14 July 2011


Themes and Thoughts

In case all the very-late-and-shamelessly-backdated posts haven't clued you in, I've been too busy to blog properly over the last few days. And since too busy to blog means far too busy to read, I don't actually have a "current read" of my own. This post is cobbled entirely from my tutorials with Skid Breaker and the book he is required to read for English class.

This Week's Theme:
Body Parts

Nipper had no special markings, nor had Palmer ever thought to fix a band to his bird's leg or neck, for he knew without reading a book that of boys and pigeons, it is the boy who, so to speak, wears the collar, that it is never the pigeon, but the boy who gets lost.

You have no idea how much I love that single sentence. If it hadn't managed to fit this Thursday's Theme, I would have used it (plus the preceding sentence) for Teaser Tuesday, saying that the two hands on the cover make up for the "missing" two legs (which are my usual requirement).

And now for something I really should be doing more often . . .

Wringer may not be a "Talking Animals book," but it's more of an "Ethical Animals book" than many of today's anthropomorphic heirs to Aesop's fables will ever be.

Its protagonist is Palmer, a boy who is increasingly troubled by his town's annual tradition of Pigeon Day, in which men compete for a trophy by shooting up to 5,000 live birds and boys like him are expected to wring the necks of any birds that are not instantly killed. If I ever post a proper Reading Diary entry for this novel, it will be an analysis of whether or not this powerful novel is also a shameless propaganda tool--but right now I just want to write about Nipper.

Nipper is what Palmer names the pigeon who taps at his bedroom window one winter evening and won't take "Shoo!" for an answer. And although the boy knows it is madness to help a bird stay alive in a town where they are shot by the thousands--boxed up and brought in by train for that sole purpose--it isn't long before he is checking a book on pigeons out of the library. (And you can ask any bibliophile: nothing says serious quite like a book.)

Now, I like Nipper. If I weren't so scared of birds, I think I'd be happy with a pet like him. He's both comical and soothing, loyal and affectionate--and he brings out the best in his reluctant owner. It's an unusual variation of the reliable boy-and-his-dog formula (I mean, name one other book about a boy and his bird), but Jerry Spinelli milks it for all the emotion he can.

And because this book has a strong propagandic streak, Spinelli makes sure to enter "Talking Animal" territory as well. (How can you not identify with a sweet, childlike animal that talks?) There are at least two scenes in which Palmer tries to imagine what might be going on in Nipper's mind: it's all just projecting, of course, but it's also plausible. And very heart-rending.

By the end of the story, we feel that Nipper belongs to all of us as well--with all the implications that come with this sort of ownership. We desperately want to save this sweet bird--and perhaps all other pigeons--from the cruel fate that is Pigeon Day.

It might be "the boy who wears the collar" in the story, but it's the reader who ends up with it in real life.

Image Source: Wringer by Jerry Spinelli


Gigi Ann said...

First, thanks for the visit this morning, being busy with real life does sometimes interfere with our reading, I am trying to get my Goodreads book shelf up to date today. It is so time consuming, I'm wondering if it is worth the effort.

Have a splendid week-end.

Gigi Ann

ham1299 said...

That is quite the snippet!

Thanks for stopping by PBN. :-)

Enbrethiliel said...


Gigi Ann -- My own Goodreads shelf is so out of date! =( The very thought of updating it is exhausting. Good luck with yours! And thanks for visiting. =)

Heather -- You're welcome. =) I actually wasn't going to join this week, but when I read the above snippet with my tutee, I knew I had to feature it somehow.

Bev Hankins said...

Thanks for stopping by my theme! Yours is a good one! Glad you got to use that sentence for your theme. Very nice!

fredamans said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am a new follower of yours!

Landslide said...

Very nice teaser.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Enbrethiliel said...


Bev -- I'm glad, too! =) It's so perfect for the theme, isn't it?

Freda -- Thank you for following. I appreciate it!

Landslide -- You're welcome. =)

Belfry Bat said...

Goodness, are you really afraid of birds? I'd just as soon not have a vulture or a flamingo in my bedroom, but sparrows and pigeons seem harmless enough. Is it birds themselves, or wild things generally? That is, what non-racoon beast animals do you enjoy being around? (If I may be so bold as to ask?)

Enbrethiliel said...


Maybe not maya, as I see them all the time. But in general, that combination of claws, beaks and judgmental eyes terrifies me!

I vastly prefer furry friends from the class mammalia.