Saturday, January 5, 2008

Book #1, 2008: LOVE STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli

I've been floored, the last few days, in reading kid lit folks' posts- fifty books read in 2007, one hundred books, two hundred books. I love to read, and can't think of anything I'd rather do than sit  for a day with a great book. These days,  though, most of my reading is squeezed into little snippets. We have the 30 minutes of family reading time each night, but otherwise, I do two pages here, or three pages there, usually waiting for various and assorted practices to be over-- right now it's basketball. Generally, it takes me about a week to finish a novel. 

The first novel I finished in 2008 is LOVE, STARGIRL by Jerry Spinelli. I loved this book. I read STARGIRL several years ago. I'm not, unfortunately, one of those readers who remembers everything in great detail. I do remember that book was about a girl who was a total nonconformist, and Leo, the boy she loved, who found himself pulled between Stargirl and the "roar of the adolescent crowd." Ultimately the crowd won. 

In this book, Stargirl and her family have moved far away. Stargirl is no longer trying to fit into a high school crowd, instead, she is home schooled;  mostly she seems like a smart kid who figures out what she wants to learn and sets out to learn it. The book, written in the form of a very long letter to Leo is about the relationships she forges with a variety of people:

• Dootsie- a five-year-old free spirit who becomes Stargirl's best friend
• Marge- owner of the local donut shop
• Charlie- an elderly gentleman whose daughter drops him off at the cemetery every morning, so that he can spend his days with Grace, the love of his life, who died four years ago. 
• Alvina- a rough and tough eleven-year-old tomboy, who fights with everyone she meets
• The town agoraphobic, a woman who has not left her house in nine years
• Arnold- he is hard to describe. I couldn't tell, throughout the book, if he was just a little different, or mentally ill, or just one of those kids who never fit in at school and never quite recovered. At any rate, he plays a key role in the book.
• Stargirl's dad- who left his longtime job as an engineering supervisor to take a job he had always wanted, as a milkman
• Stargirl's mom- a costume designer
• Perry- the town charmer and "bad boy" who steals Stargirl's heart

The strength of this book, in my opinion, are these amazing characters and the relationships they form with each other. They are so, so real! This is not a book I would probably give to elementary kids, unless they were pretty mature readers and thinkers, but the characterizations are so wonderful that I may pull a few out to use when I work with fifth graders on a fiction unit later this month. I also loved the  way Jerry Spinelli pulled all of the characters together in last couple of chapters, and even brought in Stargirl's wisest and most trusted mentor from the first book.

A very satisfying first read…

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