Stargirl (Readers Circle)

By Jerry Spinelli
Binding:Mass Market Paperback
Publisher:Laurel Leaf, (5/11/2004)
Language:English



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Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first.

Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love.


From the Hardcover edition.
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"Stargirl (Readers Circle)"
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Amazon.com Review

"She was homeschooling gone amok." "She was an alien." "Her parents were circus acrobats." These are only a few of the theories concocted to explain Stargirl Caraway, a new 10th grader at Arizona's Mica Area High School who wears pioneer dresses and kimonos to school, strums a ukulele in the cafeteria, laughs when there are no jokes, and dances when there is no music. The whole school, not exactly a "hotbed of nonconformity," is stunned by her, including our 16-year-old narrator Leo Borlock: "She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl."

In time, incredulity gives way to out-and-out adoration as the student body finds itself helpless to resist Stargirl's wide-eyed charm, pure-spirited friendliness, and penchant for celebrating the achievements of others. In the ultimate high school symbol of acceptance, she is even recruited as a cheerleader. Popularity, of course, is a fragile and fleeting state, and bit by bit, Mica sours on their new idol. Why is Stargirl showing up at the funerals of strangers? Worse, why does she cheer for the opposing basketball teams? The growing hostility comes to a head when she is verbally flogged by resentful students on Leo's televised Hot Seat show in an episode that is too terrible to air. While the playful, chin-held-high Stargirl seems impervious to the shunning that ensues, Leo, who is in the throes of first love (and therefore scornfully deemed "Starboy"), is not made of such strong stuff: "I became angry. I resented having to choose. I refused to choose. I imagined my life without her and without them, and I didn't like it either way."

Jerry Spinelli, author of Newbery Medalist Maniac Magee, Newbery Honor Book Wringer, and many other excellent books for teens, elegantly and accurately captures the collective, not-always-pretty emotions of a high school microcosm in which individuality is pitted against conformity. Spinelli's Stargirl is a supernatural teen character--absolutely egoless, altruistic, in touch with life's primitive rhythms, meditative, untouched by popular culture, and supremely self-confident. It is the sensitive Leo whom readers will relate to as he grapples with who she is, who he is, who they are together as Stargirl and Starboy, and indeed, what it means to be a human being on a planet that is rich with wonders. (Ages 10 to 14) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Part fairy godmother, part outcast, part dream-come-true, the star of Spinelli's novel shares many of the mythical qualities as the protagonist of his Maniac Magee. Spinelli poses searching questions about loyalty to one's friends and oneself and leaves readers to form their own answers, said PW in our Best Books citation. Ages 12-up. 
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-10-High school is a time of great conformity, when being just like everybody else is of paramount importance. So it is no surprise that Stargirl Caraway causes such excitement and confusion when she arrives at Mica High in Arizona. Initially, everyone is charmed by her unconventional behavior- she wears unusual clothing, she serenades the lunchroom with her ukulele, she practices random acts of kindness, she is cheerleader extraordinaire in a place with no school spirit. Naturally, this cannot last and eventually her individuality is reviled. The story is told by Leo, who falls in love with Stargirl's zany originality, but who then finds himself unable to let go of the need to be conventional. Spinelli's use of a narrator allows readers the distance necessary to appreciate Stargirl's eccentricity and Leo's need to belong to the group, without removing them from the immediacy of the story. That makes the ending all the more disappointing-to discover that Leo is looking back imposes an unnecessary adult perspective on what happened in high school. The prose lapses into occasionally unfortunate flowery flights, but this will not bother those readers-girls especially-who will understand how it feels to not quite fit the mold and who attempt to exult in their differences.
Sharon Grover, Arlington County Department of Libraries, VA 
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“A magical and heartbreaking tale.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred

An ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults

Publishers Weekly Choice of the Year’s Best Books

"A magical and heartbreaking tale." Kirkus Reviews, Starred

An ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults

Publishers Weekly Choice of the Year's Best Books -- Review
"Spinelli poses searching questions about loyalty to one's friends and oneself and leaves readers to form their own answers." 
-- Publishers Weekly, starred review (Publisher's Weekly ) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

When I was little, my Uncle Pete had a necktie with a porcupine painted on it.  I though that necktie was just about the neatest thing in the world.  Uncle Pete would stand patiently before me while I ran my fingers over the silky surface, half expecting to be stuck by one of the quills.  Once, he let me wear it.  I kept looking for one of my own, but I could never find one.



