Thursday, November 1, 2007

Let's Discuss

Here's what I would love to know:

*What did you think overall?

*Could you identify with Leo and/or Stargirl?

*Do you know anyone like Stargirl? (I myself would like to be a bit more Stargirl!)

*What is your favorite Stargirl-ism? (Mine, for example, is how she makes her desk at school a home--tablecloth, flower in vase, and all!)

*What did you think of the ending?

*Did you read the Q&A with Spinelli at the end? What did you think?

*What were the great literary bits?

*What parts of the story did you particulary love or find profound?

Feel free to answer any or all of the above, or just tell us whatever you want! As always, keep checking back to keep this an open, circular dialogue!


liz said...

Oooh, I'm the first. I read this whole book yesterday and loved it. I think the high schools of books and movies are always a little meaner than the real thing, and this was no exception. But, I still thought this was a great concept.

I was definitely not Stargirl in high school, but I could identify with her a little -- I frequently had the feeling in high school that people didn't really "get" me. If I was Stargirl, I guess I wouldn't have cared, though!

Individuality was pretty accepted in my high school, to the point that there were so many "individuals," they started to seem less unique. Most of the people I knew who seemed almost as cool as Stargirl were on drugs though, sad to say.

I loved how Stargirl gave everyone a goody for holidays and special days. Pretty big fan of the bunny hop, too.

I thought the ending was a good idea -- she seemed more ethereal having disappeared.

My copy didn't have the Q&A -- now I'm wondering what he said!

Here's my favorite line in the book (do you think Matt thinks this about me? Hmmm...): "She was bendable light: she shone around every corner of my day." (p. 107)

I answered every question, Mrs. C., do I get an A? I also think that it's a lot easier to just be who you are as an adult. There are certain pressures, of course, but I don't have much concern about fitting in or being a certain way. This book didn't make me nostalgic for high school, though I think my experience was a little easier than that of the Mica Electrons!

Vicky said...

I read it in about a day, and I liked that it was a quick read. Overall I enjoyed it because it was interesting to me how Leo reacted to Stargirl, and how Stargirl reacted to the criticism aimed at her.

I could identify with Leo's torn feelings: she's so intriguing but he wants to fit in. I think we all experience that at one time or another: go with the flock of our society or culture, or seek out truth and meaning for ourselves.

I love that she gives strangers cards of encouragement or celebration. Wouldn't you just love to receive something like that?

I think the ending fit well, but I'm still bummed about Leo's choice to reject her. I wish I had had the Q&A in my book.

I loved Spinelli's discriptions of things and the words he used, especially when talking about the sun. My favorite was "sun syrup" on Stargirl's face when they were in her enchanted place.

I agree with Liz that high schools in books are a lot more mean than in real life. I do think, though, that this was a pretty intuitive assessment of how we as people often react to that which is different from us or those things that lie outside our personal schemas about the world.

Anna said...

Danny and I also loved reading this book. It led to a lot of self reflection in our own lives. How do we treat people, how we have changed since the high school scene, etc. We discussed this a lot right after we read it, and here are some of our thoughts:

Susan and “the change” - We were talking about Stargirl’s change. It appears that, for a short time, she abandoned herself/way of living (e.g. , she went to the mall and shopped and thought of herself rather than thinking of others by making cards for those who she thought needed it, etc.) and who she was for him when she tried to be Susan/ Evelyn Everyone. But I don’t know that she really changed in fundamentals all that much. Just as she gave him the kiss on the porch because he needed more exclusive attention, her “change" to Susan was just a redirection of her attentions not on everyone but on him alone. She wasn’t changing who she was, she was changing the direction of her attentions. She was still giving. She saw that his need was for her to do what he thought was important. The change back to the old Stargirl didn’t come from the disappointment when the crowds in the parking lot weren’t there. It came from her disappointment in Leo. He left her alone all weekend. She was feeling that the one person that she had done this for and was having faith in abandoned her in her time of need. She needed support. He just waited until Monday to talk to her again. (Though, if I were a boy in high school I don’t know that I would have known what to do either.)

