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On Sale: November 13, 2001
Pages: 0 | ISBN: 978-0-375-89002-4
Published by : Knopf Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books

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Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first.

Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal. In this celebration of nonconformity, Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli weaves a tense, emotional tale about the perils of popularity and the thrill and inspiration of first love.

From the Hardcover edition.


When I was little, my Uncle Pete had a necktie with a porcupine painted on it.  I though that necktie was just about the neatest thing in the world.  Uncle Pete would stand patiently before me while I ran my fingers over the silky surface, half expecting to be stuck by one of the quills.  Once, he let me wear it.  I kept looking for one of my own, but I could never find one.

I was twelve when we moved from Pennsylvania to Arizona.  When Uncle Pete came to say goodbye, he was wearing the tie.  I though he did so to give me one last look at it, and I was grateful.  But then, with a dramatic flourish, he whipped off the tie and draped it around my neck.  "It's yours," he said.  "Going-away present."

I loved that porcupine tie so much that I decided to start a collection.  Two years after we settled in Arizona, the number of ties in my collection was still one.  Where do you find a porcupine necktie in Mica, Arizona - or anywhere else, for that matter?

On my fourteenth birthday, I read about myself in the local newspaper.  The family section ran a regular feature about kids on their birthdays, and my mother had called in some info.  The last sentence read: "As a hobby, Leo Borlock collects porcupine neckties."

Several days later, coming home from school, I found a plastic bag on our front step.  Inside was a gift-wrapped package tied with yellow ribbon.  The tag said, "Happy Birthday!"  I opened the package.  It was a porcupine necktie.  Two porcupines were tossing darts with their quills, while a third was picking its teeth.

I inspected the box, the tag, the paper.  Nowhere could I find the giver's name.  I asked my parents. I asked my friends.  I called my Uncle Pete.  Everyone denied knowing anything about it.

At the time I simply considered the episode a mystery.  It did not occur to me that was being watched.  We were all being watched.

"Did you see her?"
That was the first thing Kevin said to me on the first day of school, eleventh grade. We were waiting for the bell to ring.
"See who?" I said.
"Hah!" He craned his neck, scanning the mob. He had witnessed something remarkable; it showed on his face. He grinned, still scanning. "You'll know."
There were hundreds of us, milling about, calling names, pointing to summer-tanned faces we hadn't seen since June. Our interest in each other was never keener than during the fifteen minutes before the first bell of the first day.
I punched his arm. "Who?"
The bell rang. We poured inside.
I heard it again in homeroom, a whispered voice behind me as we said the Pledge of Allegiance.
"You see her?"
I heard it in the hallways. I heard it in English and Geometry:
"Did you see her?"
Who could it be? A new student? A spectacular blonde from California? Or from back East, where many of us came from? Or one of those summer makeovers, someone who leaves in June looking like a little girl and returns in September as a full-bodied woman, a ten-week miracle?
And then in Earth Sciences I heard a name: "Stargirl."
I turned to the senior slouched behind me. "Stargirl?" I said. "What kind of name is that?"
"That's it. Stargirl Caraway. She said it in homeroom."
And then I saw her. At lunch. She wore an off-white dress so long it covered her shoes. It had ruffles around the neck and cuffs and looked like it could have been her great-grandmother's wedding gown. Her hair was the color of sand. IT fell to her shoulders. Something was strapped across her back, but it wasn't a book bag. At first I thought it was a miniature guitar. I found out later it was a ukulele.
She did not carry a lunch tray. She did carry a large canvas bag with a life-size sunflower painted on it. The lunchroom was dead silent as she walked by. She stopped at an empty table, laid down her bag, slung the instrument strap over he chair, and sat down. She pulled a sandwich from the bag and started to eat.
Half the lunchroom kept staring, half starting buzzing.
Kevin was grinning. "Wha'd I tell you?"
I nodded.
"She's in tenth grade," he said. "I hear she's been homeschooled till now."
"Maybe that explains it," I said.
Her back was to us, so I couldn't see her face. No one sat with her, but at the tables next to hers kids were cramming two to a seat. She didn't seem to notice. She seemed marooned in a sea of staring buzzing faces.
Kevin was grinning again. "You thinking what I'm thinking?" he said.
I grinned back. I nodded. "Hot Seat."
Hot Seat was our in-school TV show. We had started it the year before. I was producer/director, Kevin was on-camera host. Each month he interviewed a student. So far most of them had been honor student types, athletes, model citizens. Noteworthy in the usual ways, but not especially interesting.
Suddenly Kevin's eyes boggled. The girl was picking up her ukulele. And now she was strumming it. And now she was singing! Strumming away, bobbing her head and shoulders, singing "I'm looking over a four-leaf clover that I over-looked before." Stone silence all around. Then came the sound of a single person clapping. I looked. It was the lunch-line cashier.
And now the girl was standing, slinging her bag over one shoulder and marching among the tables, strumming and singing and strutting and twirling. Head swung, eyes followed her, mouths hung open. Disbelief. When she came by our table, I got my first good look at her face. She wasn't gorgeous, wasn't ugly. A sprinkle of freckles crossed the bridge of her nose. Mostly she looked like a hundred other girls in school, except for two things. She wore no makeup, and her eyes were the biggest I had ever seen, like deer's eyes caught in headlights. She twirled as she went past, he flaring skirt brushing my pantleg, and then she marched out of the lunchroom.
From among the tables came three slow claps. Someone whistled. Someone yelped.
Kevin and I gawked at each other.
Kevin held up his hands and framed a marquee in the air. "Hot Seat! Coming Attraction - Stargirl!"
I slapped the table. "Yes!"
We slammed hands.

