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Newbery Medal Winner Jerry Spinelli visits Downingtown

Newbery Medal Winner Jerry Spinelli visits Downingtown

Popular children's book author Jerry Spinelli spent an hour in Downingtown on February 6, 2017 speaking in front of the student body at Marsh Creek Sixth Grade Center.   Students in our 10 elementary schools also had the opportunity to listen and ask questions via live streaming.  


Mr. Spinelli published his first book in 1982 after having had his first four books rejected by publishers.   He told the students that he didn't give up because "writing was just something I wanted to do".  He told the spellbound audience of a time when he went into the refriderator to eat his leftover chicken. 


"When I looked into that bag, all I saw was bones.  I knew that one of my six children upstairs had beat me to it and I decided to sit down and write about what it felt to find the bones and not the chicken I was hoping for.  At first I started to write as the father, but then I started to wonder how the quilty one upstairs might be thinking.  I decided to write the rest of the story from a child's point of view and sent the finished copy off to a publisher.  That's how my first book, Space Station Seventh Grade came about." 


He said that everyone in the room had a story to tell and told the students of a woman who came up to him during a book signing and told him that she was from Norristown.


"I am from Norristown too," he said.  "Then I asked her where she had lived and she told me she was the warden's daughter.  Her father had been the warden of the Montgomery County Prison.  I said to myself...that's a great book idea."

And indeed it was.  Mr. Spinelli's latest book is entitled The Warden's Daughter.  It is the story of Cammie O'Reilly, the prison warden's daughter, who lives with her father at the Hancock County Prison.  All she wants most in the world is a mother, but is a prison the best place for her father to find a new wife?   


When asked if he ever had writer's block, Mr. Spinelli said that there was no such thing.  "Imagine your teacher saying that they couldn't work today because they had teacher's block or that the mail man couldn't deliver the mail because of mailman's block. You might not always have a great idea, but you need to keep trying." 


When asked how he decided he wanted to be an writer, he told the story about writing a poem about the exciting end of a Norristown football game. He showed the poem to his father who sent it on to the local newspaper.  The paper published the poem on the front page of the sport's section.  


Mr. Spinelli has written 34 published novels.  His 6th book Maniac Magee won the 1990 Newbery Award.   Wringer, written in 1997 was selced as a Newbery honor book.