By Jerry Spinelli
Little, Brown and Company, paperback edition, 2008
Nine-year-old David’s mother dies unexpectedly and he goes to live with his grandmother in a new city while his father works 200 miles away and only comes home on weekends. David is sullen because he not only misses his mother but all of his friends and gives his grandmother a hard time with everything. He refuses to do what she says or even smile around her. One day she drags him out while she does volunteer work and he meets a thirteen-year-old girl, Primrose, who is quite unlike anyone he has met before.
“I don’t want to make friends.” [in a conversation with his grandmother]
“Everybody needs friends.”
“We all do, David. We’re all human.”
“What might you be then?”
“A moose.” Pg 3
This snippet of conversation accurately reflects David’s outlook on the world at this point in his life. He is grieving the loss of his mother but doesn’t understand it as such.
She glared at him. She snipped, “What makes you think she’s my mother?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did I every say she was my mother?”
“Did I ever call her Mom? Mommy?”
She glared another second, then laughed. “Yeah, she’s my mother.” She gave him a friendly laugh. “She’s goofy, huh?” Pg 53
David and Primrose snipe at each other like this throughout the story. They have a love-hate friendship. Primrose is also grieving the loss of having a “normal” mother instead of the fortune teller one she has.
She said to him (David) at lunch one day, “We used to have such good times together.”
He went on munching his peanut butter and jelly sandwich. The carrot, as usual, lay untouched on the table.
Munching. As if she weren’t there.
She went away in tears. Pg 128
David breaks his grandmother’s heart on a daily basis by refusing to let her in. But he doesn’t know what he is doing to her and she keeps it hidden.
Refrigerator John –
Refrigerator John did not measure up to his name. He was neither as tall nor as wide as a refrigerator…. John knew something about stunted growth. His own right leg had been withered since birth. When he walked, the leg flapped out sideways, as though he were shaking a dog loose. Pg 72-73
John’s home is a safe haven for both David and Primrose, a place where they can be themselves, both the good and the bad.
Primrose leads David on a series night-time adventures over the course of the summer. At the end of summer, they go off to see The Waving Man but ultimately come face-to-face with the grief that haunts them both.
Laura and I argued over who would review this book but as the opening chapter is from a boy’s perspective and the author is a man, I won the argument. I enjoyed the book; it was light reading but I did get aggravated with David for treating his grandmother so poorly when all she wanted to do was to love him. I really liked Primrose for her gumption to get what she wanted no matter what (e.g., she wanted a room of her own so she converted a van and moved into it).
Courtesy Goodreads –
When Jerry Spinelli was a kid, he wanted to grow up to be either a cowboy or a baseball player. Lucky for us he became a writer instead.
He grew up in rural Pennsylvania and went to college at Gettysburg College and Johns Hopkins University. He has published more than 25 books and has six children and 16 grandchildren.
Jerry Spinelli began writing when he was 16 — not much older than the hero of his book Maniac Magee. After his high school football team won a big game, his classmates ran cheering through the streets — all except Spinelli, who went home and wrote a poem about the victory. When his poem was published in the local paper, Spinelli decided to become a writer instead of a major-league shortstop.
In most of his books, Spinelli writes about events and feelings from his own childhood. He also gets a lot of material from his seven adventurous kids!