From the Hardcover edition.
Jerry Spinelli|Author Q&A

About Jerry Spinelli

Jerry Spinelli - Stargirl
“Whom do I write for? I write for the story. Each story, it seems to me, knows best how it should be told. As I once put my ear to the railroad track, I listen now for the voice of my story.”—Jerry Spinelli

Jerry Spinelli is the author of more than a dozen books for young readers, including Maniac Magee, winner of the Newbery Medal, and Stargirl a New York Times bestseller and an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults. Spinelli made his picture book debut with My Daddy and Me, a loving tribute to fathers and sons.


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.


“Readers will devour this humorous glimpse of what jocks are made of while learning that life does not require crashing helmet-headed through it.”—Starred, School Library Journal

“Spinelli packs a powerful moral wallop, leaving it to the pitch-perfect narration to drive home his point.”—Publishers Weekly

“As Spinelli effortlessly spins the story of an ordinary Pennsylvania boy, he also documents the evolution of an exceptional author.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“In this warm, deeply personal memoir of the kid he was, Spinelli takes us to Norristown, Pennsylvania, in the 1950s.”—Booklist

“Newbery-winning Spinelli spins a magical and heartbreaking tale from the stuff of high school.”—Starred, Kirkus Reviews

“Part fairy godmother, part outcast, part dream-come-true, the star of Spinelli’ s latest novel possesses many of the mythical qualities as the protagonist of his Maniac Magee.”—Starred, Publishers Weekly

“Sixteen-year-old Leo recounts Stargirl’ s sojourn at Mica High in an allegorical story that is engagingly written.”—Booklist

“Tooter is a real-life, plucky, resourceful heroine who scampers through this novel for new readers.”—The Horn Book Magazine

“The characters are well-developed—Tooter is at times reminiscent of Ramona—and the story is enjoyable.” —School Library Journal

Author Q&A


Q: What was your inspiration for creating the character Stargirl? Did you draw from people you knew or from your imagination?
I drew the aspects of Stargirl from many sources in memory, literature and hopeful imagination. The one real-life person who embodies more of those aspects than anyone else I know is my wife and fellow author, Eileen.

Q: Do you believe that people like Stargirl really exist or is she a fantasy character?
Short answer: Eileen Spinelli exists.
Long answer: Stargirl is as real as hope, as real as possibility, as real as the best in human nature. Outrageous? I hope so. Thank goodness for the outrageous among us. I wish I were more outrageous, less predictable, more unrealistic. I understand that the story carries a whiff of fantasy, of the tall tale. The story, and in particular the character, are intended to raise dust in the corners of credibility, to challenge our routine ways of seeing ourselves. When Archie says to Leo, "She is us more than we are us," he refers to both her essential humanity and to our own often unrealized potential. Leo himself almost accuses her of being too good to be true, then later notes, "That was no saint kissing me."
What does it say about us if we believe such a person to be impossible? The message of the story is precisely the opposite: such a person is possible, and to the extent that Stargirl is us (Archie: "She's an earthling if ever there was one."), so are we.

