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Knots in My Yo-Yo String Paperback – April 28, 1998

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this montage of sharply focused memories punctuated with b&w photographs, Spinelli (Maniac Magee; Wringer) reconstructs the experience of growing up during the '50s. His descriptions of his childhood universe (which does not extend beyond Norristown, Pa.) elicits the use of all five senses. He invites readers to gaze upon the same stars he studied as a child; to listen for the "not-very-loud" whistle of Mrs. Seeton calling not only her own brood but all the kids home to their suppers ("for a mother's call somehow touches us all"); to smell the "sour, vaguely rotten" aroma of the Adam Scheidt Brewing Company; to savor the taste of Texas Hot Wieners ("They had spunk. They fought back"); and to feel the "clack" of colliding teeth during his first kiss with Kathy Heller (in a game of Truth or Consequences). The audience might be content to bask in the warm glow of post-WWII reflections, but the author has other plans: he shows readers how the seeds of a writer were planted in his youth. Wedged between sometimes painful, more often hilarious scenes of preadolescent and adolescent angst are quiet, contemplative moments when young Spinelli develops his artistic imagination replaying the days' events and pondering such mysteries as time, space and the origin of knots in his yo-yo string. As Spinelli effortlessly spins the story of an ordinary Pennsylvania boy, he also documents the evolution of an exceptional author. Ages 10-13.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Grade 5 UpAA loving reminiscence of childhood. Although the first five pages are slow moving, detail laden, and rather puzzling in parts, the rest of the book takes off as Spinelli takes small, seemingly insignificant snippets of the 10 years he lived on George Street on the West End of Norristown, PA, and explains from his adult viewpoint how they were stepping-stones to his success as a popular children's book author. Even though he only read cereal boxes and comic books as a child, he displays and describes his "early leaning toward language." Phrases such as "music's bunkhouse" to define an old crank phonograph, and using "picturing" to "co-create the moment" to show how listening to the radio was interactive, are evidence of his talent with words. In a conversational tone, Spinelli fondly recalls neighbors, pastimes, and events of the 1940s and 50s. Black-and-white photos present amusing images from his past. Readers may not be familiar with all of the lingo (Bonomo's Turkish taffy) or personalities (Lash La Rue), but they will enjoy the humorous episodes. In the last chapter, the author states, "I mixed my memories with imagination to make stories, to make fiction, and when I finished writing, I had a book, my fifth novel....It became my first published book....I continued to write stories about kids and to rummage through the attic of my memories." Lucky for his readers!AKate Kohlbeck, Randall School, Waukesha, WI
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 980L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Ember; 6th Printing edition (April 28, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679887911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679887911
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #141,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Growing up, Jerry Spinelli was really serious about baseball. He played for the Green Sox Little League team in his hometown of Norristown, Pennsylvania, and dreamed of one day playing for the major leagues, preferably as shortstop for the New York Yankees.

One night during high school, Spinelli watched the football team win an exciting game against one of the best teams in the country. While everyone else rode about town tooting horns in celebration, Spinelli went home and wrote "Goal to Go," a poem about the game's defining moment, a goal-line stand. His father submitted the poem to the Norristown Times-Herald and it was featured in the middle of the sports page a few days later. He then traded in his baseball bat for a pencil, because he knew that he wanted to become a writer.

After graduating from Gettysburg College with an English degree, Spinelli worked full time as a magazine editor. Every day on his lunch hour, he would close his office door and craft novels on yellow magazine copy paper. He wrote four adult novels in 12 years of lunchtime writing, but none of these were accepted for publication. When he submitted a fifth novel about a 13-year-old boy, adult publishers once again rejected his work, but children's publishers embraced it. Spinelli feels that he accidentally became an author of children's books.

Spinelli's hilarious books entertain both children and young adults. Readers see his life in his autobiography Knots in My Yo-Yo String, as well as in his fiction. Crash came out of his desire to include the beloved Penn Relays of his home state of Pennsylvania in a book, while Maniac Magee is set in a fictional town based on his own hometown.

When asked if he does research for his writing, Spinelli says: "The answer is yes and no. No, in the sense that I seldom plow through books at the library to gather material. Yes, in the sense that the first 15 years of my life turned out to be one big research project. I thought I was simply growing up in Norristown, Pennsylvania; looking back now I can see that I was also gathering material that would one day find its way into my books."

On inspiration, the author says: "Ideas come from ordinary, everyday life. And from imagination. And from feelings. And from memories. Memories of dust in my sneakers and humming whitewalls down a hill called Monkey."