The Rat - My (Danny’s) favorite scene of the book was when Leo and Stargirl talked by the car in Stargirl’s driveway. It was painfully awkward, but also half-way believable, and Spinelli did a great job with it. One thing that I liked about the scene was the way Spinelli used Cinnamon (the rat) as a bridge between Leo and Stargirl. When the conversation seems really dead, Cinnamon comes to Leo as a sort of extension of Stargirl. Leo is afraid of the rat at first, but gradually gets more comfortable with him, as he also gets more comfortable with Stargirl. Also, when they go mediate in the enchanted place, it is Cinnamon that helps Leo make progress toward nothingness/everythingness. Cinnamon helps Leo enter Stargirl’s world.

Authenticity - A major theme of the book seemed to be “being yourself,” in the sense that Stargirl really was being herself while Leo and everyone else were caught up in the opinions of other people. I think it is good to “be yourself,” but only if you be yourself in a good way. We liked Stargirl because she was herself in a way that was selfless, loving, creative, passionate, insightful, etc. However, if she was petty, insecure, crude, and generally mean to others in idiosyncratic ways, and this was supposed to be the way she was being authentic, then I would say that she should change. One of the themes we see in a lot of media these days is that we should just be ourselves, and that others should accept us for who we “really” are, but how widely should we draw the lines for what counts as a good way of being yourself? Are there no lines whatsoever; that is, should there be no restrictions on our authenticity, even if this means doing really lousy and immoral things? I don’t think so. Stargirl’s authenticity is good because she is good; she does good things in an authentic way.

We also didn't have the Q & A. What were they about?

We still have more thoughts, but for later.

Mrs. Cropper said...

OOH, so many great insights! Liz, I love that line on 107 as well. I bet Matt thinks that and better of you. Vicky, you're right. We all struggle with the desire to "fit." Like Liz, I think I've gotten over a LOT of that since "growing up," but it's definitely not all gone! Although I was also disappointed in Leo's choice to abandon her, I agree that it's important to put ourselves in his shoes. Anna and Danny, some fabulous insights. I love the idea of Cinammon as a connector. Brilliant. And I agree that Stargirl's authenticity was refreshing and wonderful because of her goodness. We do live in society of no boundaries. Just be yourself. Wear whatever. Say whatever. It's too limitless in that people don't have to take accountability for their lewdness or unkindness. ("That's just the way I am.")

Here are some of my favorite bits:
Page 53: "She had no ego." Isn't that profound above all?!

Page 107: "She taught me to revel." That's the part of Stargirl that I'd most like to adopt.

Page 181: I love the names Archie gives her, particularly, "The recycler of our garbage." Essentially she changed the world around her for the better--she left her mark. I love that.

Oh, and didn't you just love the slap by Hillari and then Stargirl's reaction--to kiss her cheek?! Beautiful!

I'm bummed that all of the copies don't have the Q&A. It helped me see Spinelli's vision and love the book even more. Here are some exerpts:

Q: What was your inspiration for creating the character Stargirl? Did you draw from people you knew or from your imagination?
A: I drew aspects of Stargirl from many sources in memory, literature, and hopeful imagination. The one real-life person who embodies more of those aspects than anyone else I know is my wife and fellow author, Eileen.

Q: Do you belive that people like Stargirl really exist or is she a fantasy character?
A: Short Answer: Eileen Spinelli exists.
Long answer: Stargirl is as real as hope, as real as possibility, as real as the best in human nature. Outrageous? I hope so. Thank goodness for the outrageous among us. I wish I were more outrageous, less predictable, more unrealistic. I understand that the story carries a whiff of fantasy, of the tall tale. The story and, in particular, the character, are intended to raise dust in the corners of credibility, to challenge our routine ways of seeing ourselves. When Archie says to Leo, "She is us more than we are us," he refers to both her essential humanity and to our own often unrealized potential. Leo himself almost accuses her of being too good to be true, then later notes, "That was no saint kissing me." What does it say about us if we believe such a person to be impossible? The message of the story is precisely the opposite: such a person is possible, and to the extent that Stargirl is us (Archie: "She's an earthling if ever there was one"), so are we.

