Author Project: Jerry Spinelli

CEE 509: Children's Literature

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by Dayna Natter

Meet the Author

Early Life

Jerry Spinelli was born to Lou Spinelli and Lorna Bigler on February 1, 1941 in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Spinelli had very humble beginnings. He did not come from a lot of money and his family moved often. Spinelli was a very active child who loved playing sports. Initially, he had dreams of becoming a Major League baseball player. However, it was his love of sports that prompted him to publish his first literary work at the age of sixteen. In high school, Spinelli was a member of the football team. After a winning game, he wrote a poem about his experience. This poem was then published in the local newspaper. Ultimately, Spinelli abandoned his original career aspiration to actively pursue writing.


  • 1963: Gettysburg College (A.B. degree)

  • 1964: Johns Hopkins University (M.A. degree)


  • spent time writing shorts stories throughout his undergraduate career

  • was the Editor of the college literary magazine, The Mercury, throughout his undergraduate career

  • worked “normal jobs” during the day, so he could spend his free time writing books

  • 1966-1972: Served in the Naval Reserve

  • 1966-1989: Magazine Editor for Chilton Company

  • first few novels were rejected

  • Space Station Seventh Grade was intended for adults, but became his first children’s book (1982)


  • 1990: Boston Globe/Horn Book Award

  • 1991: Newbery Medal, American Library Association (ALA) and Carolyn Field Award

  • 1992: Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, Indian Paintbrush Award, Rhode Island Children's Book Award, Flicker Tale Award, Charlotte Award, Mark Twain Award, and Nevada Young Readers' Award

  • 1993: William Allen White Award, Pacific Northwest Award, Massachusetts Children's Book Award, Rebecca Caudhill Award, West Virginia Children's Book Award, Buckeye Children's Book Award, Land of Enchantment Award (Maniac Magee)

  • 1993: South Carolina Children's Book Award (Fourth Grade Rats)

  • 1993: California Young Readers' Medal (There's a Girl in My Hammerlock)

  • 1996: Best Book for Young Adults, ALA, and Best Books, School Library Journal (Crash)

  • 1997: Best Books, School Library Journal

  • 1998: Newbery Honor Book, Carolyn Field Award, and Josette Frank Award (Wringer)

  • 2003: Golden Kite Award for fiction, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and Carolyn Field Award co-winner (Milkweed)

  • 2004: Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award (Loser)

  • Children's Literature Citation, Drexel University, and Milner Award (Atlanta, GA), both for body of work.

Current Life

Today, Jerry Spinelli lives in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania with his wife, Eileen. She is also a children’s writer. Together, they have six children and twenty-two grandchildren.

Jerry Spinelli at the 2012 National Book Festival

Jerry Spinelli: 2012 National Book Festival

List of Spinelli's Books

Space Station Seventh Grade (1982)

Who Put That Hair in My Toothbrush? (1984)

Jason and Marceline (1986)

Dump Days (1988)

Maniac Magee (1990)

The Bathwater Gang (1990)

Fourth Grade Rats (1991)

Report to the Principal's Office (1991)

There's a Girl in My Hammerlock (1991)

Do The Funky Pickle (1992)

Who Ran My Underwear Up The Flagpole? (1992)

Picklemania (1993)

Tooter Pepperday (1995)

Crash (1996)

Wringer (1997)

The Library Card (1997)

Knots in My Yo-Yo String (1998)

Blue Ribbon Blues: A Tooter Tale (1998)

Taubenjagd (1998)

It's Fine to Be Nine (2000)

Stargirl (2000)

Loser (2002)

The Mighty Crashman (2002)

Milkweed (2003)

My Daddy and Me (2003)

Zinkoff, El Inutil (2003)

Eggs (2007)

Love, Stargirl (2007)

Smiles to Go (2008)

Today I Will: A Year of Quotes, Notes, and Promises to Myself (2009)

I Can Be Anything! (2010)

Jake and Lily (2012)

Third Grade Angels (2012)

Mama Seeton's Whistle (2015)


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