Books by Michael Spooner

FICTION
Released: June 2, 2009

Mozart in cyberspace. Spooner's adaptation of Così fan tutte puts the action online and transposes the genders of the main characters. Bliss and Tamra have loving if not perfect boyfriends; their frenemy Annie contrives to prove to them that all boys are fickle. With the help of fellow misanthrope Johnson, she invents a manipulative plot in which the girls must pretend to be out of town while simultaneously posing as new exchange students online to lead the boys into temptation. The girls acquiesce to Annie's puppet-master antics and are horrified to see how quickly their boyfriends' fidelity erodes. The high drama of the opera translates well to YA fiction, even if the implausibility of the original plot is exaggerated by the modern setting. Sophisticated teens will not relate to the one-dimensional characters and their improbable friendship triads (the brain/Goth/cheerleader and the jock/nerd/dawg). But the format—like Lauren Myracle's Internet Girls trilogy, the story is told entirely via instant messages, chat-room conversations and blog entries—might entice reluctant readers. (Fiction. 12 & up)Read full book review >
LAST CHILD by Michael Spooner
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Oct. 1, 2005

In the midst of wars and rumors of wars, pestilence and fire, young Rosalie must grow up quickly. The smallpox epidemic of 1837 has killed most of her Mandan village near Fort Clark, and if she survives at all, she fears it'll be as a society of one. Rosalie, the youngest in her family, has always been called Last Child, but now she may literally become that. Spooner uses alternating first-person voices—Rosalie's and her white father's—to vividly portray the lives of those caught in what seemed like the end of the world. Rosalie—part white, part Mandan—must navigate between both cultures, always feeling neither one nor the other, but she comes to realize she is the one who can document what has happened and appeal for aid for the survivors, only 150 of 2,000 villagers. The horrific effects of the "white man's disease" are effectively shown, and Rosalie's character and world are fully realized. A fine historical novel bringing an important chapter in American history to life for young readers. (timeline, notes on American history, bibliography, glossary, personal note) (Fiction. 11+) Read full book review >
DANIEL’S WALK by Michael Spooner
FICTION
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

In 1844, a Voice in the night whispers to Daniel LeBlanc that his father needs help so he leaves his home in Caldwell, Missouri, and joins a wagon train heading for the Oregon Trail. Fourteen-year-old Daniel has been raised by his aunt and uncle after his mother's death and his father's disappearance in the West. Daniel is certain that he will be able to find this father he barely knows, a French fur-trapper, but heavy rains and a dangerous, horse-thieving outlaw imperil the wagon train's progress. He does become friends with a free black man and Rosalie, a young and resourceful half-Mandan girl who likes Shakespeare and beading with quills. When they finally arrive at Fort Laramie after hundreds of back-breaking, wind-blown miles, Daniel wonders whether or not the stockade walls keep out the Oglalas or "simply fence the white folks in"—a ponderous and probably anachronistic thought. When he finds a circle of buffalo skulls, he dreams of great Indian/soldier battles and of a wolf that speaks in the voice of his father. Kidnapped along with Rosalie, Daniel finds himself literally and figuratively in a den of wolves—a gang of white thieves who steal guns from the army and sell them to the Indians. In the violent finale, Daniel learns some truths about his family. His father survived an attack by a rabid wolf, took on its persona and appearance, and is the renegade leader of the gun thieves. The dangerous outlaw who kidnapped him is a member of the gang and his mother's brother. The story is certainly an adventure and conveys the hardships of the westward trek along with providing an interesting friendship between Rosalie and Daniel. However, Spooner relies too heavily on imagery. Rosalie refers to the uncle in Hamlet as a snake, certainly a precursor to Daniel's uncle. His father, perhaps too ahead of his time for seeing clearly the destruction of the Indian way of life and trying to forestall it, dies in a fire and causes Daniel to muse about darkness and light in his own life. He emerges a stronger young man from all he has lived through, but the journey is fraught with the perils of deep thinking and the temptations of literary symbolism. (Historical fiction. 12+)Read full book review >
OLD MESHIKEE AND THE LITTLE CRABS by Michael Spooner
ANIMALS
Released: April 1, 1996

Big Old Meshikee the turtle loves to sit outside, sing, and bang on his drum. But every time he makes music, the noise carries across the pond to the village of the Shagizenz, or little crabs, and drowns out the sound of their own little drums. The Shagizenz decide to put an end to the turtle, once and for all. They capture him, and threaten to burn him and then to boil him alive, but Old Meshikee escapes by suggesting that the crabs dump him into the deep water of the pond to drown him. Those poor little crabs, drumming in celebration of Old Meshikee's demise, hear his drumming join their own. This tale will certainly become a read-aloud favorite, with the satisfying drum sounds written into the text and the colloquial, comfortable voice in which Spooner (A Moon in Your Lunch Box, 1993, etc.) and Taylor tell it. Just as original and fresh are the slightly abstract watercolor and block-print illustrations by newcomer Hart; they'll work better with older children than preschoolers, but there are few who won't enjoy looking at and listening to this retelling of an old Ojibwe story. (Picture book/folklore. 4+) Read full book review >
A MOON IN YOUR LUNCH BOX by Michael Spooner
CHILDREN'S
Released: April 1, 1993

Spooner's first book for young people is an appealing seasonal cycle, thematically linked by the moon—symbol of change and mystery and a rich source of other imagery. These 43 carefully cadenced poems reveal a well-tuned ear but rarely employ conventional rhyme schemes; e.e. cummings seems to have inspired not only the poet's language but its arrangement and often his subjects as well. Spooner has a special ability to evoke imaginative, childlike rumination and delight (``Mud Love'': ``my little bare feet/squirm sweetly in the mud/and the mud/grubbies them snugly/mud gloves...snuggles them grubbily/mud love''). He uses apt comparisons to startle readers into new insights (``Small Miracles'': looking at the world through a telescope, a kaleidoscope, and a poem) and, frequently, evocative phrases (``this great wet walloping day''). Humor isn't the dominant note, but there's enough for leavening. A few holiday poems seem weak, as do the concrete poems; still, kids will enjoy decoding them, and ``Fourth of July,'' an airy mimicry of an exploding rocket—or of the marigold to which it's succinctly compared—is charming. A welcome new voice. Illustrations not seen. (Poetry. 6-12) Read full book review >