Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple

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Spinelli, Jerry.
New York : A. Knopf, 2000.
IL 5-8, RL 6.1
ISBN 0679986375

(7 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

Stargirl was like a breath of fresh air, but we were so used to pollution we didn't appreciate her.  In the lunchroom she serenades people with her ukulele on their birthday.  She does nice things for total strangers.  When Stargirl joins the cheerleading squad she cheers for the other team as well.   Perhaps the strangest thing is that she seems to like me.  At first I'm too nervous to notice Stargirl’s noticing me.  Once I get up the courage to acknowledge her the world seems to take on new meaning.  Until the school turned on Stargirl, and by association, turned on me.  It was hard having people ignore me.  So hard that I convinced Stargirl to become like everyone else.  Unfortunately, that meant she was no longer Stargirl.  She loved me for what I was, but I couldn't love her for herself.  I couldn't be brave enough to love her when it meant others despised me.  I let myself down. (Mary Huebscher, Librarian, Holy Cross of San Antonio, San Antonio, TX

Booktalk #2

I’d like you to think about what would happen if this person showed up at ______________.

Her name is Stargirl. That’s not her real name, they say she gave herself the name. She dresses however the spirit moves: it might be in a pioneer-style dress; it might be in bright red overalls. She carries a ukelele with her and sings during lunchtime. If it’s your birthday, you’ll be PERSONALLY serenaded. She carries her pet mouse Cinnamon in her backpack with her. Before each class period she covers her desk with a lovely tablecloth and a vase with a daisy in it. So whaddya think? What would be the reaction of you and your friends?

Leo, who’s the 16-year-old narrator of this book says his school’s reaction could be summed up in one word … HUH? Here’s his description of Stargirl:

She laughed when there was no joke. She danced when there was no music.
She had no friends, yet she was the friendliest person in school.
In her answers in class, she often spoke of sea horses and stars, but she did not know what a football was.
She was elusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to a corkboard like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.
The interesting thing was, Stargirl’s enthusiasm began to make her popular. So the cheerleaders asked her to join the squad. Do you think Stargirl fit the mold of a cheerleader? No, of course not. And things began to turn against Stargirl again. You know why? She cheered for both sides. And when games were close and important games were on the line, this didn’t go over well at all.

So Leo, our narrator, is totally and completely confused, because you know what? He’s finding himself quite attracted to Stargirl. On the one hand he wants her to be more normal, so she’ll fit in with everyone else, and so he can hang out with her and not feel the accusatory stares of his friends. But Stargirl’s unpredictable spirit is who she is – it’s what makes her Stargirl. Leo’s torn – he really likes Stargirl, but the opinion of his friends matter to him a lot.

What to do with Stargirl…

What would you do with Stargirl?

What do you imagine happens to Stargirl?

Susan Bartel  (Colorado Blue Spruce Children's Award)

Booktalk #3

I'm Leo…Leo Borlock. I started collecting Porcupine ties when I was little and my uncle Pete gave me his when we moved from Pennsylvania to Arizona. I have two now…I mean, how many porcupine neckties are there anyway?!

It was on my first day of school in eleventh grade that Mica Area High School encountered Stargirl. We were NOT a hotbed of nonconformity. Anyone who somehow mistakenly distinguishes themselves quickly snaps back into place, like rubber bands.

Hillari said Stargirl was fake…a plant by the administration, or some such. Everyone at Mica wore pretty much the same clothes, talked the same way, ate the same stuff, etc. Not Stargirl. Normal for her were long, floor-brushing pioneer dresses and skirts. She was as likely to show up in a flapper dress, kimono, buckskin, or miniskirt with green stockings with ladybug and butterfly pins crawling up one leg.

She always had her ukulele at lunch and often serenaded someone with "Happy Birthday" with it. She said "Hello" to perfect strangers in the halls, asked questions in class (whether or not they had anything to do with the subject), carried her pet rat to school in her canvas bag, danced in the rain, ran cross-country until she got kick off the team for running the wrong way. She was just weird. We couldn't define her. She was uncomfortable. She couldn't be real. We couldn't let her be real.

My buddy Kevin and I wanted to sign her up for Hot Seat, our in-school TV show. I was producer/director and Kevin was the host. Each month we interviewed a different student…always the model citizen type, but not really interesting. Stargirl was something else. She would definitely get our ratings up. The only problem was that Kevin was convinced that she was fake and his plan was to EXPOSE her on our show. Matter of fact, Kevin WANTED her to be a fake.

