Jerry Spinelli won the Newbery Medal in 1991 for Maniac Magee, one of his more than 25 acclaimed books for young readers. He now lives in West Chester, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Eileen Spinelli, who is also an author of children's books.
With this collection of four vaguely unsettling tales, Spinelli (Maniac Magee) offers a glimpse into the magical and unexpected ways contact with books can change lives. Many of the characters are less than likable, yet Spinelli tells their stories with sympathy and humor. The turning point for each of the troubled, lonely children comes with the discovery of a blank blue library card. In one story, a girl has ceased to exist on her own because of the endless hours she spends watching television. The blue card leads her to a library, where she finds the brief story of her life, prior to her TV mania, in the biography section. The details in the pages set her off on a frenetic search for the life she has lost. In another tale, a book-loving city girl has moved to farm country, where she meets an angry, confused teenager on a bookmobile. The blue card triggers an uneasy correspondence that eventually brings them together as friends. Spinelli's spare writing and careful pacing reinforce the dramatic nature of the events as they unfold. While the premise (the card) behind the stories may seem contrived, the author uses it effectively to take a close look at how young people deal with hard circumstances. Ages 8-14. (Apr.)
Gr 4-8‘These four stories feature different characters, styles, and moods, but each plot hinges upon a library card. In "Mongoose," the strongest story, two 12-year-old boys become partners in crime and rebellion. Weasel convinces Mongoose to shoplift and spray graffiti, but when Mongoose enters a library for the first time and is mesmerized by a book of unusual facts, the friendship begins to unravel. The point of view shifts from Mongoose to Weasel halfway through, neatly accentuating their different outlooks. "Brenda" is a television addict trying to survive the Great TV Turn-Off. The satire is obvious but the humor is still sharp and insightful. "Sonseray" is a troubled homeless teen, tortured by memories of his mother. His library card brings him to a preschool storytime and the storyteller is mysteriously compelled to read an adult romance novel to Sonseray: the same book the boy's mother repeatedly read to him as a child. When he checks it out, he regains some of the precious memories he has yearned for. "April Mendez" gets picked up by a bookmobile, where she meets an older girl who claims to be hijacking the vehicle. April befriends the girl and gives her a library card as a farewell present. In this story, the friendship and trust between the two develops without the card. Taking all four tales together, the device seems a bit forced and artificial, rather than a unifying element. Though not completely satisfying as a collection, Spinelli's unique characters and lively wit will interest many readers.‘Steven Engelfried, West Linn Public Library, OR
"Spinelli is able to convey the message with humor and tenderness and with a fast-talking immediacy about the preteen scene....the librarians are perfect". -- Booklist