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Authors   >   Jerry Spinelli

Jerry Spinelli

Photo of the author
Photo: Elmore DeMott.

One day in second grade, Jerry Spinelli dressed up in his cowboy outfit, complete with golden cap pistols and spurs on his boots. He went to school that way. It was not Halloween. When the teacher asked if he "would like to do something for the class," he got up and sang, "I have the spurs that jingle jangle jingle." Shortly thereafter, he ceased to be a singing cowboy and decided to become a baseball player. In eleventh grade, he wrote a poem about a high-school football game. It was published in the local (Norristown, Pa.) newspaper. He traded in his baseball bat for a pencil and became a writer. The story of his life to that point is told in his memoir Knots in My Yo-Yo String. His sixth novel, Maniac Magee, was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1991 for "The Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children." His 18th book, Wringer, received a Newbery Honor. Several are optioned for film. Spinelli's books appear in more than 40 languages. Anti-apartheid forces in South Africa recruited Maniac Magee to their cause. Stargirl has been translated and distributed throughout the Middle East to encourage peace between Arab nations and the West. Stargirl Societies are springing up around the world. Village audiences in rural Japan view stage performances of Loser. Spinelli graduated from Gettysburg College. He lives with his wife and fellow author, Eileen, on Springton Lake in southeast Pennsylvania. They have six children and, at last count, 29 grandchildren.

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