Sunday, September 2, 2012

What I Learned about Storytelling From Third Grade Angels by Jerry Spinelli

I got this signed ARC at BEA. I grew up on Stargirl and Maniac Magee, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to meet Spinelli himself. And so this is how a 21-year-old college senior ended up reading Third Grade Angels for fun.

(The art inside the book is precious. The expressions of the
characters and facial shapes are manga-like. Love! But I don't think
this style transitions to color well. Doesn't Suds look kinda creepy?)
This is the adorable story of obsessive perfectionist George "Suds" Morton and his quest to be the first kid in his class to receive the teacher's coveted award: a cardboard halo. But what does perfection become in the face of selflessness?

Reading this was a delightful 45 minutes. For anyone remotely interested in Spinelli's writing or in the third grade paradigm - parents, teachers, friends - Third Grade Angels cannot possibly be a waste of time.

As for what I discovered of storytelling:

2. Characters' names say a lot about them and their relationships. Labels change when characters are within the classroom & beyond it. Suds' little sister Zippernose is the best example. Even as her relationship with her improves, we don't learn her real name.

1. An organic, complex, unusual character is always refreshing. Even going back through some of my old elementary school books, I could find no protagonist quite like the neurotic Suds - at least not one who was male.

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