The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

Book Review, Middle Grade
The Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli. Middle grade fiction novel about a girl growing up in a prison in 1959. Books for kids ages 8-12.

“Cellblocks once rang with beanboppers on iron bars and bad words flying day and night. Now finches and warblers and scarlet tanagers sing and flutter behind walls of glass.” – Jerry Spinelli, The Warden’s Daughter

The Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli. Middle grade fiction novel about a girl growing up in a prison in 1959. Books for kids ages 8-12.

The Warden’s Daughter by Jerry Spinelli

Age Range: 9 – 12 years | Grade Level: 4 – 7 | Hardcover: 352 pages | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (January 3, 2017)


About The Warden’s Daughter

From Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli (Maniac Magee, Stargirl) comes the “moving and memorable” (Kirkus Reviews, starred) story of a girl searching for happiness inside the walls of a prison.
Cammie O’Reilly lives at the Hancock County Prison–not as a prisoner, she’s the warden’s daughter. She spends the mornings hanging out with shoplifters and reformed arsonists in the women’s exercise yard, which gives Cammie a certain cache with her school friends.

But even though Cammie’s free to leave the prison, she’s still stuck. And sad, and really mad. Her mother died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. You wouldn’t think you could miss something you never had, but on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, the thing Cammie most wants is a mom. A prison might not be the best place to search for a mother, but Cammie is determined and she’s willing to work with what she’s got.

“Jerry Spinelli again proves why he’s the king of storytellers” (Shelf Awareness, starred) in this tale of a girl who learns that heroes can come in surprising disguises, and that even if we don’t always get what we want, sometimes we really do get what we need.


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My Thoughts on The Warden’s Daughter

I will admit, I was skeptical about reading The Warden’s Daughter. I’d only read one book by Jerry Spinelli before (Hokey Pokey) and I wasn’t crazy about it.

I decided to give The Warden’s Daughter a try anyway.

I’m so glad I did.

Cammie is an angry girl. She’s looking for something and she’s angry that she can’t find it. She takes it out on everyone in her life. In her grumpy, angry state, Cammie has barred herself into a prison of her own making. Even though her prison is figurative, it’s walls are as real as the prison she actually lives in.

Many characters have a significant impact on Cammie. I love Boo Boo and Reggie, but Eloda is a different character. You aren’t sure how to feel about her until the end of the book.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s about overcoming grief, acceptance, love, friendship, and redemption. It’s about a girl finding her place in the world and coming to grips with her situation.

Definitely recommended for kids who like coming of age stories and books about self-discovery.

Content: Taking the Lord’s name in vain, shoplifting, smoking, and Cammie is often mean or cruel to friends and other people.

Source: The publisher sent me an ARC of this book.



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  • Reply
    January 13, 2017 at 7:16 am

    It’s always nice when a book surprises you. This one sounds really good. Great review!

    • Reply
      Dena at Batch of Books
      January 13, 2017 at 11:37 am

      I agree! It was a wonderful surprise and now I’m thinking that I need to go and read the rest of Spinelli’s books I have on my shelves.

  • Reply
    January 13, 2017 at 9:24 am

    Don’t we create our prisons of our own making in real life? This may be just a tad too relateable. 🙂

    • Reply
      Dena at Batch of Books
      January 13, 2017 at 11:36 am

      So true! I love that about books — you can see yourself in the story and the characters.

  • Reply
    January 13, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    We saw a review of this on another book review website and it sounded really good! (Plus, we love Jerry Spinelli). You’ve reminded us to grab a copy of this at the bookstore :). Wonderful review!

  • Reply
    Dedezoomsalot (@DedeZoomsalot)
    January 15, 2017 at 9:14 pm

    Oh, I’m so sad that you didn’t like Spinelli’s other book. I haven’t read that one, but he’s one of my very favorite middle grades/late elementary authors. Try Maniac Magee or Loser — both are so good!

    • Reply
      Dena at Batch of Books
      January 16, 2017 at 12:15 pm

      I know, right? I thought it was weird that I didn’t like Hokey Pokey since Spinelli is such a prominent name in MG. But I really, really liked The Warden’s Daughter. I think I’ll like his other stuff, too. Thanks for the recommendations!

  • Reply
    January 25, 2017 at 6:20 am

    I have heard of this author, even though I haven’t read any of his books myself before. But I am glad you could enjoy and appreciate this book a lot more than the other by him that you read!

    • Reply
      Dena at Batch of Books
      January 25, 2017 at 1:53 pm

      Me too! He’s such a well-known author here in the states, and even in Canada where I grew up. So I was surprised when I wasn’t crazy about his other book. I’m so glad I gave this book a chance because I ended up loving it.

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