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Space Station Seventh Grade    by Jerry Spinelli order for
Space Station Seventh Grade
by Jerry Spinelli
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2001 (1982)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

As a mother of a seventh grade boy I was surprised to see that this book was written in 1982 as it still rings true today. I probably should not have been surprised as Space Station Seventh Grade deals with timeless issues - the transition to high school, first feelings for the opposite sex, the physical and mental changes of adolescence, awareness of mortality, dreams and ambitions - but it doesn't take any of them too seriously.

Spinelli writes with his usual knack of getting inside the peculiar mind of a twelve to thirteen year old boy. Jason Herkimer is a good kid in a loving family but he does some strange things. The story starts with chicken bones, when Jason's stepfather Ham drags him out of bed at 7 a.m. in summer vacation to explain what happened to his lunch. 'I didn't do it' says Jason and we only find out later in the book what really happened to the chicken.

It has something to do with a pimple. Jason recognizes it the instant he sees it and tries to hide it under a Band-Aid, but it grows so that 'Pretty soon it would look like a zit wearing a sombrero.' Subsequent events reveal the fate of the chicken. Jason makes other mistakes, from the shallow target of his first love to the casual prejudice that he displays towards his Korean and African American friends, and a variety of thoughtless acts. But he learns from his mistakes and from his friends.

There are some wonderful analogies that bring back memories, for example the ending of summer vacation ... 'Summer has a funnel shape. It seems real wide at first, and deep. Slow. Like it will last forever ... But all the time it's getting smaller and smaller ... And before you know it the summer days are getting sucked down faster and faster ... You're like a bug in a toilet that was just flushed.' It's not just summer - Spinelli has masterfully described the passing of childhood as well.

While this story doesn't have quite the energy of the author's wonderful Maniac Magee, it shares its humor and insights into what matters in the alien (to parents) world of adolescence. Jason is an appealing character, who builds his dreams into his Pioneer space station project, and evolves through the story to a very satisfying conclusion.

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