As with many authors, Jerry Spinelli had a defining moment where he knew he was meant to be a writer. He was 16 and his high school football team had just won a huge game. Spinelli wrote down his thoughts about this event as a poem and the local paper decided to publish it a couple of days later. He would then go on to publish 19 books and write 4 more that remain unpublished.
1. The Newbery Medal
One of Spinelli’s most famous characters is Maniac Magee. It was such an engaging children’s story that he won the coveted Newbery Medal for this work in 1991. He’s also created other popular characters like Wringer and Stargirl that have helped to make him an enduring children’s author for more than three decades.
2. Married to the Best
The love of his life is Eileen Mesi. They were married in 1977 and currently have 6 children and 20+ grandchildren. She is a writer of children’s books and poems and has also won numerous awards for her work. One of her most famous works is called “Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch” and it won the Christopher Award.
3. Worked To The Top
Spinelli attended Gettysburg College and wrote short stories there as he edited the institution’s magazine. He would then use that experience to edit other catalogs and magazines as he worked to get his first book published. Those 4 books that remain unpublished? Spinelli says it’s because everyone who has ever read them hasn’t liked them at all.
Spinelli’s favorite book growing up was ‘Babar the Elephant.’ Although Babar has been turned into several animated stories, only Maniac Magee has been made into a movie so far from Spinelli’s work. It appeared on Nickelodeon and starred Michael Angarano. That might change in the future, however, as Spinelli continues to write more stories in his favorite office location.
Some of Jerry Spinelli’s work is used in US elementary schools today as part of the curriculum. With engaging characters that each tell a lesson, if you haven’t read any of his works so far, make time to do so soon. It will be an enjoyable experience.