Jerry Spinelli

Book Review: Stargirl

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Stargirl 

Written by Jerry Spinelli 
Published May 14, 2002 by Knopf Books for Young Readers 
Topics: School Situations, Young Love, Individuality
Young Adult, 208 pages 
 

Stargirl is unlike any girl at Mica High School, because she doesn’t try to be like “them”. Instead, Stargirl is only content to be herself. As soon as she arrives at Mica her name is whispered in the hallways and she gets curious stares from classmates, because she’s nothing like “them”. Stargirl wears long skirts, plays a ukulele, sings Happy Birthday to everyone, and even brings her pet rat named Cinnamon to school. Stargirl is also sincere and deeply cares for others without seeking acknowledgment.  Students begin to wonder if she notices the stares and if she’ll ever become more like them.

Opinions about Stargirl gradually change at Mica High as she’s admired. People desire to see her unique spirit at sporting games. However, events occur and just as fast as people grow to appreciate her it’s suddenly taken away again.

The book is told from Leo Borlock’s perspective who is torn between amazement that Stargirl doesn’t conform to others and desires that she act more like “them”. A love between Leo and Stargirl slowly develops, but Leo is often unsure if he can handle the stares as well. However, Stargirl doesn’t do “normal” well.

I thought Stargirl was an enjoyable book that makes you think about what’s truly important. Is it more important to dare to be different or be among many? Jerry Spinelli is a Newbery Medal Winner for Maniac Magee. There is a sequel, Love, Stargirl, that is from her perspective a year later. Stargirl won numerous awards including ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults in 2001.

 
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Book Review: Eggs by Jerry Spinelli

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Eggs 

Written by Jerry Spinelli 
Published June 1, 2007 by Little, Brown Young Readers
Ages: 10+ 
224 pages 
Topics: Death, Friendship, Dysfunctional Families
 

David is nine years old who lives with his grandmother since his mother died in an accident. He takes his frustrations out on his grandmother and doesn’t have any friends. He always follows the rules, since his mother’s death was caused by someone who didn’t follow the rules.

Primrose is thirteen years old who lives with her fortune-teller mother and her own ‘room’ is an old vehicle that she hopes to beautify. People often egg her ‘room’, but she tries not to take it too personal. She’s not sure who her father is and often pretends to be someone else.

David’s first encounter with eggs is when he’s dragged to an Easter egg hunt with his grandmother. David finds an egg, but after a second glance he notices that the egg was resting on lips. This is the first time he meets Primrose, yet he believes she’s dead.

David and Primrose begin unlikely friendship. David now sneaks out late as Primrose takes him ‘shopping’, which is actually searching through trash to sell items at a flea market. David knows he’ll never get into trouble since his grandmother won’t tell his father even if she does notice him gone. Primrose also doesn’t tell her mother about her late night shopping trips, since her own mother often isn’t thinking straight. David and Primrose often yell their frustrations at each other, but they gradually help each other with their own personal struggles.

I had difficulties with Eggs, because I honestly don’t think a nine and thirteen year old who aren’t siblings, neighbors, or attend the same school would become friends. However, they are never truly friends instead they both come from slightly dysfunctional families and together they slowly realize how to live through their pain and heal in the process.  Personally, I don’t think this was Jerry Spinelli’s best book. I suggest Maniac Magee for a great read.

Book Review: Maniac Magee

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Maniac Magee

Written by Jerry Spinelli 
Published November 1, 1999 by Little, Brown Young Readers
Ages: 10+
180 pages
Topics: Realistic Fiction, Racism, Homelessness, Sports
 

Maniac Magee wasn’t always known as Manic Magee, instead he was born as Jeffrey Lionel Magee. There are many legends about him and it’s sometimes difficult to know the whole truth. His parents died when he was only three, so he lived with his aunt and uncle who continually fought. Jeffrey had enough and he ran away, but he didn’t just run away. No, he ran and ran until his shoes fell apart. You may be curious how Jeffrey became ‘maniac’. When he finally slowed down, he left memorable impressions with individuals. Some people thought it appeared odd to rescue a kid from the feared house in the neighborhood or throw a football with one hand or eat dinner without knowing anyone at the table or hit a baseball from an unbeatable pitcher. Finally, whenever anybody discussed the new kid he was now known as Maniac. Maniac Magee didn’t have a home, so he often ran house to backyard to even the zoo. The legend is true that he never went to school, since he didn’t have a home to go to when school was out. Maniac Magee is most remembered for bringing the East Side and West Side together, which was racial divided by misunderstandings.

Maniac Magee won a Newbery Medal in 1991. Some Newbery Medal books I don’t think are worthy, but Maniac Magee is worth the high honor. I really enjoyed this book and even cried. It’s a great book with a powerful message to break down barriers and not keep prejudices, instead learn and understand about each other. There are racial remarks and hate messages throughout the book. The subject is complex, but there are many humorous situations as Maniac Magee doesn’t see black and white instead he sees challenges to overcome. I highly recommend this book.

     For the life of him, he couldn’t figure why these East Enders called themselves black. He kept looking and looking, and the colors he found were gingersnap and light fudge and acorn and butter rum and cinnamon and burnt orange. But never licorice, which, to him was real black.

– Jerry Spinelli (Maniac Magee, page 51)

Scholastic Lesson Plans for Maniac Magee

Maniac Magee Lesson Plans, Vocabulary, & Activities

Various Lesson Plans with Maniac Magee, Newbery Medal, Jerry Spinelli’s Biography 

Book Review: The Library Card

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The Library Card

Written by Jerry Spinelli

Ages: 9+, 148 pages

The Library Card describes various ways that a library card enhances someone’s life. The book contains four ‘mini’ stories about teens experiences that guide them to obtain a library card. Each mini story is divided into chapters. Mongoose turns from shoplifting to curiosity about information for a particular insect. Brenda discovers the library during a TV turn off week and realizes that she doesn’t truly know herself. Sonseray finds comfort at the library where he’s missing elsewhere in life. April rides a bookmobile and meets a unique individual. Overall, I thought the book was good that highlights four very different teens who benefited from the library.