The day after Christmas, in between Wii bowling matches, I read one of my grandson's gift books. The Wringer by Jerry Spinelli has been on my list for ten years. Hard to admit! For me, it was not only a page-turner, but also a lesson in characterization and twist endings.
Spinelli deftly reveals Palmer through his relationships with others. Palmer tries to gain the respect of his peer buddies by pretending to be someone he is not. His
parallel secret relationship with neighbor Dorothy allows the reader to see a truer side. Palmer's interactions with his parents help the reader understand him on
another level. But his love of a pigeon, Nipper, shows the reader Palmer's heart.
Throughout the story, Palmer dreads the day he turns ten and, like all boys of that age in his town, is expected to serve as a wringer in the annual Pigeon Shoot. He does not want to wring the necks of injured pigeons. Dorothy's strength in the face of daily bullying serves as a quiet example to Palmer. He grows stronger and overcomes his fear of being different and disappointing his father, who was once a champion pigeon shooter.
Palmer has to set Nipper free to save his life, but in a twist ending, Palmer discovers that Nipper has been freed in the very place that Pigeons are captured for the shoot. In a heroic finale, Palmer declares his love for Nipper in front of the whole town and becomes true to himself.
It's a knock-out ending and a fantastic example of revealing character through relationships.
Goodbye, 2008. Welcome, 2009!