Jerry Spinelli Biography

A biography of Newbery Award-Winning author Jerry Spinelli. One of his most popular children's book is Maniac Magee, but he has also authored a memoir and more.
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Updated on: February 15, 2002

Jerry Spinelli Biography

Jerry Spinelli's memoir, Knots in My Yo-Yo String, makes it clear that he has always had a knack for drawing attention to himself. When he was in second grade, he dressed up in a cowboy outfit one day and headed off to school, sporting golden cap pistols and spurs on his boots. It was not Halloween. The teacher noticed his getup, of course, and asked if he "would like to do something for the class." Jerry got up and sang "I Have Spurs that Jingle, Jangle, Jingle."

Shortly thereafter he ceased to be a singing cowboy and decided to become a baseball player. "I played Little League in junior high and high school," Jerry writes. "I only hit two home runs in my career, but I had no equal when it came to standing at shortstop and chattering to my pitcher: 'C'mon, baby, hum the pea.'"

Then, in eleventh grade, Jerry wrote a poem about a high school football game. When it was published in the local newspaper, Jerry knew he had found his calling. He traded in his baseball bat for a pencil and became a writer.

His first published novel was Space Station Seventh Grade. His sixth, Maniac Magee, received several honors: a Boston Globe/Horn Book Award in 1990, the D.C. Fisher Award in 1992, and the Newbery Medal in 1991 for "The Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children." His eighteenth book, Wringer, also received a Newbery Honor. And Paramount Pictures has optioned his newest book, Stargirl, for a film.

Jerry Spinelli's numerous books are popular around the world. They have been published in many other languages, including Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, and Greek.

The prolific author graduated from Gettysburg College and Johns Hopkins University. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Literature degree from Western Maryland College.

Jerry Spinelli lives with his wife and fellow author, Eileen, in Willistown, Pennsylvania. The couple have seven children.

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