He says he was notes all the way back to 1966 that ultimately became this book. His advice for young writers? "For me, there are many little rules, all superseded by one Golden Rule: Write what you care about."

I love this guy!

Traci said...

Love, Love, LOVED this book Mrs. Cropper. About 1/4 of the way through I thought to myself how fun it will be to one day read this book with Emma and discuss it with her! (ok so I know it's a long ways away but still)
I love this author! I love it when you finish reading a book and think "I could read it over again right now" knowing that I would catch something I didn't catch the first time. It's as deep as you want it to be (you know what I mean?).
I guess I would say that I identify more with Leo. Although I would love to say that I was more of a "Stargirl". But I think that that desire solidifies that I am in fact a Leo. As I believe that Leo really deep down wanted to be Stargirl as well, but couldn't fully allow himself to let go of "societies, or popularities" hold on him (which I am sad to say seems to keep me from being as free as I would like to be too).
My favorite Stargirl-ism is that she cheers for everyone including the other team.
I think that the ending was perfect. I left it open for your imagination.
I guess my book was the only other one with the Q&A at the end. I did read it. Wouldn't it be neat to have a "Meet the author" with him?
I can't seem to shake the line (pg103)when Leo said "Like so many of Archie's words, they seemed not to enter through my ears but to settle on my skin, there to burrow like tiny eggs awaiting the rain of my maturity, when they would hatch and I at last would understand" ohhhhh gives me chills!!
I found myself thinking a lot about how Stargirl didn't take sides and didn't understand the concept of not cheering for everyone. It is something that I think is so wrong with our society. We see things as theirs and ours. I think that we feel it necessary to take sides in hopes of fitting in and finding our place. I also find myself taking sides so that people will think something in particular about me. Or doing something nice for someone and then feeling a little upset when i don't get any recognition for it. (ok this sounds like a confession) But really, shouldn't everyone be on our team and shouldn't we do good for the sake of goodness itself.
I learned a lot from this book and I am still taking it in!

Halcyon said...

I lvoed this book, about 3/4ths of the way through I declard it my new favorite book. I think having Eric work with High Schoolers really helped me to connect with the story and feel like it's message was really quite applicable and needed in todays world. I felt like that message was to have passion, be zestful, and stick to your standards. Don't worry about the world, just worry about yourself, your own happiness, and making others happy. Have open arms to everyone, and don't mock or push aside anyone. Of course, I echo Anna/Danny about being a good individual and proud of it, rather than just bridling individuality as a form of rebellion.

I've always thought of myself as more of a free-spirit, so I identified more with Stargirl. I can understand Leo, and I've had my Leo times in life, but overall, I'd align my true character with Stargirl.

My sister Krista is Stargirl--minus the pioneer skirts, and add some crazy clown glasses.

Stargirl-ism...well, in conjunction with her cards and well wishings that she would deliver to everyone, I loved the scene at the end when Archie shows Leo Stargirls office. I loved the details and the care and the attention that she paid to people, all people. I also love the game describing people. Eric and I play that game all the time as we're driving on the road--we look into other cars and talk about who's in them, where they're going and all other details of their life.

I thought the ending was great. Pulled on all my heart strings and most emotions I could think of. And of course the hope that comes with that porcupine necktie is dazzling.

I was fortunate enough to have the Q&A-When asked who he wanted to ahve dinner with, I thought it was great that he mentioned the underappreciated boxer, and even better that he wanted to dump a teacup of confetti on his head--Good 'ol Jerry, dreamin' up the Stargirl lifestyle.