Q: If you were to characterize your high school experience, how would you describe it?
Learning to be imperfect and happy at the same time, scratching around for what and who I wanted to be.

Q: What books do you like to read? Favorite authors?
A variety. Today, for example, I bought three books: Windows XP Simplified, Time Travel in Einstein's Universe and Meeting of the Waters, a novel. My favorite reading recreation is murder mysteries.

Q: If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would you choose, and why?
Tie: Loren Eiseley, late anthropologist and poet/essayist, my favorite writer; and Sonny Liston, former heavyweight champ.
Loren Eiseley because he's often the answer when I'm asked "Who is your favorite writer?" It's incredible that he wrote so well, considering that he was a scientist. I love his insights and perspectives on humankind and the universe...On the way home to St. Louis after winning the heavyweight title, Sonny Liston looked forward to a hero's welcome, looked forward to receiving affection from the people who had regarded him as a hoodlum and a monster. When he stepped off the plane, not a soul was there to greet him. It broke his heart. I'd like to ask him about that day. I'd like to dump a teacup of confetti on his head.

Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
Eleventh grade, around the time a poem of mine about a football game was published in the local newspaper. I guess it was largely a matter of timing. I was sixteen. My dream of becoming a Major League baseball player was fading. The imperative to find my course in life was upon me. I was shopping around for who I wanted to be. And here this writing thing seemed to reach down and pluck me out of the crowd. I mean, it wasn't forced, it wasn't planned. Nobody assigned me to write a poem after the game. I didn't try to get it published. I didn't seek the resulting notoriety. All this pretty much just happened to me. What I did was just apply a little common sense: I like to write, I seem to be pretty good at it, people seem to like what I write (admittedly a lot to conclude from a single poem)--ergo, I'll be a writer. Simple!

Q: What do you consider the most rewarding part of writing books for young people?
Feedback from readers. The most common kind, of course, is fan mail. I'm proud to say that one particularly nice letter was submitted by the reader/writer to a fan mail contest run by the Library of Congress, and it won. It was about CRASH. Some of the most heartwarming reports I get are from teachers and librarians who I meet personally at conferences and book signings. When a teacher with tears in her eyes tells how a book "saved" a student of hers, I know I'm in the right business. I remember a letter from a teacher in Georgia. She told me the kids in her
class had a choice one day: they could go eat lunch, or they could continue
to listen to my book. Every one stayed for the book.

Q: Do you ever use suggestions from readers in new books?
I tell readers that if I use an idea of theirs in a book, I'll give them credit in Acknowledgments. This paid off for one student, who gave me the idea for one of the School Daze books: WHO RAN MY UNDERWEAR UP THE FLAGPOLE?

Q: How did you start writing Stargirl? What parts of the story came together first?
I have notes going all the way back to 1966 for the book that ultimately became Stargirl. At first it was going to be about a boy. It went through many titles, including Moonshadow and Under the Bomb. Many things I read over the years influenced the story, notably the play Ondine by Giraudoux. In its final form the story finds its most specific inspiration in my wife Eileen, some of whose good deeds and such I happily confiscated.

Q: What advice do you have for young writers?
For me, there are many little rules, all superceded by one Golden Rule: Write what you care about.

Praise | Awards


“A magical and heartbreaking tale.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred

An ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults

A Publishers Weekly Choice of the Year’s Best Books


WINNER 2003 Arizona Young Readers Award
WINNER 2003 Indiana Young Hoosier Award
WINNER 2002 New Jersey Garden State Teen Book Award
WINNER 2003 Pennsylvania Keystone State Reading Association Book Award
WINNER 2004 New York State Charlotte Award
WINNER 2001 Texas Lone Star Reading List
NOMINEE 2003 Illinois Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Award
WINNER 2003 Iowa Teen Book Award
WINNER 2002 Kentucky Bluegrass Master List
WINNER 2001 Maine Student Book Master List
NOMINEE 2002 Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award
FINALIST 2003 Massachusetts Children's Book Award
WINNER 2001 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
NOMINEE 2001 Book Sense Book of the Year
FINALIST 2003 Massachusetts Children's Book Master List
Reader's Guide|About the Book|Author Biography|Discussion Questions|Teachers Guide

About the Book

Stargirl is a true celebration of nonconformity.