I was twelve when we moved from Pennsylvania to Arizona.  When Uncle Pete came to say goodbye, he was wearing the tie.  I though he did so to give me one last look at it, and I was grateful.  But then, with a dramatic flourish, he whipped off the tie and draped it around my neck.  "It's yours," he said.  "Going-away present."



I loved that porcupine tie so much that I decided to start a collection.  Two years after we settled in Arizona, the number of ties in my collection was still one.  Where do you find a porcupine necktie in Mica, Arizona - or anywhere else, for that matter?



On my fourteenth birthday, I read about myself in the local newspaper.  The family section ran a regular feature about kids on their birthdays, and my mother had called in some info.  The last sentence read: "As a hobby, Leo Borlock collects porcupine neckties."



Several days later, coming home from school, I found a plastic bag on our front step.  Inside was a gift-wrapped package tied with yellow ribbon.  The tag said, "Happy Birthday!"  I opened the package.  It was a porcupine necktie.  Two porcupines were tossing darts with their quills, while a third was picking its teeth.



I inspected the box, the tag, the paper.  Nowhere could I find the giver's name.  I asked my parents. I asked my friends.  I called my Uncle Pete.  Everyone denied knowing anything about it.



At the time I simply considered the episode a mystery.  It did not occur to me that was being watched.  We were all being watched.


"Did you see her?"
That was the first thing Kevin said to me on the first day of school, eleventh grade. We were waiting for the bell to ring.
"See who?" I said.
"Hah!" He craned his neck, scanning the mob. He had witnessed something remarkable; it showed on his face. He grinned, still scanning. "You'll know."
There were hundreds of us, milling about, calling names, pointing to summer-tanned faces we hadn't seen since June. Our interest in each other was never keener than during the fifteen minutes before the first bell of the first day.
I punched his arm. "Who?"
The bell rang. We poured inside.
I heard it again in homeroom, a whispered voice behind me as we said the Pledge of Allegiance.
"You see her?"
I heard it in the hallways. I heard it in English and Geometry:
"Did you see her?"
Who could it be? A new student? A spectacular blonde from California? Or from back East, where many of us came from? Or one of those summer makeovers, someone who leaves in June looking like a little girl and returns in September as a full-bodied woman, a ten-week miracle?
And then in Earth Sciences I heard a name: "Stargirl."
I turned to the senior slouched behind me. "Stargirl?" I said. "What kind of name is that?"
"That's it. Stargirl Caraway. She said it in homeroom."
"Stargirl?"
"Yeah."
And then I saw her. At lunch. She wore an off-white dress so long it covered her shoes. It had ruffles around the neck and cuffs and looked like it could have been her great-grandmother's wedding gown. Her hair was the color of sand. IT fell to her shoulders. Something was strapped across her back, but it wasn't a book bag. At first I thought it was a miniature guitar. I found out later it was a ukulele.
She did not carry a lunch tray. She did carry a large canvas bag with a life-size sunflower painted on it. The lunchroom was dead silent as she walked by. She stopped at an empty table, laid down her bag, slung the instrument strap over he chair, and sat down. She pulled a sandwich from the bag and started to eat.
Half the lunchroom kept staring, half starting buzzing.
Kevin was grinning. "Wha'd I tell you?"
I nodded.
"She's in tenth grade," he said. "I hear she's been homeschooled till now."
"Maybe that explains it," I said.
Her back was to us, so I couldn't see her face. No one sat with her, but at the tables next to hers kids were cramming two to a seat. She didn't seem to notice. She seemed marooned in a sea of staring buzzing faces.
Kevin was grinning again. "You thinking what I'm thinking?" he said.
I grinned back. I nodded. "Hot Seat."
Hot Seat was our in-school TV show. We had started it the year before. I was producer/director, Kevin was on-camera host. Each month he interviewed a student. So far most of them had been honor student types, athletes, model citizens. Noteworthy in the usual ways, but not especially interesting.
Suddenly Kevin's eyes boggled. The girl was picking up her ukulele. And now she was strumming it. And now she was singing! Strumming away, bobbing her head and shoulders, singing "I'm looking over a four-leaf clover that I over-looked before." Stone silence all around. Then came the sound of a single person clapping. I looked. It was the lunch-line cashier.
And now the girl was standing, slinging her bag over one shoulder and marching among the tables, strumming and singing and strutting and twirling. Head swung, eyes followed her, mouths hung open. Disbelief. When she came by our table, I got my first good look at her face. She wasn't gorgeous, wasn't ugly. A sprinkle of freckles crossed the bridge of her nose. Mostly she looked like a hundred other girls in school, except for two things. She wore no makeup, and her eyes were the biggest I had ever seen, like deer's eyes caught in headlights. She twirled as she went past, he flaring skirt brushing my pantleg, and then she marched out of the lunchroom.
From among the tables came three slow claps. Someone whistled. Someone yelped.
Kevin and I gawked at each other.
Kevin held up his hands and framed a marquee in the air. "Hot Seat! Coming Attraction - Stargirl!"
I slapped the table. "Yes!"
We slammed hands.




