Stargirl was one of my favorite (if not favorite favorite) book that I’ve read, and I read that one when it first came out in 2000. I was eleven, and made me fall in love with reading. Because that book has always had a special place in my heart, I was super excited to read The Warden’s Daughter, by the same amazing author, Jerry Spinelli. I hoped that it would have all of the magic and fun that Stargirl possessed. Even though I’m an adult now, I still love middle grade novels, and this book right here is no exception – it was purely a wonderful and powerful read.
“Other kids had mothers. Cammie O’Reilly didn’t. End of story.”
Cammie O’Reilly doesn’t have a mother. Her mother died when she was a baby – she was struck by a car, and right before she was hit she managed to push Cammie’s baby carriage out of the way to safety. Now Cammie has had to spend her life without a mother, as the prison warden’s daughter. While she loves her father, she has been missing out on the kind of love and affection that only a mother can provide.
While Cammie is well cared for – her father has “trustees” from the women’s section of the prison come up to their apartment and help clean, cook, and look after Cammie, especially during summer vacation when there is no school, Cammie still longs for a mother. So, one day, she decides that she wants the current trustee, Eloda, to be her mother. She spends her entire summer doing her best to get Eloda to pay attention to her, scold her, comfort her – anything that mimics the behaviors of a mother, so she wouldn’t feel so alone.
However, Eloda doesn’t seem to be giving Cammie the kind of attention she is looking for, which is driving her mad. She just wants Eloda to be her mother – and she savors the time she has each day with her while she braids her hair.
Cammie also spends time with her friends, as well as down in the prison yard with the female inmates, where she has the chance to interact with them. She becomes especially close to one inmate, named Boo Boo. While she doesn’t believe that Boo Boo would give her the type of mother figure that she needs in her life, the two quickly become fast friends,and Cammie finds herself spending a lot of time with her, while still trying to get Eloda’s attention.
Cammie spends a lot of time riding around on her bike, playing baseball, and hanging out with her group of friends, especially her best friend Reggie, who is obsessed with getting on Bandstand.
While Cammie acts tough, she is really falling apart inside. After all, she has never really had the chance to mourn her mother, because she never got to know her. All she knows is that there is a void in her life that a mother should fill, but a mother is one thing that she doesn’t have. It’s really painful to sit back and watch her ride out her emotions, especially when you can tell she’s hurting, and she just tries to brush it off and use anger as a way to get over it.
Cammie’s character was quite mean in several spots in the book, and the anger she felt about so many things in her life not going right is easy for many to relate to. After all, she has been robbed of having her mother in her life, her father is often quite busy with work, and she’s usually left on her own. You can tell that Cammie’s emotions were coming from a very deep place within her. There were times when her character was simply unlikable. This made the book even better, in my opinion, because we got to see her real emotions and watch her go through difficult times, struggling in a way that isn’t portrayed in a lot of books. Many books have main characters who deal with their pain, but don’t often express too many feelings about it. That wasn’t the case in The Warden’s Daughter – instead, it seems that the author made the character true to herself and her own feelings.
The ending of the book, especially the last third, made me an emotional wreck, and because of all the different things that I felt while reading this book, I was able to develop a deep connection to it.
Jerry Spinelli Talks “The Warden’s Daughter”
About the Author
JERRY SPINELLI is the author of many books for young readers, including Stargirl; Love, Stargirl; Milkweed; Crash; Hokey Pokey; Wringer; and Maniac Magee, winner of the Newbery Medal; along with Knots in My Yo-yo String, his autobiography. A graduate of Gettysburg College, he lives in Pennsylvania with his wife, poet and author Eileen Spinelli. You can follow Jerry on Twitter at @JerrySpinelli1 and visit his website at JerrySpinelli.com
The Warden’s Daughter Blog Tour
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