Spinelli lives with his wife and fellow writer, Eileen, in West Chester, Pennsylvania. While they write in separate rooms of the house, the couple edits and celebrates one another's work. Their six children have given Jerry Spinelli a plethora of clever material for his writing.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Allan Berliant on December 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is so great! It tells all about Jerry Spinelli's childhood in big events in his life. It is very humerous and touching. It talks about his dreams and accomplishments as a kid and how they effected him as a person and as an author. I highly recommend you read this book!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Khari on July 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
Knots in my yo-yo string is a great book.This novel is about the one and only Jerry Spinelli and his childhood.The most interesting chapter to me was, When I Was King.The reason that chapter was interesting to me was that,it fun to hear about a great author being elected for class president.I give this book 4 stars out of 5 because, first when i was reading the book, i didn't like it.But as i kept reading the book, i started to like it more when i got to the middle of the book. I recormmend this book to children and adults who likes to biographies.This is a great book about a childhood of the marvelous Jerry Spinelli.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By joey on July 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
Knots in My Yo-Yo String is a book that tells of childhood memories. It is definitely geared towards younger readers; it would be the perfect read for a child around 12 years of age. The author, Jerry Spinelli, has done an exquisite job of capturing what most children experience during their short period of innocence. His memories are conveyed to the reader in a most descriptive way, and he requires the reader to think about what they have read. He never ends a chapter on a boring sentence; it is always a conclusive sentence that is usually quite witty. Some of his stories are so interesting that you wish you could go back in time and experience the same things he did but in your own childhood.
The majority of his most pleasant memories took place while he was in junior high school. I would say that he wrote of his preteen teen years, 10 to 12, more than any other time in his life. The author also wrote about his teenage memories but those were less pleasant and less numerous.
This book highlights how successful Jerry was among his fellow peers. He always seemed to be better than everyone else: he was athletic, he was very popular, and he was much more intelligent than the average student. The tale is constantly action filled with Jerry exploring and learning essential lessons in his childhood. The story is one big quest for Jerry to be happy and throughout the whole book it seems that he is happy and true to himself.
The book starts out with his dog being struck by a car; it then goes back to his early childhood and all the events that led up to the tragic accident. Then in the final chapter the story resumes at the point were Jerry is standing over the dead dog. The dog being slain represents the troubles Jerry encountered as soon as he enters high school.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Nejak on July 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
Jerry Spinelli's autobiography is interesting and funny. He takes the reader back to the magical days of his childhood. He was a runner and a sports player. He was the perfectionist who colored inside the lines. He didn't like to read regular books but loved comic books and the sports section in the newspaper. He holds the reader's attention with his attention to detail. While reading about his neighborhood and life, the reader becomes well aware that many of these details are what he uses when he writes his books. If you're lucky, his descriptions remind you of that time in your life when you were young and the most important thing at the moment was watching a turtle cross the road. A well-written, engaging account that middle grade students will be able to relate to. Students should find interest in the fact that much of Spinelli's writing success comes from using the memories of his childhood. The only criticism is with the book's title and cover. Students might need to look beyond these two unexciting items to get started.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on March 25, 2011
Format: Paperback
I found Jerry Spinelli's Knots in My Yo-Yo String to be fun, creative, and very kid-friendly. It was put into words that young children can refer to. Jerry found a love for cowboys and cowboy television shows and he dressed up as "Lash La Rue", a cowboy dressed in all black, who had a whip. Not much later, Jerry found an interest in playing shortstop in baseball and that was when he became an all-out sports nut. In middle school, Spinelli was a perfectionist who always "colored in the lines." He only talked back to a teacher once in his life and apologized and was forgiven. Jerry was in ninth grade when the most popular girl in his grade, Judy Pierson was his girlfriend. They went to the ninth grade prom together as king and queen of the prom. Unfortunately, Jerry's social life with girls was a disaster in tenth grade when Judy dumped him, and it was a snowball effect after that. His dog, Lucky, was hit by a car on Johnson Highway on one of the only sunny days of that year. Jerry Spinelli lived on George Street in the West End of Norristown, Pennsylvania with his mom, dad, his brother Bill, and dog Lucky. Jerry lived here for ten years; from the 1950's to the 1960's. He grew up to be an author and not just any author, a Newbery Medalist. He now lives in North Dakota and he has written books like Maniac Magee and Crash. Jerry Spinelli overcame his biggest obstacle: childhood; from punching an innocent kid to finding maggots in the bowl of leftovers that his family ate for dinner! Today, he is one of the greatest authors ever!
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