Jerry Spinelli

An Old Soul Writer

About the Author

Jerry Spinelli has won numerous awards for his writing, including one Newbery award for Maniac Magee, and one Newbery honor award for his book, Wringer. Another notable book Jerry wrote is Stargirl. This American writer wrote 30 published books!

He grew up in rural Pennsylvania and went to Johns Hopkins University. Jerry Spinelli is married to Eileen Spinelli, another children's author. They reside in Pennsylvania with their 6 children and 21 grandchildren. He is said to use a lot of material from his six adventurous kids. Spinelli also uses feelings and events from his own childhood. One example is how he put his first pet rat, Bernadette, in his book There's a Girl in My Hammerlock.

When Jerry Spinelli was a kid he wanted to be a cowboy, and then later he wanted to be a baseball player for the Yankees. He wasn't good at playing baseball so he ended his dream of becoming a Yankees shortstop. During a winning high school football game, while his classmates were all celebrating, he went home to write a poem about the game that was later published in the local newspaper. This event made him want to become a writer. At first he wanted to write books for adults but he could not get anything published, due to his subject matter. Children's publishers liked his books so by accident he became a well known author of children's books.

In his free time when not writing, Jerry enjoys picking berries and hanging out with his wife and 21 grandchildren.

Jerry's Books

Books Read:

There's a Girl in My Hammerlock



The Library Card

If you are thinking about reading a Jerry Spinelli book, avoid Loser and read There's a Girl in My Hammerlock or Stargirl.

Common Themes in Jerry Spinelli's Books

Jerry Spinelli shows in his books that being an outsider is ok. He shows this in Stargirl when she doesn't have many friends and carries a pet rat with her but everything ends up all right for her. Spinelli also shows this when in his book, There's a Girl in My Hammerlock, Maisie gets picked on by her other teammates because she is the only girl on the school's wrestling team. Another example is when in the book, Loser, Zinkoff isn't good at sports and loves school so other kids pick on him. These traits of the main characters in these books all have being an outcast in common.
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Jerry's Style of Writing

Jerry Spinelli likes writing complex sentences, especially when listing. In fact he uses complex sentences 50% of the time on a random page. Here are some of the specific features of his style that I recorded while conducting this study:

  • He mostly uses complex sentences 50% of the time on a random page.
  • He constantly uses many adjectives to describe something.
  • Out of four of his books I read, two of them, Stargirl and The Library Card, were set up to make me think there was going to have magic in them but they turned out to not have magic.

On a random page in a Jerry Spinelli book:

  • Sentences vary in length from 1-30 words per sentence.
  • Average sentence length is 13 words.
  • 50% of sentences are complex; 33% are simple; 6% are compound.
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A Story Written in Jerry Spinelli's Style

When Willow won the state's dancing contest everyone she knew was astonished. Neighbors were gaping as she strutted down the sidewalk showing her enormous trophy. No one ever would have thought that the small girl would ever achieve in anything, even being the worst at something. They did not know that she could even talk, let alone dance! At school the next day, the other students treated her differently, respectfully. Willow noticed it.

That day at lunch, the popular kids invited her to their table, the cool table, the gossip table. Willow quietly ate her lunch her mom packed the night before. The silence was broken when the students at her table started bombarding her with questions about the dance competition, their eyes bulging. When they asked her to sit with them at lunch the next day, a big smile broke out as she accepted their offer. At lunch that day, her new friends started picking on her old friends, the friends she had before the contest. The way her new friends treated them upset her, this made her think.

Should I really hang out with kids that are mean to others?

The next day at lunch, she sat at her old friends table. She asked them if they could all be friends again, and they all agreed. The popular kids did not: they told her that she had to choose between the two groups of friends. Her final decision was to stay with her friends she had before the dance competition. She wasn't popular anymore but she was one thing, happy.