As far as literary bits go, as I was reading I would run across fabulous literary bits and think to myself, 'I should underline that, otherwise I'll never find it again." Well, I didn't underline. So suffice it to say, I thought there were many great literary bits!

I loved the role Archie and Mr. McShane played as leaders. Both of these adults had important roles in Stargirl's life. Both were supportive of her and her character. Neither of them tried to convince her of reality, but supported her in her own ideas. They helped to give her confidence. I think these two characters show us how important adults are. Mr. McShane totally encouraged Stargirls's idea of her warm welcome home after her victory that he knew she would get. How great. Just think what the story would ahve been like if he had said, "Now Stargirl, those are silly hopes, let's be realistic." We as "adults" really do have a huge impact on youth/teenagers, and I hope we live up to the example set by these two characters.

All in all-great book!

Anna said...

Anne, this was a great pick. I'm glad it was my first book club experience. It won't be my last!

I couldn't wait to spout out some of the other things that Danny and I were talking about first, but I did want to respond to some of your questions.

I really liked the book. I felt that it was quite incredible how many symbolisms and connections between events and things there were. Like the eggs on the skin waiting to hatch, I don't think I would have gotten any of it in High School. That is what is so great about the book, the more you live the more you can get out of it - at least I think. (I was pretty much the girl in high school that sat there listening to the English teacher ramble about poetry or something thinking, "What on earth is she talking about?" Then I had to write a paper about it, where I ended up plugging together her thoughts from my frantic notes. I know I was thinking too much about boys and music, etc.) Anyway I am glad that I have lived/learned more and can now get more out of it.

I think that the High School Anna was more like Leo. I am ashamed to admit that there was even a girl down the street that like Stargirl was a social outcast. I would talk to her only when we weren't at school, for fear that I would be outcast by "them." Fortunately I became more like Stargirl after high school. I relate to her character a lot lately in my life. I feel almost dangerously not concerned about "them" right now. One thing I don't understand about Stargirl though was she cared about other people, but she didn't care as much if what she did made them feel uncomfortable. If she really did care about them wouldn't she care about that too? That is one place where we are different (among others which we won't get into).

My favorite Stargirl-ism is her happy wagon. It reminds me of counting your blessings when things feel awful.

The ending made me so MAD! Leo was such a jerk. I felt dumped! (Maybe b/c I feel more like *girl) I had to talk it over with Danny forever. I needed closure. It took everything in me not to run out to the Library, get "Love, Stargirl" (the sequel) and stay up all night reading it. It did make me look at my own life and think of who I see as a service, or what thing they represent and not as a human that needs love and deserves respect.

Ok that's enough for now. The book went back to the library and I did get Love, Stargirl. It isn't as engaging in the beginning, but I do like it. It paints Stargirl as a real person. I like that.

Halcyon said...

Ooohh, there's a sequel, eh? I didn't know that! Anna, do add more tidbits about stargirl that you gain from the sequel!

jeanine said...

I loved this book and agree that as soon as I finished I wanted to read it all over again. It's been sitting on my dresser begging me to pick it up already! So good!
My high school self was Leo for sure... and probably still is. Although I try so hard to be a little bit more like Stargirl. I often think "I should send so-and-so a card" but rarely follow through. I need to do that more. I love that she didn't have an ego! She was so selfless in all that she did and although she was a little "out there" she was just being herself and not worried about what others thought as we are all so prone to do. I loved how she was the first person to comfort the hurt basketball player from the opposing team--instead of being happy like the rest of her classmates.
The happy wagon was one of my favorites... what a good visual reminder of how good our life is!
The ending pulled at my heartstrings. I so wanted Leo to be better to her... but the way it ended was much more realistic. But the fact that she was still around thinking of him was wonderful.
I don't have the book in front of me at the moment but there was a line where Leo compared the student body to mud toads waking up from hibrination.
Such a great book...

Amy Jean said...

**Loved the book. I have been anxious to read it again. The first time was painful because I wanted to find out what happened and I felt for Leo. I want to read it again so I can enjoy the great descriptions and the language.