When I was little, my Uncle Pete had a necktie with a porcupine painted on it.  I though that necktie was just about the neatest thing in the world.  Uncle Pete would stand patiently before me while I ran my fingers over the silky surface, half expecting to be stuck by one of the quills.  Once, he let me wear it.  I kept looking for one of my own, but I could never find one.



I was twelve when we moved from Pennsylvania to Arizona.  When Uncle Pete came to say goodbye, he was wearing the tie.  I though he did so to give me one last look at it, and I was grateful.  But then, with a dramatic flourish, he whipped off the tie and draped it around my neck.  "It's yours," he said.  "Going-away present."



I loved that porcupine tie so much that I decided to start a collection.  Two years after we settled in Arizona, the number of ties in my collection was still one.  Where do you find a porcupine necktie in Mica, Arizona - or anywhere else, for that matter?



On my fourteenth birthday, I read about myself in the local newspaper.  The family section ran a regular feature about kids on their birthdays, and my mother had called in some info.  The last sentence read: "As a hobby, Leo Borlock collects porcupine neckties."



Several days later, coming home from school, I found a plastic bag on our front step.  Inside was a gift-wrapped package tied with yellow ribbon.  The tag said, "Happy Birthday!"  I opened the package.  It was a porcupine necktie.  Two porcupines were tossing darts with their quills, while a third was picking its teeth.



I inspected the box, the tag, the paper.  Nowhere could I find the giver's name.  I asked my parents. I asked my friends.  I called my Uncle Pete.  Everyone denied knowing anything about it.



At the time I simply considered the episode a mystery.  It did not occur to me that was being watched.  We were all being watched.


When I was little, my Uncle Pete had a necktie with a porcupine painted on it.  I though that necktie was just about the neatest thing in the world.  Uncle Pete would stand patiently before me while I ran my fingers over the silky surface, half expecting to be stuck by one of the quills.  Once, he let me wear it.  I kept looking for one of my own, but I could never find one.



I was twelve when we moved from Pennsylvania to Arizona.  When Uncle Pete came to say goodbye, he was wearing the tie.  I though he did so to give me one last look at it, and I was grateful.  But then, with a dramatic flourish, he whipped off the tie and draped it around my neck.  "It's yours," he said.  "Going-away present."



I loved that porcupine tie so much that I decided to start a collection.  Two years after we settled in Arizona, the number of ties in my collection was still one.  Where do you find a porcupine necktie in Mica, Arizona - or anywhere else, for that matter?



On my fourteenth birthday, I read about myself in the local newspaper.  The family section ran a regular feature about kids on their birthdays, and my mother had called in some info.  The last sentence read: "As a hobby, Leo Borlock collects porcupine neckties."



Several days later, coming home from school, I found a plastic bag on our front step.  Inside was a gift-wrapped package tied with yellow ribbon.  The tag said, "Happy Birthday!"  I opened the package.  It was a porcupine necktie.  Two porcupines were tossing darts with their quills, while a third was picking its teeth.



I inspected the box, the tag, the paper.  Nowhere could I find the giver's name.  I asked my parents. I asked my friends.  I called my Uncle Pete.  Everyone denied knowing anything about it.



At the time I simply considered the episode a mystery.  It did not occur to me that was being watched.  We were all being watched.


When I was little, my Uncle Pete had a necktie with a porcupine painted on it.  I though that necktie was just about the neatest thing in the world.  Uncle Pete would stand patiently before me while I ran my fingers over the silky surface, half expecting to be stuck by one of the quills.  Once, he let me wear it.  I kept looking for one of my own, but I could never find one.



I was twelve when we moved from Pennsylvania to Arizona.  When Uncle Pete came to say goodbye, he was wearing the tie.  I though he did so to give me one last look at it, and I was grateful.  But then, with a dramatic flourish, he whipped off the tie and draped it around my neck.  "It's yours," he said.  "Going-away present."



