Wringer by Jerry Spinelli
Mrs. Rehrig's Class Review
Newbery Medal-winning author Jerry Spinelli tells a story of peer pressure
so foul, so horrifying, that Wringer should be shelved along with Robert
Cormiers The Chocolate War. Nine-year-old Palmer dreads his upcoming
10th birthday. In his town, when boys are 10 years old they become
wringers, the boys who wring the necks of wounded pigeons at the annual
Pigeon Day shoot. Palmer is sickened by the whole event. To make
matters worse, his new buddies--Beans, Mutto, and Henry--have just
discovered that Palmer has been hiding a pet pigeon in his room. What
will Palmer do? Will he become a wringer to save face, or will he follow his
heart? Wringer will appeal to preteens and younger teens who love to
read suspenseful books on their own, but it would also be a good story to
read aloud to spark discussion about the perils and nuances of peer
This 1998 Newbery honor book is powerful, poignant and hauntingly
beautiful. This is a remarkable story of peer and social pressure, the
courage to sort through the quagmire of self doubt until the mud clears and
what remains is a crystal clear reflection of self acceptance.
Sensitive, animal loving nine year old Palmer LaRue passionately dreads
the arrival of his tenth birthday. The rite of passage in his small town is to
become a wringer -- a wringer of the necks of pigeons still alive after being
shot at by the local townsmen. The annual pigeon day is a huge event and
Palmer has a decision to make -- should he become a "man," or should he
stand alone and say no.
Wanting desperately to belong, Palmer abandons his long-term friendship
of a neighborhood girl and initially finds a sense of belonging by becoming
a member of the in crowd of male bullies where the rite of acceptance is a
birthday brutal punch in the arm for every year. Like a medal of honor,
Palmer proudly displays his horrific bruises obtained at the hands of a
much larger, older boy.
Soon, Palmer realizes that he is uncomfortable with both the peers who
emotionally and physically harm and the townspeople who once a year
maim and kill 5,000 helpless birds.
Spinelli does a masterful job of weaving various emotions swirling inside
Palmer, especially as Palmer discovers a pigeon on his windowsill and
develops a loving relationship with the animal.
Returning to his neighborhood friend, he accepts the softer side of himself
and once again embraces his friend Dorothy as together they feed and
love the animal at the risk of discovery by the bullies and the townspeople.
Parker's mother and father are portrayed in a loving way, and his mother in
particular shines like a beacon.
This book was particularly powerful because of the way the author used
the softness of animals and females to guide Parker in his realization that
while it is hard to risk non acceptance, it is harder still to say no to what is
good, pure and right.
Highly recommended. Five Stars!!!
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