**I am definitely Leo. That's another reason it was painful to read. I was re-living way too many days in school when I would turn the other way when I knew I should just say hi to someone. There was a day that my friend and I went over to sit by a lonely looking boy at lunch. He didn't seem to appreciate it though.

**I can't say I know anyone quite like Stargirl. Although I do know people who come close. I certainly like to think that when it comes to sending cards, or cheering for the other team I am like her. But I definitely care way too much about blending in.

**Loved her happy wagon. Loved her enchanted place. Loved that she followed people at the mall. Loved that she helped the basketball player, made her neighbor a scrapbook, read the filler section, and sent Leo his tie.

**It was sad. I hate when things don't work out. It pained me that he watched the dance, and she never knew he was there. But knowing Stargirl-she probably did know. And she probably knows that he leaves quarters on the ground and feels guilty buying cards from Hallmark.

**no Q&A

**I loved the car ride to Phoenix when she gets out of the car and gets her inspiration for her speech.

**My favorite part by far is when they go to the enchanted place and disappear. "That was the last sound either of us made for a long time. We sat side by side, lotus style, facing west. I closed my eyes. I tried to be perfectly still-and promptly found out that she was right. I could immobilize my arms and legs, but inside me it was rush hour in downtown Phoenix...I felt a pang of jealousy, that she could be somewhere most wonderful and I could not be there, too." (92-3). I related to this scene big time. I don't know how to explain why this scene was profound to me, but it was!

Can't wait for the next book!

Traci said...

I was excited to hear about the sequel but after trying to find it at the library, I found out it isn't coming out until January. I am going to get on the waiting list for it at our library (Which, if you haven't heard Mrs. Cropper, is finally open again .....YEAH!!!!)

Mrs. Cropper said...

The way I interpreted it, Stargirl was naiive to the fact that some of the things she did made others uncomfortable. Like when Leo had to explain why it wasn't really appropriate to show up to the funeral of a stranger. What do you think?
(But in a way I love how naiive she is.)

I relate to those of you who were sad at the end! I was too! But it is fun to think of the possibilities-esp. when Leo receives the porcupine tie!

Jeanine, I also loved that bit about the mudtoads!

Amy Jean, I like the thought that Stargirl probably did know that Leo saw her dance and still drops quarters...

Trace, That is so exciting about the library being open again! Hallelujah!

And to all, I am curious to read "Love, Stargirl," but nervous. Don't you feel like sequels often don't meet your expectations? But let me know if you all want to read it, and we could for book club. That might be fun. I also have some others in mind...

Danny Frost said...

Here's an add-on to Anna's and my thoughts: I thought the contrast between "natural" and social life was very interesting in the book. Stargirl is constantly trying to draw Leo away from social life and back to "nature," which is apparently where she belongs. I think the scenes when she walks him out of the city and to the desert illustrate this point very clearly: in these cases she is literally leading him out of the city so that he can see and experience something outside of the city (or his society's) limits. Also, at the ball, she leads the students out of the lights of the city and into the darkness of the desert (while listing to a beat that Spinelli describes as particularly primitive). Perhaps Archie and Stargirl get along so well because both are so attentive to and comfortable in nature. Of course, Leo tries to turn this around by saying that the instinct to be a member of a group is itself a natural impulse, but the picture we get of Leo is that he is not being true to his real (or natural?) self.

Speaking of natural selves, Stargirl is paradoxically most herself when she is not a self at all - when she is everything at once, but nothing in particular. This sounds a lot like certain eastern religions, where the point of life is to get out of existence. Is the most natural state to be nothing, or everything, or something else?

Amy Jean said...

I read Love, Stargirl this week. I couldn't help myself. I don't want to give anything away, but it would be fun to discuss if anyone else reads it.

Anna said...

Amy I agree. I don't want to give it away, but after "Love, Stargirl" I have a totally different take on her (as it is from her perspective).