Jerry Spinelli: je-ree (rhymes with ferry) spi-NEL-ee
The noted novelist and children's author
Jerry Spinelli, born on the 1st February, 1941 at Norristown in Pennsylvania,
United States, is best known for his specialized novels intended towards readers
in their early adolescence. His well-known books include his Space Station
Seventh Grade (1982), the 1991 Newbery Medal winning Maniac Magee, the
Newbery Honor-winning 1998 novel Wringer, the 2000 novel Stargirl and the
the 2003 historical fiction novel Milkweed.
At the age of 16, Spinelli decided to be a writer, when his football team at high school conquered a tough opponent in a big game, young Jerry Spinelli composed a poem recognizing this achievement. To the surprise of Jerry Spinelli the poem was published the following day in the local newspaper. Spinelli started his professional writing career by attempting books for adults and not for children. However, these books were rejected by publishers and remained unpublished. Jerry Spinellis imagination flew one night when one of his six children ate fried chicken that was being saved for the following day. Spinelli described this event, and the description eventually turned in to the story line for his first published novel entitled Space Station Seventh Grade. Spinelli originally wanted it to be an adult novel but adult publishers rejected it since the central character was a 13 year old child and finally it became a famous children's book.
Spinellis 1984 novel Who Put That Hair in My Toothbrush? describes characters Megin & Greg who are inspired by his real life children Molly & Jeffrey. Next he created children's books Jason and Marceline published in 1986 which is the sequel to Space Station Seventh Grade. In 1988, Spinelli wrote Dump Days. In 1990 he wrote Maniac Magee which won the Newbery Medal in the subsequent year. The novel has been developed in to a tv movie. His other major works in 1991 were There's a Girl in My Hammerlock, Report to the Principal's Office & Fourth Grade Rats. In 1992, Spinelli worked on The Bathwater Gang Gets Down to Business, Who Ran My Underwear Up the Flagpole? & Do the Funky Pickle. Spinellis novel Stargirl has also been developed into a movie due for release in 2009. He has also published his autobiography by the title Knots in My Yo-Yo String in 1998. His 2007 novel Eggs outlines a relationship that develops between two children out of loneliness. Spinelli published Love, Stargirl the sequel to his previous bestseller in 2007 . This novel was published by Knopf Books and was followed by Smiles to Go in 2008.
Jerry Spinelli graduated in 1963 from Gettysburg College and completed his MA in 1964 from Johns Hopkins University. He is married Eileen Mesi in 1977 and together they have six children. Jerry served in the United States Navy Reserve between 1966 and 1972.
This biography was last updated on 03/04/2009.
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An Interview with Jerry Spinelli about Loser
Where did you go to school? Was it anything like John W. Satterfield
Elementary School or Monroe Middle School?
I attended Hartranft Elementary in Norristown, PA. It resembled Satterfield Elementary only in the broadest sense. I do remember one or two classmates who seemed to incite the others' disapproval. As I wrote the graduation chapter, I pictured the so-called "all-purpose room" where mine took place, but the resemblance ends there. The teachers in the story do not resemble my own, nor did we have a field day.
Are there any of your own school experiences that you used in the book? If so, could you tell us about one or two?
There probably are, but I can't remember any offhand. When I went looking for Zinkoff's experiences, I think I found them on the other side of my own coin. For example, Zinkoff is slow, I was fast (50 yard dash champion of Norristown grade schools); Zinkoff is awkward, I was athletic; Zinkoff gets one A, I got lots. If Zinkoff had been in my class, I probably would have thought he was a loser too. Despite the A's, I had a lot to learn.
After a difficult day at school, how did you make yourself feel better, or how do you ...
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