Sunday, February 11, 2007

WRINGER Stands the Test of Time

I just finished re-reading WRINGER for the umpteenth time to be ready for the student literature circle discussion this week.

It continues to amaze me how Jerry Spinelli caught so perfectly the pain of peer pressure in this book.

It is not a pleasant story. I almost always have to convince students that it is worth reading about a kid who doesn't want to wring half-dead pigeons' necks at the town's annual pigeon shoot. Being a wringer is a right of passage for 10 year-old boys in Palmer LaRue's town. Palmer LaRue does NOT want to be a wringer. WRINGER is the story of Palmer's ultimate year of dread: from the day he turns 9 until he turns 10.

During the year of dread, Palmer is finally accepted into The Gang and given his very own nickname, Snots. He joins the gang in bullying his former friend Dorothy. And then he is "adopted" by a pigeon. Because of Nipper, Palmer is able to salvage his friendship with Dorothy, and because of Nipper, Palmer must extricate himself from the very gang to which he so wanted to belong. Because of Nipper, Palmer learns to think for himself and do what he knows is right.

There's no certain happy ending in this book. I already know (from reading response homework) that one of the students is a bit peeved about that. But there is hope. Maybe that's more important than a happy ending after all.

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