Jerry Spinelli

Biography

Jerry Spinelli

“Whom do I write for? I write for the story. Each story, it seems to me, knows best how it should be told. As I once put my ear to the railroad track, I listen now for the voice of my story.”—Jerry Spinelli

Jerry Spinelli is the author of more than a dozen books for young readers, including Maniac Magee, winner of the Newbery Medal, and Stargirl a New York Times bestseller and an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults. Spinelli made his picture book debut with My Daddy and Me, a loving tribute to fathers and sons.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Growing up, Jerry Spinelli was really serious about baseball. He played for the Green Sox Little League team in his hometown of Norristown, Pennsylvania, and dreamed of one day playing for the major leagues, preferably as shortstop for the New York Yankees.

One night during high school, Spinelli watched the football team win an exciting game against one of the best teams in the country. While everyone else rode about town tooting horns in celebration, Spinelli went home and wrote “Goal to Go,” a poem about the game’s defining moment, a goal-line stand. His father submitted the poem to the Norristown Times–Herald and it was featured in the middle of the sports page a few days later. He then traded in his baseball bat for a pencil, because he knew that he wanted to become a writer.

After graduating from Gettysburg College with an English degree, Spinelli worked full time as a magazine editor. Every day on his lunch hour, he would close his office door and craft novels on yellow magazine copy paper. He wrote four adult novels in 12 years of lunchtime writing, but none of these were accepted for publication. When he submitted a fifth novel about a 13-year-old boy, adult publishers once again rejected his work, but children’s publishers embraced it. Spinelli feels that he accidentally became an author of children’s books.

Spinelli’s hilarious books entertain both children and young adults. Readers see his life in his autobiography Knots in My Yo-Yo String, as well as in his fiction. Crash came out of his desire to include the beloved Penn Relays of his home state of Pennsylvania in a book, while Maniac Magee is set in a fictional town based on his own hometown.

When asked if he does research for his writing, Spinelli says: “The answer is yes and no. No, in the sense that I seldom plow through books at the library to gather material. Yes, in the sense that the first 15 years of my life turned out to be one big research project. I thought I was simply growing up in Norristown, Pennsylvania; looking back now I can see that I was also gathering material that would one day find its way into my books.”

On inspiration, the author says: “Ideas come from ordinary, everyday life. And from imagination. And from feelings. And from memories. Memories of dust in my sneakers and humming whitewalls down a hill called Monkey.”

Spinelli lives with his wife and fellow writer, Eileen, in West Chester, Pennsylvania. While they write in separate rooms of the house, the couple edits and celebrates one another’s work. Their six children have given Jerry Spinelli a plethora of clever material for his writing.

PRAISE

CRASH
“Readers will devour this humorous glimpse of what jocks are made of while learning that life does not require crashing helmet-headed through it.”—Starred, School Library Journal

“Spinelli packs a powerful moral wallop, leaving it to the pitch-perfect narration to drive home his point.”—Publishers Weekly

KNOTS IN MY YO-YO STRING
“As Spinelli effortlessly spins the story of an ordinary Pennsylvania boy, he also documents the evolution of an exceptional author.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“In this warm, deeply personal memoir of the kid he was, Spinelli takes us to Norristown, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s.”—Booklist

STARGIRL
“Newbery-winning Spinelli spins a magical and heartbreaking tale from the stuff of high school.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews

“Part fairy godmother, part outcast, part dream-come-true, the star of Spinelli’ s latest novel possesses many of the mythical qualities as the protagonist of his Maniac Magee.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“Sixteen-year-old Leo recounts Stargirl’ s sojourn at Mica High in an allegorical story that is engagingly written.”—Booklist

TOOTER PEPPERDAY
“Tooter is a real-life, plucky, resourceful heroine who scampers through this novel for new readers.”—The Horn Book Magazine

“The characters are well-developed—Tooter is at times reminiscent of Ramona—and the story is enjoyable.” —School Library Journal

Videos

Random House Newbery Authors Video

Random House Newbery authors discuss their reactions to winning the award and give insights into the craft of writing. Featuring: Jerry Spinelli, 1991 Medal winner ...

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Eileen & Jerry Spinelli Classroom Cast

In an intimate portrayal, authors Eileen & Jerry Spinelli, discuss the craft of writing; its hardships and triumphs. Join Eileen and Jerry to learn about the inspiration and history behind Stargirl, Milkweed, Summerhouse ...

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displaying results 1–5 of 17 titles


Stargirl/Love, Stargirl Paperback Box Set

By Jerry Spinelli

Originally published in 2000, Stargirl was instantly embraced and has sold over one million copies. With its depiction of a nonconformist with a heart of gold, its lyrical writing from ...

Recommended for AGE 12 and up


Release Date July 8, 2014

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Hokey Pokey

By Jerry Spinelli

Welcome to Hokey Pokey. A place and a time, when childhood is at its best: games to play, bikes to ride, experiences to be had. There are no adults in ...

Recommended for AGE 10 and up


Release Date Jan. 8, 2013

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Hark! A Shark!

By Bonnie Worth; illustrated by Aristides Ruiz and Joe Mathieu

In this latest installment of the Cat in the Hat's Learning Library, the Cat introduces beginning readers to all kinds of sharks! From the smallest (the dwarf lantern) to ...

Recommended for AGE 5-8 years


Release Date Jan. 8, 2013

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The Stargirl Collection

By Jerry Spinelli

This ebook collection contains the complete text of Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli's modern classic for young readers, and its acclaimed follow-up, Love, Stargirl.

Recommended for AGE 12 and up


Release Date Dec. 11, 2012

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Today I Will

By Jerry Spinelli

Reassuring advice for every day of the year

From an esteemed husband-and-wife team comes a book of daily advice and insight. In dated entries meant to be read one per ...

Recommended for AGE 8-12 years


Release Date Oct. 13, 2009

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