This oftentimes tense and emotional story explores the fleeting, cruel nature of popularity-and the thrill and inspiration of first love. The questions, discussion topics, and author information that follow are intended to guide readers and spark discussion as they begin to analyze the larger emotional, sociological, and literary elements of this exceptional and thought-provoking novel.

About the Guide

She's as magical as the desert sky. As strange as her pet rat. As mysterious as her own name. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High School in a burst of color and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of "Stargirl, Stargirl." She captures Leo Borlock's heart with just one smile. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first.Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned. And Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal.

About the Author

Jerry Spinelli is the author of more than a dozen books for young readers, including Maniac Magee, winner of the Newbery Medal; Wringer, a Newbery Honor Book; Crash; and Knots in My Yo-Yo String, his autobiography. He grew up in Norristown, Pennsylvania, where he once dreamed of becoming a major league baseball player. All of this changed at age 16, when his poem about a football game was published in the local newspaper. From then on, he wanted to become a writer. Jerry's first book for children was published when he was 41 years old. He still lives in Pennsylvania with his "Stargirl," his wife, Eileen Spinelli, who is also an author of children's books.

Discussion Guides

1. As the saying goes, “love is blind.” How is this truly the case with Leo and Stargirl? Looking back, how can you tell that Leo was falling for her? And does he stay in love with her, even after she moves away?

2. Professor Archie Brubaker is the voice of reason throughout the novel. Archie has many thoughtful insights into the personality of Stargirl, and at one point says about her: “You’ll know her more by your questions than by her answers. Keep looking at her long enough. One day you might see someone you know.” Now that you’ve finished the novel, what do you think Archie means by this statement?

3. While Stargirl is a guest on “Hot Seat,” Kevin asks her why she changed her name. Do you accept her reason why she did this? How is “Stargirl” an ideal name for her? Think about the possibility of changing your name several times. Do you think your name is an integral part of who you are, or can you imagine yourself with another one?

4. In the beginning, Hillari Kimble seems to be the only person who openly dislikes Stargirl. But then others begin to feel the same way as Hillari. Do you think that groups of people need a leader, like Hillari Kimble, to turn opinions against another person?

5. Do you, as a reader, like Stargirl? If you were a student at Mica High, would you reach out to her like Dori Dilson, or reject her like Hillari Kimble? Do you think the students of Mica High are ultimately too harsh on Stargirl?

6. Popularity, fitting in, and “sameness” are all key themes in Stargirl. Find places in the novel that reinforce these themes and discuss. Do you think Stargirl ever wanted to be popular? How might she define popularity?

7. 1.After Stargirl changes back to “Susan,” Leo says “she look magnificently, wonderfully, gloriously ordinary. She looked just like a hundred other girls at Mica High…. I had never been so happy and proud in my whole life.” How did you feel when you read this part of the novel?

8. Author Jerry Spinelli plays two major events in this novel off of each other: the basketball championships and the oratorical contest. After Stargirl wins the oratorical contest, Leo says that “the cheering is as wild as that of the crowd at a championship basketball game.” Stargirl is the focus at both events but in very different ways. How is she rejected at one and accepted at the other? And how does this acceptance ultimately lead to rejection?

9. The Ocotillo Ball at the end of the novel represents a turning point. Do you think Stargirl made a deliberate attempt to say good-bye at the ball? What do you make of the students’ behavior at the ball, and what does this tell you about the student body of Mica High as a whole?

10. Archie says about Stargirl, “Star people are rare. You’ll be lucky to meet another.” Do you think Leo was grown-up enough for his relationship with Stargirl? How about the students of Mica High? Will Leo ever figure Stargirl out?

11. What is the irony at the end of Stargirl? Is Stargirl popular after all? What happens to the “popular” kids in the story–do they stay popular?

