Sunday, February 22, 2009

Eggs by Jerry Spinelli

I must admit, I have not read every Jerry Spinelli book out there. Not yet. But this one is so far my absolute favorite, Eggs. I don't normally think Jerry Spinelli has the most poetic phraseology but this book surprised me. Usually, Spinelli says it like it is and in as few words as possible. He is never overly flowery with his phrases. But here are some of my absolute favorite sentences:
"As on that night, fears he could not name blew chills upon him from a window left open to his soul."
(Speaking of the sunrise upon the water) "Orange at first, then butterscotch, then yellow, a plump breakfast yellow of egg yolk; and then, as if poked with a fork, it suddenly broke, spilling, flooding, the river and the city and the trees and the sky and every dark corner of the world."

Eggs made me laugh, wonder, cry... It told a story simply and beautifully and everything you hoped would happen did to a fulfilling way.

Now, what was so interesting to me is this... (spoiler alert) David, the MC, a 9 year old boy befriends a somewhat broken 13 year old girl named Primrose. Both want something - a mother. David's is dead and Primrose's is there but "not there," if you know what I mean.

The interesting thing to me is that, although this is a story about coping with grief and disappointment, although it is in everything the boy does and the girl wants and the way they interact with each other, it is not in your face "there." It is not, woe is me, the motherless child... A lesson learned for me who is also writing a story about a motherless child, but my grief permeates every page, not in what she does, or what she says, but in the back story and the actually missing of Mama. Too much telling and not enough showing.

Spinelli, however, has taught me volumes in this novel. The grief, the want, is still on every page but without being in your face. Do you know what I mean? He shows and so he doesn't need to tell. For example, David stabs his sandwich with his carrot at lunch one day. Grief. He roams the streets at night with Primrose. Denial. He's mean to his grandmother. Anger. He resoles to never break a rule. Bargaining. He learns to love his grandmother. Acceptance. Spinelli took all steps of grief and thought, how can my character SHOW these stages without me the writer TELLING about them?

For any of you who are writing about a motherless child, Eggs is a MUST read!


Rebecca Gomez said...

I've only read on Jerry Spinelli book, Stargirl. Good book. I'll add Eggs to my list.

Unknown said...

I'm like Rebecca--I've just read Stargirl. I liked it, but it sort of turned me off from Spinelli for awhile. SG just seemed don't know, the sort of book you read once and then not again--and I had a hard time getting excited about any of his other books. But this rec makes me want to try him out again!

PJ Hoover said...

I love the cover totally! Maybe I'll add it to the list!

Sheri Perl-Oshins said...

Becky and Beth, I know what you mean. I was never a big fan of Spinelli's until this book. I mean I have the utmost respect for him. I met him at last year's NJ SCBWI conference. He spoke about how the industry has changed so much and how much harder it is for us to become published then it was for him when he first got started - that children's writers today own their craft. It has evolved for the better but in so doing, has made the competition stiff. And we all know that.

Anyway, for me I like poetic writing, like Pearl S. Buck or Sharon Creech. Spinelli is a no nonsense kind of writer. But Eggs was different. And again, if you read it as a study of how to write about grief without writing about grief, this is one efficient way of doing it.

I know PJ, isn’t the cover great. I love the colors and that it never says the title but you know it's Eggs. Of course the spine has the cover. He was asked what he thought about that. He said he loves the cover of this book and has received such positive feedback.

Little side note... Spinelli wrote this book and was told it needed a lot of revision. At the time, he was being teased by another story idea in his head and so he put this one away and there it sat in his closet for ten years. One day when he was searching for his next story to write, his wife, Eileen Spinelli (a PB writer) said, hey whatever happened to that one about the boy and the girl who lived in a car? Of course by then he was "thee" Jerry Spinelli and so perhaps he worked on it, perhaps he didn't. But it just goes to show you - don't throw anything away. What might seem like a hopeless story today might be an award winner tomorrow.

Keri Mikulski said...

Love JS.

We did an author study on him when I taught seventh grade. I've read all his books, but I didn't read EGGS yet. He's great. Thanks for the EGGS heads up! :)

Sheri Perl-Oshins said...

Egg-head... don't know if you intended that, but funny, Keri.

Kelly H-Y said...

Wow, I'm intrigued! His writing sounds amazing! And, great post by the way!

Sheri Perl-Oshins said...

Thanks Kelly, although I have to admit, I am not usually drawn to his say it like it is short and sweet style. But Eggs was different. It worked for me. And maybe because I am also writing about a motherless child and have been struggling how to write about it without writing about it, you know what I mean???

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- Anonymous