Jerry Spinelli's young adult fiction looks at both the humor and the poignancy of growing up.
“Each of us, in our kidhood, was a Huckleberry Finn, drifting on a current that seemed tortuously slow at times, poling for the shore to check out every slightest glimmer in the trees … the taste of brussels sprouts … your first forward roll … cruising a mall without a parent … overnighting it … making your own grilled cheese sandwich … the weird way you felt when Sally Duffy scrunched next to you in the mob coming out of the movie … the thousand landfalls of our adolescence. And the current flows faster and faster, adulthood's delta looms, and one day we look to get our bearings and find that we are out to sea,” Spinelli said in a publisher's pamphlet. “And now we know what we did not know then: What an adventure it was!”
Details such as Spinelli offered in this encapsulation of growing up are his greatest strength as a writer, in the view of John Keller. “He gets it right. He gets the details right. I had never heard of a butterscotch Krimpet before I read Maniac Magee … had you? He gets it right about the ways boys both look forward to growing into manhood and regret leaving childhood behind. He gets it right about the fury brothers and sisters can inspire in one another as they live within a family that truly wants to function well. He gets it right about girls like Marceline McAllister who from an early age refuse to conform to the stereotypes that boys want to believe about them. He gets it right about prejudice and unconditional love, and he gets it right