I’m thrilled today with a 2 question interview from Newbery winner Jerry Spinelli! The first question brings me back to when I first met with with my middle daughter, then probably around nine-years-old. The second question I pose him is to give me his Top 10 Books he thinks everyone should read. I’m also giving away a copy of his latest book, The Warden’s Daughter. Learn more about the book and enter the giveaway at the bottom.
I remember meeting Jerry Spinelli at an author event in Wellesley many years ago with my tween daughter. The front row was entirely made of a group of young girls — maybe 5th grade — who were huge fans of Stargirl. They were desperate to know what happened to her beyond the books. Jerry was so gracious and lovely to give them a hint, and I overhead them talking in the parking lot afterwards, giddy with joy. They were having a “I Met a Rock Star Moment.”
His connection with his readers really struck me. Many authors are asked about endings that are not specified. The query is often parried away, and the young reader left hanging, though you can imagine how important it is — what a big deal it is — to the child that they made a parent drive them to an event just to pose their question.
I noticed through my tween daughter too, who met him, how easily he makes a connection with fans. I could tell she was ready to adopt him as her grandfather, and ready to practically slide into his lap and make him read aloud to her.
PickyKidPix looks very young here … I think she was in 4th grade but she had read at a few of Jerry Spinelli’s books already.
My question to Jerry: What do young readers mean to you? When you meet the kids that read your books, do they inspire you in any way?
I think of them as “my people.” It’s always come naturally to me to talk to them on their own terms–across, not down. Maybe because I never grew up myself. When I wrote my first novel about a kid, the language was just there, waiting, like “Where you been, dude?” Inspiration doesn’t usually come when I meet kids. It comes when I read or hear about a kid doing something special, and by that I don’t mean hugely dramatic; I mean like one twilight in the neighborhood, me on the front step, and I don’t see them, I just hear them, two voices calling up and down the length of the block, two voices in the dusk after a long summer’s day: “‘Night, Ellen!” “‘Night, Sarah!”
What happens when I meet them is gratification, payoff, the sheer joyous reward of coming face to smile with a reader. Only then is my story finished, complete.
What are ten books you would want all kids to read and why?
10 Books All Kids Should Read from Jerry Spinelli
1. When You Are Happy by Eileen Spinelli
Rarely has so much humanity been packed into so few pages. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
I love good sci fi–this is sci fi plus–and this is as good as it gets. [chapter book, ages 10 and up]
3. Babar the Elephant by Jean de Brunhoff
For little kids. It may make you cry, and if it works for you as it did for me, it will acquaint you with the power of story. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
4. Ondine by Jean Giraudoux
A play. Ondine illuminates the best in us as only a special spirit can. [play, ages 14 and up]
5. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
My all-time favorite movie and one of my all-time novels. [chapter book, ages 8 and up]
6. The Trial by Franz Kafka
For older kids. To me it is the central novel of the 20th century. [adult novel, ages 15 and up]
7. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
“Begun as a series of letters from Kenneth Grahame to his son, The Wind in the Willows is a timeless tale of animal cunning and human camaraderie with Rat, Mole, Badger, and the irrepressible Toad of Toad Hall. Follow these little adventurers through gypsy caravans, stolen sports cars, and their Wild Wood.” [chapter book classic, ages 8 and up]
8. Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
Taught right, history should be the most interesting subject of all. Case in point. [chapter book, ages 10 and up]
9. “Jabberwocky” from Jabberwocky and Other Poems by Lewis Carroll
It’s commonly called “a nonsense poem,” but it’s more. It’s about the sounds of words and how they can evoke images and provoke fun. It demonstrates poetry’s ability to reach beyond the dictionary. [poetry, ages 8 and up]
10. A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
You will be that child.
“This gem of lyric prose has enchanted both young and old for over half a century and is now a modern classic.” [poetry, ages 9 and up]
The Warden’s Daughter GIVEAWAY
“The prison community is a powerful backdrop for Cammie’s turbulent coming of age, populated with messy lives that brighten in Cammie’s presence but that have their own demons to tame.” —The Bulletin
The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli
Cammie O’Reilly is the warden’s daughter, living in an apartment above the entrance to the Hancock County Prison. But she’s also living in a prison of grief and anger over the mother who died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. And in the summer of 1959, as twelve turns to thirteen, everything in Cammie’s life seems to be in flux. Cammie’s best friend, Reggie, is discovering lipstick and American Bandstand. A child killer is caught and brought to her prison. And the only mother figures in her life include a flamboyant shoplifter named Boo Boo and a sullen reformed arsonist of a housekeeper named Eloda. All will play a role in Cammie’s coming-of-age. But one in particular will make a staggering sacrifice to ensure that Cammie breaks free from her past. [chapter book, ages 11 and up]
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