I loved that porcupine tie so much that I decided to start a collection.  Two years after we settled in Arizona, the number of ties in my collection was still one.  Where do you find a porcupine necktie in Mica, Arizona - or anywhere else, for that matter?



On my fourteenth birthday, I read about myself in the local newspaper.  The family section ran a regular feature about kids on their birthdays, and my mother had called in some info.  The last sentence read: "As a hobby, Leo Borlock collects porcupine neckties."



Several days later, coming home from school, I found a plastic bag on our front step.  Inside was a gift-wrapped package tied with yellow ribbon.  The tag said, "Happy Birthday!"  I opened the package.  It was a porcupine necktie.  Two porcupines were tossing darts with their quills, while a third was picking its teeth.



I inspected the box, the tag, the paper.  Nowhere could I find the giver's name.  I asked my parents. I asked my friends.  I called my Uncle Pete.  Everyone denied knowing anything about it.



At the time I simply considered the episode a mystery.  It did not occur to me that was being watched.  We were all being watched.


When I was little, my Uncle Pete had a necktie with a porcupine painted on it.  I though that necktie was just about the neatest thing in the world.  Uncle Pete would stand patiently before me while I ran my fingers over the silky surface, half expecting to be stuck by one of the quills.  Once, he let me wear it.  I kept looking for one of my own, but I could never find one.



I was twelve when we moved from Pennsylvania to Arizona.  When Uncle Pete came to say goodbye, he was wearing the tie.  I though he did so to give me one last look at it, and I was grateful.  But then, with a dramatic flourish, he whipped off the tie and draped it around my neck.  "It's yours," he said.  "Going-away present."



I loved that porcupine tie so much that I decided to start a collection.  Two years after we settled in Arizona, the number of ties in my collection was still one.  Where do you find a porcupine necktie in Mica, Arizona - or anywhere else, for that matter?



On my fourteenth birthday, I read about myself in the local newspaper.  The family section ran a regular feature about kids on their birthdays, and my mother had called in some info.  The last sentence read: "As a hobby, Leo Borlock collects porcupine neckties."



Several days later, coming home from school, I found a plastic bag on our front step.  Inside was a gift-wrapped package tied with yellow ribbon.  The tag said, "Happy Birthday!"  I opened the package.  It was a porcupine necktie.  Two porcupines were tossing darts with their quills, while a third was picking its teeth.



I inspected the box, the tag, the paper.  Nowhere could I find the giver's name.  I asked my parents. I asked my friends.  I called my Uncle Pete.  Everyone denied knowing anything about it.



At the time I simply considered the episode a mystery.  It did not occur to me that was being watched.  We were all being watched.


When I was little, my Uncle Pete had a necktie with a porcupine painted on it.  I though that necktie was just about the neatest thing in the world.  Uncle Pete would stand patiently before me while I ran my fingers over the silky surface, half expecting to be stuck by one of the quills.  Once, he let me wear it.  I kept looking for one of my own, but I could never find one.



I was twelve when we moved from Pennsylvania to Arizona.  When Uncle Pete came to say goodbye, he was wearing the tie.  I though he did so to give me one last look at it, and I was grateful.  But then, with a dramatic flourish, he whipped off the tie and draped it around my neck.  "It's yours," he said.  "Going-away present."



I loved that porcupine tie so much that I decided to start a collection.  Two years after we settled in Arizona, the number of ties in my collection was still one.  Where do you find a porcupine necktie in Mica, Arizona - or anywhere else, for that matter?



On my fourteenth birthday, I read about myself in the local newspaper.  The family section ran a regular feature about kids on their birthdays, and my mother had called in some info.  The last sentence read: "As a hobby, Leo Borlock collects porcupine neckties."



Several days later, coming home from school, I found a plastic bag on our front step.  Inside was a gift-wrapped package tied with yellow ribbon.  The tag said, "Happy Birthday!"  I opened the package.  It was a porcupine necktie.  Two porcupines were tossing darts with their quills, while a third was picking its teeth.



I inspected the box, the tag, the paper.  Nowhere could I find the giver's name.  I asked my parents. I asked my friends.  I called my Uncle Pete.  Everyone denied knowing anything about it.



At the time I simply considered the episode a mystery.  It did not occur to me that was being watched.  We were all being watched.
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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.

Jerry Spinelli is the author of more than a dozen books for young readers, including Maniac Magee, winner of the Newbery Medal. His latest novel, Stargirl, was a New York Times bestseller and an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults.




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