cover image Knots in My Yo-Yo String

Knots in My Yo-Yo String

Jerry Spinelli. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.99 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-679-98791-8

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. (Apr.)