Jerry Spinelli

Newbery Award-Winning Author

Quick Timeline

1941 Born February 1, 1941 in Norristown, Pennsylvania

Education: attended Temple University 1964, Johns Hopkins University M.A 1964, Gettysburg College A.B. 1963

1977 Married Eileen Mesi, another children's writer

Children: Kevin, Barbara, Jeffrey, Molly, Sean, and Ben

Hobbies and interests: Tennis, country music, travel, pet rats

Eileen & Jerry Spinelli Classroom Cast

How I Became a Writer

Spinelli's first claim to literary fame came about when a local paper published a poem he wrote about a hometown team's football victory. Although an early dream had been to become a cowboy, this experience prompted Spinelli to reconsider his career plans, and began to seriously consider writing as an option.

He subsequently worked as an editor for a department store publication and held a number of other odd jobs that allowed him to pursue a writing career in his spare time.

Maniac Magee By Jerry Spinelli, Book Trailer by Angie Wheeler

Maniac Magee

Although some critics felt that Spinelli dilutes his message about the absurdity of racism by presenting Maniac Magee as a fable, others cited the author's focus on such an incident as noteworthy. Alison Teal, in her New York Times Book Review appraisal, judged that "Spinelli grapples … with a racial tension rarely addressed in fiction for children in the middle grades," and Washington Post Book World contributor Claudia Logan lauded Spinelli's "colorful writing and originality."

Winner of the Newbery Medal 1991

Milkweed - Book Trailer


Praising the author's choice of narrator as a "masterstroke" in terms of illustrating the horrors of the war for a younger readership, a Kirkus Reviews writer explained that Misha "simply reports graphically, almost clinically, on the slow devastation" suffered by Warsaw's Jewish population during the Holocaust.

Love, Stargirl Book Trailer


"As always respectful of his audience," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly,"Spinelli poses searching questions about loyalty to one's friends and oneself and leaves readers to form their own answers."

Loser by Jerry Spinelli - Book Talk


Peter D. Sieruta noted in a Horn Book review that through the novel's "present-tense, omniscient narrative," readers are introduced to another one of "Spinelli's larger-than-life protagonists," and praised the novel as "a wonderful character study." In School Library Journal Edward Sullivan called Donald "a flawed but tough kid with an unshakable optimism that readers will find endearing," while a Kirkus reviewer dubbed Loser "a masterful character portrait; here's one loser who will win plenty of hearts."

Wringer - Book Trailer


In a School Library Journal review of Wringer, Tim Rausch cited the novel for "Humor, suspense, a bird with a personality, and a moral dilemma familiar to everyone," characters who are "memorable, convincing, and both endearing and villainous," and a "riveting plot."

Newbery Honor Book 1998

Knots in my Yo-yo String

Knots on My Yoyo String Memoir

A reviewer for Publishers Weekly called this 1998 memoir a "montage of sharply focused memories," and concluded that as "Spinelli effortlessly spins the story of an ordinary Pennsylvania boy, he also documents the evolution of an exceptional author."

Works Cited:

"Spinelli, Jerry 1941-." HighBeam Research, 01 Jan. 2009. Web. 02 May 2015.

"Eileen & Jerry Spinelli Classroom Cast." YouTube. Random House, 12 Nov. 2009. Web. 01 May 2015.

Rohn, Kate. "Knots in My Yo-yo String." You Tube. You Tube, 2 Mar. 2014y. Web. 02 May 2015.

Abarrigaews. "Wringer - Book Trailer." YouTube. You Tube, 1 May 2012. Web. 01 May 2015.

Metzger, Kate. "Loser by Jerry Spinelli - Book Talk." YouTube. YouTube, 8 Apr. 2013. Web. 01 May 2015

21081, GG. "Maniac Magee By Jerry Spinelli, Book Trailer by Angie Wheeler."YouTube. YouTube, 28 Nov. 2010. Web. 01 May 2015.

Spurgeon, TLK. "Milkweed - Book Trailer." YouTube. YouTube, 18 June 2013. Web. 01 May 2015.

"Love, Stargirl Book Trailer." YouTube. Random House Kids, 1 Feb. 2008. Web. 01 May 2015.

"The Spinellis: Bookfest 03." Jerry & Eileen Spinelli Webcast. Library of Congress, 04 Oct. 2003. Web. 02 May 2015.

"Jerry Spinelli Book Page." Jerry Spinelli Book Page. Temean Consulting, 2009. Web. 01 May 2015.