Spinelli, Jerry, The Warden’s Daughter. Alfred A. Knopf, 2017. $16.99. ISBN 9780375831997. 343 pgs. Ages 9-12. P8Q8.
I enjoyed this lively book, set in 1959. Cammie is the spunky daughter of a jail warden, and she grows up living in an apartment above the gates of the county jail. Her mother died tragically when Cammie was very young, so most of the adult women she associates with are inmates of the jail. Through the course of the book, we get to know some of them including the shoplifter Boo Boo, a lively woman who dreams of food and romance, and most importantly, Eloda, who was an arsonist and who works as housekeeper for Cammie and her father. Cammie, who is almost thirteen, longs for a mother figure in her life, and she tries to make Eloda fill that role. She is angry and confused, and very real. Despite the unhappy emotions, I enjoyed Cammie’s humor, and the fact that she learns and grows over the summer when the story takes place. Cammie learns that people aren’t always what they seem to be, and understanding the context of a person’s story is important in really knowing them. The book looks at friendship, the father-daughter relationship, and the struggles of growing up.
VERDICT: I think the 19-13 year old crowd will enjoy this book and will identify with Cammie.
September 2017 review by Carol Schramm.
Spinelli, Jerry. The Warden’s Daughter. “Advanced Reader’s Copy.” Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2017. ISBN 978-0-375-83199-7. $16.99. 352 pages. Ages 9-12. Q8P7
Narrated by Cammie, who lives in a prison where her father is the warden, the story delves into her thoughts and insecurities at the time of her most difficult struggle with the loss of her mom and the void left in her life as she tries to mature without the guidance and advice of a mother. I really liked how the author captured the inner turmoil of an 11 year old girl, who carries the burden of losing her mother in a tragic accident when she was a baby. While in a seemingly cold and friendless environment, Cammie is able to forge friendships with some unlikely inmates, who are obviously dealing with their own issues. Since the setting is in 1959, interracial friendships are notable and uncommon, but Cammie finds it easier to make friends with prisoners and black children than with her own classmates. Unbeknownst to Cammie, her almost non-existent father is aware of all of Cammie’s trials and seems to know when to come to her rescue and when to let Cammie figure things out for herself.
Verdict: A great book to delve into the inner insecurities of an 11 year old self-made outcast. The father being uncommonly perceptive is a little off-putting. Unfortunately, I think the audience is fairly limited, as this really isn’t a fun book to read, yet worth reading.