Wringer (novel)

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Author Jerry Spinelli
Original title Wringer
Country America
Language English
Genre Young adult literature
Publisher HarperTeen
Publication date
Media type Print Paperback
Pages 230
ISBN 0-06-059282-6

Wringer is a Newbery Honor-winning 1997 young adult novel by Jerry Spinelli.

Plot introduction[edit]

A young boy named Palmer LaRue lives in a town where they shoot pigeons yearly as their Family Fest tradition of trapping pigeons in a crate in order to raise money for the city's playground. Ten-year-old boys learn how to pick up the wounded birds that have not yet died and then wring their necks to "put them out of their misery."

When Palmer turns nine, his peers pressure him to join them in anticipation of becoming the best "wringers" - the boys who wring the necks of pigeons. Palmer's mother does not approve of his friends for this reason, but cannot force Palmer to find other friends. Furthermore, Palmer finds himself anxious to live up to his father's example, as he was known as one of the best wringers when he was Palmer's age. Though Palmer is actually reluctant to participate in such a horrific ceremony, he does not express this out of fear of being ostracized.

When a pigeon comes to Palmer's window, he secretly takes the bird in as a pet and names it Nipper. To Palmer's surprise, his parents both learn of the existence of the pigeon but respect his wishes to keep Nipper a secret and have not said anything to him. Keeping Nipper also allows Palmer to befriend Dorothy, a girl who opposes the pigeon shooting festival for its cruelty toward the birds. When the day of the shooting comes, Palmer is anxious because he has allowed Dorothy to release Nipper in hopes that the pigeon will avoid capture.

Dorothy reveals that she released Nipper near the railroad tracks, unaware that is where people capture the pigeons and crate them for the shooting. When the pigeons are released, Nipper is wounded. One of Palmer's "friends" happens to be at the shooting, and he brings the pigeon back onto the field to be killed by the sharpshooter. Palmer must decide whether to value life, or be pressured into doing things he does not want to do. He chooses to carry Nipper off the field in the midst of gunfire. Palmer realizes how he might have changed the tradition when he hears a kid from the audience tell his father that he wants a pigeon for a pet.


Wringer was praised by critics for its ability to address deep issues for middle schoolers, as did its precursor, Maniac Magee. In a School Library Journal review of Wringer, Tim Rausch cited the novel for "Humor, suspense, a bird with a personality, and a moral dilemma familiar to everyone," characters who are "memorable, convincing, and both endearing and villainous," and a "riveting plot." Suzanne Manczuk, writing in Voice of Youth Advocates, commented that "Spinelli has given us mythic heroes before, but none more human or vulnerable than Palmer." New York Times Book Review critic Benjamin Cheever also had high praise for Wringer, describing the novel as "both less antic and more deeply felt" than Maniac Magee, and adding that Spinelli presents Palmer's moral dilemma "with great care and sensitivity."[1]


  1. ^ "Jerry Spinelli". Retrieved 04-08-2010.