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Author: Spinelli, Jerry
The story of a girl who must come to terms with her mother's death from inside the walls of a prison.
|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 4.10
Points: 9.0 Quiz: 186842
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 6-8
Reading Level: 4.20
Points: 16.0 Quiz: 70178
Kirkus Reviews (+) (10/15/16)
School Library Journal (11/01/16)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (+) (00/12/16)
The Hornbook (-) (00/01/17)
Full Text Reviews:
Booklist - 10/15/2016 Most people would hate to call the Hancock County Prison home, but 12-year-old tomboy Cammie O’Reilly wouldn’t have it any other way. As the warden’s daughter, she lives in an apartment above the prison entrance with her father and has a commanding presence that’s earned her the nickname Little Warden. Set in 1959, just before Cammie turns 13 and enters junior high, this is a story about facing hard truths and growing up. In the background swirl issues of race, treatment of prisoners, and the arrival of a high-profile murderer, but Cammie’s mounting anger over her mother’s tragic death takes center stage. Spinelli’s latest gives readers an interesting, often heartbreaking glimpse into the 1950s and the timeless need for a parent’s love. Narrated by Cammie as an adult, the carefully constructed story seems a little too neat and purposeful at times, but readers will love the details of having a prison compound for a home and adore the many secondary characters who help keep Cammie’s head above water during her desperate search for happiness. - Copyright 2016 Booklist.
School Library Journal - 11/01/2016 Gr 5–8—As an elderly grandmother, Cammie looks back on the summer of 1959, when she lived with her stoic warden father in an apartment adjacent to Pennsylvania's Hancock County Prison. Young Cammie is filled with unprocessed grief from her mother's tragic death. She decides that Eloda Pupko, the distant but constant prison housekeeper, should be her mother figure. The summer is full of change. Cammie's fame-hungry best friend outgrows her, and her close relationship with verbose Boo Boo Dunbar, one of a handful of African American inmates, ends in numb grief when Boo Boo commits suicide. Finally, Eloda helps Cammie truly grieve for her mother in order to move on. Character development and realistic dialogue shine in this emotional historical fiction title. The pent-up anger that bubbles under the surface of Cammie's memories is palpable. Spinelli's characters are achingly real at times, although some readers may find it difficult to care about such a spoiled, entitled protagonist. With narration by an elderly Cammie, Spinelli artfully adds foreshadowing to keep the plot moving. However, the pacing is slowed by adult Cammie's endless reflections on her emotions and behavior. The grandmotherly perspective lacks a tangible connection to young Cammie's confusion on the cusp of teenager-dom. Period-specific details abound, but some hit the mark without context (will young readers understand that the passing reference to "the Hokey Pokey man" is 1950s slang for ice-cream man?). VERDICT Sentimental and reflective, this nostalgic story will strike a deeper chord in adults than in middle graders.—Amy Seto Forrester, Denver Public Library - Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.