Teacher's Guide


Jerry Spinelli’s bestselling novel Stargirl is a deceptively complex tale about love and loss, about fitting in and standing out, about speaking out and being quiet. High school narrator Leo Borlock chronicles the impact just one new girl can have on an entire Arizona town.

One glance and students know that the new girl at Mica High School is not your ordinary high school student. Stargirl Caraway is a free spirit. She has a pet rat named Cinnamon, plays the ukulele in the cafeteria, and refuses to wear the requisite jeans and t-shirts. Leo Borlock is both fascinated and horrified by Stargirl’s disdain for fitting in. As he falls in love with her, he still longs for her to be more “normal.” But maybe he should be careful about what he wishes.

Thematic Connections

Intergenerational Relationships
Community • Self-Esteem
Emotions & Feelings • Conformity
Grades 7 up


Jerry Spinelli is the author of more than a dozen books for young readers, including Maniac Magee, winner of the Newbery Medal, and Stargirl, a New York Times bestseller and an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults. He made his picture book debut with My Daddy and Me, a loving tribute to fathers and sons. He lives with his wife and fellow writer, Eileen, in Wayne, Pennsylvania. While they write in separate rooms of the house, the couple edits and celebrates one another’s work together. Their six children have given Jerry Spinelli a plethora of clever material for his writing.


Questions for Group Discussion

• “Star people are rare,” Archie tells Leo at the end of Stargirl. “You’ll be lucky to meet another.” (p. 177) What is Archie telling Leo both about the nature of his relationship with Stargirl and about Stargirl herself?

• When Stargirl decides to use her given name, Susan Caraway, how else does she change? How can the simple act of using a different name cause a change in behavior and personality? How does this refute the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”?

• Peer pressure plays a significant role in the story of Stargirl. Discuss how the students of Mica High try to change Stargirl to suit their idea of what a “normal” person is. How does peer pressure change other characters in the story, most notably Leo?

• Two scenes offset one another in the story. Both involve Stargirl. One scene is Stargirl’s debut as a cheerleader; the other has Stargirl competing in the oratory contest. How are these two scenes alike and different? How does each serve to show the different facets of Stargirl’s personality?

• How do the pebbles in Stargirl’s wagon help reveal the true nature of her feelings over the course of
the novel?

• Setting the novel in the desert area around Mica, Arizona, allows Spinelli the chance to have Leo and Stargirl explore this arid world. Additionally, Archie and Senor Saguaro provide important life lessons. How would this story be different if it were set in another place, particularly one with a different climate?

• Stargirl and Leo both fall in love for the first time over the course of the novel. What will they take away from this experience? Is love indeed “blind” or does love filter what they see in one another and in the world around them?


“A magical and heartbreaking tale.”
—irkus Reviews, Starred

“Part fairy godmother, part outcast, part
dream-come-true, [Stargirl] possesses many
of the mythical qualities of Maniac Magee.”
—ublishers Weekly, Starred

An ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year


How to Start a Stargirl Society

Stargirl Societies are currently underway in both
middle schools and high schools. Inspired by the
novel and its main character, the societies offer
everyone a chance to become “Starkids” in their
own right.

Suggested Objectives
• Promote individuality and self-confidence as an alternative to brand-name conformity
• Foster a sense of community in and out of school
• Inspire and role model for elementary-age students (and younger—one faculty advisor brought her two-year-old to a meeting!)
• Promote tolerance for everyone
• Encourage and practice sensitivity to others

Suggested Activitites
• Read and discuss the books, Stargirl, Stargirl’s vision, your vision
• Write and perform skits inspired by the stories
• Plan and carry out school and/or community projects (create constellations rather than committees)
• Have a shindig! Stage skits, games (losers get the biggest cheers), refreshments, and crafts— just be sure to come dressed as you’ve always wanted to dress
• Hold an Inner-Beauty Pageant
• Create Stargirl totes, Happy Wagons, people cards, and/or porcupine neckties
• Drop spare change
• Write, plan, and perform a Stargirl musical
• Recite Stargirl’s Pledge of Allegiance
• Discover enchanted places
• Have a yoga and yogurt party
• Visit a planetarium or observatory

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