Stargirl, Jerry Spinelli

This is my last in my series of books with characters that are on the edge of  society’s “norms” in school.  This is one of my favorites– and I don’t know how exactly I’m going to talk about it. I can only hope I give it justice.

Synopsis: Stargirl is… something special.  From her name (which she gave herself),  her ukulele, and her pet rat Cinnamon, she stands out in a crowd.

Here are some ways they describe her:

  • “On the contrary, she is one of us.  Most decidedly. She is us more than we are us. She is, I think, who we really are. Or were…. If anyone is acting, it is us. She’s real.” (32)
  • “It was a rebellion she led, a rebellion for rather than against. For ourselves.”  (41)
  • “Bad things did not stick to her. Correction: her bad things did not stick to her. Our bad things stuck to her very much… All her feelings, all of her attentions flowed outward. She had no ego.” (53)
  • “She was bendable light, she shone around every corner of my day. She taught me to revel. She taught me to wonder. She taught me to laugh.” (107)
  •  On weekends and after dinner, we delivered many potted violets. And CONGRATULATIONS! balloons. And cards of many sentiments…. They were meaningful. She never left her name.
  • “When a Stargirl cries, she does not shed tears, but light.”

Leo falls head over heels for our Stargirl. Her popularity was high until she helped a member of a rival basketball team. He realizes that she’s so different, nobody is speaking to her. More importantly, no one is speaking to him. So he tries to turn her “normal.”  And she really tries… for him. She changes into “Susan” (her birth name) and tries to be ordinary.  But then she realizes she’s not happy, and she’s not herself, and this change hasn’t helped her popularity stock anyway. So she returns to her more “primitive nature”, makes her mark, and disappears.

Leo is still confounded by her.  As their friend Archie comments to Leo,  “Well-named. Stargirl. Though I think she had simpler things in mind.  Star people are rare. You’ll be lucky to meet another.”  Leo still holds out hope that they’ll meet again. He doesn’t feel alone, because he knows she’s out there.

Bookworm’s Commentary

  • There really are no words for how good this book is.  You need to go read it now.
  • I listened to Love, Stargirl   on my way to RVa this weekend. It’s a great sequel, from Stargirl’s point of view in a series of letters to Leo the year after she moves away.
  • The first time I read this was during a snow day, in a couple hours. I also watched Amelie the same day which I highly recommend if you’re cool with French movies (which automatically means random nudity).  But if you haven’t seen Amelie,  this girl goes way out of her way to make people happy. She emits light. The movie is vibrant, as is the book. Either way, I was shedding happy tears at the end of that day. I can only wish I have that much light coming from me.

Class Stuff:
I’m gonna go with Ms. Bowman on this one (hey! I keep forgetting! My children’s lit prof that I talked about so much last summer has been reading the blog. Ms. Bowman, I hope you don’t mind me talking about you.)  Anyway, she wasn’t sure her fourth grade class was ready for it, and when she kept it from them, they went to the library and got it! They loved it, and really related to Stargirl, and to be honest, made Ms. B. regret holding it back from them.

So, by telling you this story, I’m trying to say: It’s Jerry Spinelli. He’s not writing anything that needs to be held back for any particular reason (ie nothing to be banned over). When a kid is ready for Stargirl, they’ll be ready for Stargirl. Don’t let age be a factor.

Grade: A+.  May even be better than Maniac. 
This book is inspiring. It’s a call to be yourself, and be more than you are. I’ve been reading a lot of books about people not fitting in.  This book is about the confidence that happens when it doesn’t matter whether you’re “in” or “out.”  If you haven’t read it, go now. I haven’t given it justice, just trust me that it’s awesome.

PS Next week Banned Book Week! 🙂 


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