Eileen Spinelli: Perfect for Reluctant Readers

Lisa reviews novels by children’s author Eileen Spinelli. You can see more of Lisa’s picks on our Goodreads page and on her Pinterest storytime board!

Eileen Spinelli may be best known as an author of children’s picture books, but she has also written three novels in verse, which are spectacular!  Frequently, when I recommend a novel in verse, people are skeptical, thinking they will be reading a novel length poem. In a sense they will, but because they are written in free verse, it won’t feel that way.  The economy of words makes novels in verse perfect for reluctant readers.

Summerhouse Time

61EW6JXSusL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Ages 8-12 years

Each year Sophie’s extended family vacations together at the beach. Sophie looks forward to this, as she will have seemingly unlimited time, as only children do, to play with her cousins – especially Colleen. Sophie can’t wait to tell Colleen all about her first crush, and get her opinions about a number of things happening in her life. Unfortunately, being a little older than Sophie, Colleen has outgrown many of their summer rituals – leaving Sophie confused and feeling a little left behind. Joanne Lew Vriethoff’s illustrations are a delightful compliment to the text.

 Where I Live

41mLkBSabLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Ages 6 years and up 

Somehow Eileen Spinelli is able to capture the angst a child feels when moving, and leaving behind everything familiar, with very few words in this very moving story (sorry, it’s hard to resist a pun). Diana’s life feels just right: her best friend, Rose, lives across the street, and she loves her yellow house. But grown-up events change everything when her dad loses his job and her Grandpa Joe gets hurt.  The best plan for everyone is for the family to move in with Grandpa Joe.  Diana understands, but still wishes things could stay the same. Matt Phelan’s illustrations do a wonderful job of conveying the emotions of the characters on nearly every page.

Another Day as Emily

Another Day as EmilyAges 8- 12 years

Suzy has reached her limit.  Her 4-year-old brother is the town hero for calling 911 when their neighbor, Mrs. Harden, suffers a “spell.” Attention is being heaped on him 24 hours a day, which Suzy views as an injustice, since she was the one who comforted Mrs. Harden while they awaited the ambulance. To add insult to injury, Suzy’s best friend got a role in the community theater production, while Suzy was passed over for any part at all. Suzy’s summer seems to be a total loss, as her plans to see a Phillies game with her dad have fallen through. TInspired by a “Tween Time” library program, Suzy decides to live her life as Emily Dickinson did: wearing white dresses, staying in her room, and communicating with friends via written letters only. She soon learns that the life of a recluse is harder than she imagined.

You can learn more about Eileen Spinelli on her delightful website!


LisaThis Youth book review was brought to you by Lisa Q. Harling. When not conducting Story Times or reading the best that kids’ authors have to offer, Lisa enjoys writing witty PSAs on Facebook, playing with her dogs and keeping up with her two adventurous sons. If you have suggestions for future book reviews, email her at lqharling@cityofportsmouth.com.

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