Term Paper, 2006
21 Pages, Grade: 1.3
Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl is about a new student at Mica Area High School, Arizona who is different from all the other students. The story is told by Leo Borlock who is the I person narrator and who is, like everybody else, fascinated by Stargirl 3 because she is so different: her style is extraordinary, she carries “a large canvas bag with a life-size sunflower painted on it” 4 and she has an ukulele which she plays in the cafeteria. She also has a pet rat named Cinnamon which she carries around in her bag. The students’ first impression is that she must be an alien, that she could be a spy and that she is not real 5 . They get that impression because Stargirl greets strangers, “laughs when there are no jokes and dances when there is no music” 6 . But after a while the students at Mica High, except Hillari Kimble and Wayne Parr, start to like her and try to be around her 7 . She even becomes a cheerleader. Nevertheless, she remains different and when she starts cheering for the opposing football team the students’ sympathy for her turns into hostility. Only Leo, who falls in love with her, tries to stay behind her but fails and convinces her that she should better be like everybody else. When Stargirl finds out that being normal does not change her being shunned she decides to remain true to herself and to leave Mica Area.
Stargirls real name is Susan Julia Caraway and she lives in an ordinary house with her parents who are ordinary people 8 . Up to 10 th grade she was homeschooled but then she becomes a student at MAHS. The first thing that is different about her is her name she has given herself: Stargirl. When the other students ask her why she changed it she says that she did not feel like a Susan
2 http://www.harperchildrens.com/rgg/rggwringer1.htm (March 2006)
3 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000), p.3
4 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000), p.4
5 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000), p.7 ff
6 http://www.amazon.de/exec/obidos/ASIN/037582233X/303-0900745-6571412 (February 2006)
7 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000), p.36 ff
8 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000), p.119 ff
football team for example, is not something bad to her 20 . But Leo convinces her and teaches her how to behave 21 . To him it is simple, he says that “the point is, in a group everybody acts pretty much the same, that’s kind of how the group holds itself together” 22 . So she tries to be like the rest of them but fails because the other students have already given her up. The only result is that she becomes sad and disappointed because she expected it to work, to be popular, to be like Leo wants her to be. When she comes back from an Oratorical Contest which she won she is sure that the whole school would welcome her with a parade and cheers and greetings; she has already practiced her smile on the way back. But when they arrive none is there except some teachers and her only friend Dori Dilson 23 . Because of that she gives up trying to be like everybody else and becomes herself again 24 . She knows that Leo would not want her after she has become Stargirl again and so she does not ask him to go to the Ocotillo Ball with her. Instead she goes there alone. She “arrive[s] in a bicycle sidecar” 25 covered in flowers and her hair and dress look incredible 26 . The other students’ comments are “beautiful, unusual, interesting, different, regal” 27 , but this time they mean it in a good way. This appearance shows that Stargirl is self-confident, that she is better off when she can be herself and when she does not have to be like everybody else.
Stargirl is an Outsider because she is an individual at a high school where conformity is usual. The other students are afraid because they do not know what to make of her 28 . They do not understand how a person who has no friends can be the friendliest person in school, how it is possible that she knows nothing about football, that she does not wear make-up, that she sings and dances for no reason 29 . “She [is] unknown territory. Unsafe. [They are ] afraid to
20 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000), p.25
21 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000), p.137
22 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000), p.137
23 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000), p.148 ff
24 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000), p.161
25 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000), p.167
26 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000), p.168
27 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000), p.169
28 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000), p.15
29 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000), p.15 ff
pressure and social exclusion 37 . Stargirl is also described as “a wonderful commentary on the beauty and dignity of humanity, as well as the difficulty in being unique in a society of joiners” 38 . But also Leo Borlock’s situation is a topic. It is said that the book is also about his dilemma, moral courage and the question for whom he should decide - his friends or his love for Stargirl 39 . Other important newspapers such as Chicago Tribune, Book Report, Children’s Bookwatch and Teen write that Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl was a wonderful parabel on the splendors, a tribute to nonconfirmity 40 .
Since Jerry Spinelli’s Stargirl is a book for children it is interesting to get to know what children think of it. Eilidh, aged 10 from Glasgow, Scotland thinks that the book is brilliant and that everyone in her age would like the book because Spinelli makes you care for Stargirl. She also appreciates that Leo is not like the others and that he fell in love with her 41 . Libby, aged 11 from Dorset, England writes that
“this inspiring novel shows the courage it takes to stand out from the crowd in a quirky but very much realistic point of view. It reveals the strength of love and the importance of being your self. Through the good and the bad Stargirl remained individual and kind. The story was very 42 moving and made a big impression on my life and the way I behave towards others.”
She also thinks that this book is something for everybody “who ever felt different or has ever stood out of the crowd” 43 . Alicia, 7 th Grade writes that she learned many things, for example, that popularity is not the most important thing, that you should be yourself no matter what others think and that love can be
36 http://www.amazon.de/exec/obidos/ASIN/037582233X/303-0900745-6571412 (February 2006)
37 http://www.amazon.de/exec/obidos/ASIN/037582233X/303-0900745-6571412 (February 2006)
38 www.childrenslit.com (March 2006)
39 http://www.sikjm.ch/d/?/d/rezensionen/datenbank/index.php?id=133&c=1&author=Jerry%20Spinelli (March 2006)
40 Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl, (2000)
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