Jerry Spinelli is a prolific and lauded American author whose books are predominantly for teenagers. Some of his work could be used in guided reading sessions in primary school year six groups, or as free reading books for extremely confident year six readers. The language Spinelli uses is accessible and easy to understand and the books could easily be read by younger readers, but much of his subject matter deals with the more distressing and difficult elements of life for young people, and would not always be suitable for younger readers.
Eggs is one such book. It is a simply written, short book, which is divided into chapters of only a few pages each. A confident child reader could probably finish the book in a few hours.
The subject matter however is quite dark and it is really a book, which if being read by the younger end of the teen market, or pre teens, needs discussion with an adult or teacher. I would certainly recommend that it be read by whichever adult is responsible for giving books to the child in question first, if the child was below the age of thirteen.
The story deals with a nine year old boy called David. David’s mum died a year ago, slipping on a wet floor at work. Since then David’s whole life has fallen apart. He moves to live with his grandmother, hundreds of miles from his previous home, his father works away and only comes home at weekends, and David feels lost and adrift. He becomes alienated from his family and obsessed by following rules, creating complicated rituals in the hope that one day his mum will come back.
Primrose is a thirteen year old child whose mother has mental health issues. She has never known her father, and her mother is little more than a child herself. Primrose is full of anger at the hand life has dealt her, and has retreated into a fierce eccentricity to protect herself from the pain of the fact that she is parenting herself.
David and Primrose forge an unlikely and often hostile alliance, seeking refuge in each other’s strange behaviour and trying to find a way to deal with their anger and bereavement.
The book is challenging because David and Primrose are not always sympathetic characters. They can be hurtful, and spiteful and cruel to each other and everyone around them. They can be difficult to warm to, but Spinelli takes us step by step through the steps they need to go through to start healing the sadness they have and to start trusting in the world again.
It is a dark and painful book, but one which ends with more than a glimmer of hope. Having said that, it is not a fairy tale ending and Spinelli makes it clear that there is still a long way to go for both David and Primrose.
The book would be an excellent tool and discussion point if you were dealing with bereavement in a child, particularly a hostile child, or you were simply wanting to find a text to use to discuss the wider issues of bereavement. It is certainly thought provoking and provides lots of discussion points for readers, parents and teachers.
The book is suitable for confident readers aged 11 and up, and would work equally well for both boys and girls, as the characters of David and Primrose are given equal credit and time to develop as characters in the book.