Newbery Medal winner Jerry Spinelli’s book, The Warden’s Daughter, takes the reader to a town modeled in the quintessential fifties mode, yet also to a place seemingly antithetical to either normalcy, or childhood. Cammie O’Reilly, the warden’s daughter, grows up, motherless, yet ironically surrounded by women, who by dint of their locale can not be with their own children. Angry, confused and desperately longing for a woman to mentor her, Cammie eventually leaves her unusual home, but is forever marked by the experience.
- It’s a singular town, while at the same time it’s every place of the late 1950s — perhaps both simpler and more dangerous than today all at once.
- It’s a remarkable place to call home. Perhaps if there were a mother in the family, she would have insisted they inhabit more than a collection of rooms that look down over a walkway into the women’s exercise yard.
- She finds solace pedaling fast all over town on her bicycle. “You never smile!” she is told by Boo Boo, and her adult narrator voice admits, “I was not a happy person.”
“The last passages of this novel read like a fever dream, with Cammie moving her story forward in leaps and bounds. Fame, good and bad fortune, friendship and mental illness all make their way into her narrative.”