Dummies, 2010. (Adult)
  • Grinfelds, Vesma. Right down your alley : the complete book of bowling. New York: Wadsworth, 2011 (Adult)
  • Walker, Niki, and Sarah Dann. Marc Crabtree, ill. Bowling in Action. New York: Crabtree, 2003 (non-fiction, grades 3-6)
  • Werner, Doug. Bowler's startup: A beginner's guide to bowling. Tracks, 1995.

List of Supplies:

  • Disposable plates, cups, napkins, and plasticware for serving food
  • Food and drink (Chips and dip; sandwich ingredients such as cold cuts, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles; pizza; hot dogs; chili; Nacho cheese; sodas; water, etc.)
  • Bowling games, either purchased or made
  • Pool games, either purchased or made
  • Basketball games, either purchased or made
  • Computers
  • Game consoles and gaming software or online passcodes (optional)
  • Incentives/prizes, either purchased or made
  • Trash bags
  • Incentives: Bowling themed party favors and/or prizes may be given. Oriental Trading Company has some good suggestions, which are noted in the Professional Resources List. Printed certificates using templates from Microsoft Word are another option.

Resources for Participants:

  • Online bowling
    • (this one's really fun!);
  • Arcade games

Professional Resources:

Bulletin Board/Decoration:

Decorate the space with pictures and/or posters of bowling activities. Use images from the Internet.

Program Poster/Flyer:

Make these using templates from Microsoft Word or Publisher

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Passive Programs 

Program Printable Copy

Supplemental Documents

Bowling Game Instruction Sheet

Bowling Pin Template

Create Your Own Bowling Game


This activity is designed to encourage students to become interested in the ever-popular but often little-understood family activity and sport of bowling, as portrayed in Crystal Allen's How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy.

Detailed Description:

Using the instructions and templates provided, students will make a bowling game with paper bowling pins and a round object or wad of paper as a ball. They can play the game with friends or by themselves. They can keep score using the Online Bowling Score Calculator on the website, or they can keep score manually using the Bowling Score Sheets and the instructions on how to score from the same website. Students will use the following instructions:

In How Lamar's Big Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy, Lamar Washington calls himself "the king of Strikers." You can become the king of your own bowling alley by making these paper bowling pins.

Carefully cut out the templates. Note that the parts of the lines with XXXXX on them are cut to the point where the dotted lines and solid lines meet.

Fold back the tabs with the letters.

Fold the dotted lines. The--------- lines should be folded "mountain" (with the fold to the outside, or up) and the |-|-| lines should be folded "valley" (with the fold to the inside, or down)

Glue the tabs to the smooth (tabless) side of each part of the pin. You will have to make the folds first so you can line the tabs up with the smooth side. (This will make sense once you have cut and folded the template.) You may need to use a craft stick, toothpick, or wooden coffee stirrer to put enough glue on the tab so that the paper sticks together. Be patient!!

Stand your pin up and let the glue dry.

Make two, five, or nine more pins so you can have a triangle. The best is to have 10 total pins.

Set up your pins with a backstop of some kind. This could be the wall to the room, a shoebox with one of the long sides cut out, or a piece of cardboard made to stand up. You want to do this to prevent your pins from flying too far away when you hit them with your ball. Make your ball out of the materials you have decided to use, or use a small rubber ball or gumball if one is available.

You can roll the ball by putting it down and hitting it with a finger, by flicking it with your thumb and forefinger, or by actually rolling it using your thumb and forefinger. See how many of your pins you can knock down.

Books to Display:

  • Abramovitz, Melissa. Bowling. Lucent, 2014
  • Allen, Crystal. How Lamar's bad prank won a Bubba-sized trophy. Balzer and Bray, 2011
  • Brezenoff, Steven. The bowling lane without any strikes. Stone Arch, 2014
  • Cruickshank, Don. Bowling. AV2 by Weigl, 2014


  • Scissors
  • Bowling pin templates (3, 6, or 10)
  • A glue stick, white glue, rubber cement, or Scotch tape
  • A small craft stick, toothpick, or wooden coffee stirrer to apply the glue, if using glue
  • Small rubber or plastic balls, gumballs, duct tape to wad up and make into balls, or quarter sheets of paper to make a wadded-up ball (be creative—you can use whatever you have available.) More ideas for balls include marbles and balls made of rubber bands.
  • Instruction Sheet for "Create Your Own Bowling Game"


  • Bowling Tips - This resource is quite complete. It has most of the information that a novice or beginner would need about bowling, from tips on the technique to etiquette, to scoring. There are videos and a score calculator.

Bulletin Board Idea:

Put up pictures of people bowling, pins and balls, score sheets, and bowling alleys.



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Academic Program

Active Program

Annotated Bibliography

Book Quiz

Passive Program

Bowling Game Instruction Sheet

Bowling Pin Template


How Lamar's Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy
The Laura Line

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Created on Mar 29, 2016 | Last updated April 17, 2016