But, I knew somehow, that she wasn't a fake. She never made the show. She did, however, make the cheerleading squad. After a basically hilarious performance at one of our poorly attended halftime shows, she was asked by blond, beautiful Mallory Stillwell to become a cheerleader. She agreed. Eventually, she even wore her uniform. But, she was never truly a cheerleader, simply Stargirl dressed up like one. She still did her weird things, but we were beginning to decide that we liked having her around. She entertained us and gave us something to look forward to in our dull conformist world.

Then came Hillari's birthday. The day before, Hillari told Stargirl in the lunchroom that she didn't want Stargirl singing to her. "I won't sing to you," said Stargirl. Yep, true to her word, Stargirl didn't sing Happy Birthday TO Hillari. No, she sang the words and used Hillari's name, but she sang it to ME.

Kevin's the one that asked her what everyone was thinking: "Why him?" Stargirl looked at me mischievously while tilting her head, tugged my earlobe and said, "He's cute."

Sam Marsh  (Colorado Blue Spruce Children's Award)

Booktalk #4

                    Leo Borlock is a tenth grade student at Mica High.  He also happens to be the creator of the student-produced cable television talk show called Hot Seat.  He’s always on the lookout for new guests.
                    On the first day of the new school year, Leo arrives thinking that it will be just another boring year.  Then Stargirl arrives on the scene.  She wears odd clothes, brings her pet rat to school in her big sunflower bag, carries a ukulele she uses to serenade fellow students on their birthdays, and doesn’t seem to mind that other kids are making fun of her.  Leo is drawn to her, at first to ask her to be a guest on his show, but then he realizes he is drawn to her because he really likes her and might be starting to fall for her.
                    Stargirl becomes a cheerleader and starts to win over everyone at Mica High, but then her non-conformity goes too far.  How will the students treat her now?  How will this all affect Leo, who realizes he really wants to spend more time with Stargirl?
                    This is a story about friendship, love, and how your peers treat you.  Read Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.  You won’t want to put it down.  (Kelly Michaelis,,  Baraboo Middle School, Baraboo, WI)

Booktalk #5

Have you ever met someone you could never quite understand? Well that's how Leo felt about Stargirl Caraway. Stargirl changes from being a lonely homeschooled student all of her life, to becoming the most popular girl at Mica Area High School. At first she was known as the exotic, unique, goofy, spontaneous-yet polite, new girl who plays the ukulele and sings "Happy Birthday" everyday at lunch. She becomes the town's most loved person. When Stargirl is asked to join the cheerleading squad and hang out with the popular girls, reality starts to sink in. Stargirl's fun, free, crazy personality begins to annoy all of Mica High. Leo a junior at MAHS becomes good friends with Stargirl he then sees the true colors in her…  (Isabelle M., student)

Booktalk #6

Does that girl who just passed me in the hall really have a pet rat on her shoulder?  Stargirl shows up on day at Mica Area High and captures Leo Borlock's heart.  Stargirl is as mysterious as her name and is as offbeat as her choice of pets.  With her unusual cheerleading techniques, she becomes the most popular girl at Mica Area High.  One day, though ,the students turn on her.  Leo pleads with her to become more normal, more like an ordinary teen.  What has happened to turn the tide against her?  What does Stargirl decide to do?  Does she give in and become just like everybody else?  Read Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli to discover how Leo and Stargirl's story ends.  (Amy Schaffner,, librarian)

Booktalk #7

Picture yourself as the new kid who starts attending a school where everyone is the same. You stick out, and you don't care. I know I would feel awkward, but Stargirl doesn't. My summer reading book is called Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli.
 Mica high changed completely because of a person named Stargirl. Stargirl is new at Mica and everyone stares at her with disgrace, except one boy named Leo. Stargirl strums her ukulele and dances in the rain. Everyone secretly admires her in there own ways. Once Stargirl stars on Leo’s school television show, Stargirl becomes the most popular girl in school but that never changes her personality. Now, Stargirl is everyone in the school’s role model. Will she stay on top or will everyone turn on her?
This book will inspire a lot of readers to be different and not be upset at what other people say. I recommend this book to middle school kids who enjoy realistic fiction. If you liked this book, the sequel is, Love, Stargirl. (Alyssa, K-12 student)

SUBJECTS:     Individuality -- Fiction.
                        Popularity -- Fiction.
                        Eccentrics and eccentricities -- Fiction.
                        High schools -- Fiction.
                        Schools -- Fiction.
                        Arizona -- Fiction.


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