by Jerry Spinelli
This is a Newbery Honor Book from the author of the Newbery-Medal-winning Maniac
. Like the other books by Spinelli that I have read, it focuses on a child whose troubles outside hurt him on
The child in this case is Palmer LaRue, known to some of his friends as Snots. One of Palmers wishes in life, as he comes
to his ninth birthday, is to run with the gang led by mischief-making Beans, even though it means not being so close to his
across-the-street friend, Dorothy. Beans, Mutto, Henry, and Snots become the terror of the neighborhood, pulling rambunctious
pranks and (to Palmers private discomfort) being cruel to Dorothy.
However, Palmer has a secret wish that is more important to him than anything else. And it torments him day and night. He
does not want to be a wringer. He does not to be one of the ten-year-old boys who wring the necks of the 5,000 pigeons who
are shot down in a sharpshooting contest in the park every summer. His dread of wringing a pigeons neck is so strong that
it turns into a dread of reaching his tenth birthday.
But time wont be stopped. Palmer feels more and more hopelessly trapped as Beans, enthusiastic about becoming a wringer,
penetrates Palmers secret; not only his secret desire not to be a wringer, but also the secret that Palmer has a pet pigeon
named Nipper, whom he loves more than anything.
Seldom has one little boys suspense and anguish made such a simple, powerful story. Palmer is torn between conflicting
loyalties, terrified of being ostracized, ashamed of the things he does to belong, yet proud to be part of Beans gang; he
loves the guys and hates them, cares for Dorothy and hurts her, idolizes his father and resents him, wants to protect Nipper
at all costs yet is almost paralyzed by his love for the bird. And in the unforgettable climax of the story, Palmer learns
to be honest about everything...no matter what happens afterward.
Recommended Age: 10+
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