The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli [in School Library Journal]
In 2017, Cammie O’Reilly is an elderly grandmother visiting her childhood home with her 12-year-old granddaughter after half a century away. While the outside still looks like the same “fortress from the Middle Ages,” the inside now houses birds, butterflies, and turtles rather than the 200-plus inmates of the Hancock County Prison – where Cammie, her widowed father the warden, and their prisoner-cum-housekeeper Eloda once lived.
In the summer of 1959, when Cammie was about to turn 13, her search for a mother figure became desperate as she looked to Eloda, a storytelling inmate, and another child’s mother, for maternal connection. Amidst American Bandstand, hidden cigarette packs, and visits to the prison yard, Cammie comes of age, saved by the kindness of strangers.
Bookended by Cammie the Elder, Carrington MacDuffie is a fine narrator as the grandmother; although the more mature-voiced casting seems initially obvious, because the vast majority of the narrative belongs to a 12-year-old, MacDuffie’s older characterization ultimately feels miscast as young Cammie’s story progresses.
Verdict: Libraries will likely be better suited to recommending Spinelli’s latest on the printed page.
Readers: Middle Grade