Children’s books to read: Wringer


Wringer by Jerry Spinelli is one of our recommended children’s books to read. Melissa Gaynor explains why:

“What You Need to Know:

• Despite the gruesome topic, this story deals with important issues like bullying and ethics and would make a great  book club selection for anyone 4th grade and up.
• The book is based on the very real pigeon shoots that took place in Pennsylvania.
• The main character is a nine year old boy who faces pressure from a local group of boys.
Wringer was a Newbery Honor Book in 1997.
• Jerry Spinelli is also the author of Maniac Magee, winner of the 1991 Newbery Medal.
• The story goes into detail about the shooting and mutilation of pigeons.
• There is also a bullying scene that includes the use of a dead and then “microwaved” muskrat.


This is a powerful story about the need to fit in and the inner strength that is needed to stand out in a crowd. It delivers a realistic portrayal of Palmer LaRue, a sensitive boy with few friends other than his neighbor, Dorothy. He longs to be accepted into a group, though. When a few local kids, Beans, Mutto and Henry, show up at his 9th birthday party, Palmer practically cries with joy. Finally, he will be part of the gang. Does it matter that their gifts include a cigar butt and an apple core or that they make fun of Dorothy? Does it matter that the nickname they give him is Snots or that they’re rude to his mom? Not to Palmer. He’s willing to accept their cruelty in order to fit in. He’s even proud of the nine punches that he receives on his birthday. It is a town tradition known as The Treatment, and even his father seems to condone it….

With brief chapters, compelling imagery and short but meaningful sentences, Spinelli captures and maintains the reader’s attention. The anticipation builds as Palmer gets closer to wringer age and as the gang begins to suspect his connection to the pigeon. Although I’ve seen this book used in a third grade book group, I would recommend it for fourth grade and up because of the content, and because I think those readers will get more of out of the discussion. It definitely has the potential to spark inspiring and important conversations.”

Have your children read Wringer? What did they think of the book?

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