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Jerry Spinelli’s bestselling novel Stargirl is a deceptively complex tale about love and loss, about fitting in and standing out, about speaking out and being quiet. High school narrator Leo Borlock chronicles the impact just one new girl can have on an entire Arizona town.

One glance and students know that the new girl at Mica High School is not your ordinary high school student. Stargirl Caraway is a free spirit. She has a pet rat named Cinnamon, plays the ukulele in the cafeteria, and refuses to wear the requisite jeans and t-shirts. Leo Borlock is both fascinated and horrified by Stargirl’s disdain for fitting in. As he falls in love with her, he still longs for her to be more “normal.” But maybe he should be careful about what he wishes.

Thematic Connections

Intergenerational Relationships
Community • Self-Esteem
Emotions & Feelings • Conformity
Grades 7 up


Jerry Spinelli is the author of more than a dozen books for young readers, including Maniac Magee, winner of the Newbery Medal, and Stargirl, a New York Times bestseller and an ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults. He made his picture book debut with My Daddy and Me, a loving tribute to fathers and sons. He lives with his wife and fellow writer, Eileen, in Wayne, Pennsylvania. While they write in separate rooms of the house, the couple edits and celebrates one another’s work together. Their six children have given Jerry Spinelli a plethora of clever material for his writing.


Questions for Group Discussion

• “Star people are rare,” Archie tells Leo at the end of Stargirl. “You’ll be lucky to meet another.” (p. 177) What is Archie telling Leo both about the nature of his relationship with Stargirl and about Stargirl herself?

• When Stargirl decides to use her given name, Susan Caraway, how else does she change? How can the simple act of using a different name cause a change in behavior and personality? How does this refute the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me”?

• Peer pressure plays a significant role in the story of Stargirl. Discuss how the students of Mica High try to change Stargirl to suit their idea of what a “normal” person is. How does peer pressure change other characters in the story, most notably Leo?

• Two scenes offset one another in the story. Both involve Stargirl. One scene is Stargirl’s debut as a cheerleader; the other has Stargirl competing in the oratory contest. How are these two scenes alike and different? How does each serve to show the different facets of Stargirl’s personality?

• How do the pebbles in Stargirl’s wagon help reveal the true nature of her feelings over the course of
the novel?

• Setting the novel in the desert area around Mica, Arizona, allows Spinelli the chance to have Leo and Stargirl explore this arid world. Additionally, Archie and Senor Saguaro provide important life lessons. How would this story be different if it were set in another place, particularly one with a different climate?

• Stargirl and Leo both fall in love for the first time over the course of the novel. What will they take away from this experience? Is love indeed “blind” or does love filter what they see in one another and in the world around them?


“A magical and heartbreaking tale.”
—irkus Reviews, Starred

“Part fairy godmother, part outcast, part
dream-come-true, [Stargirl] possesses many
of the mythical qualities of Maniac Magee.”
—ublishers Weekly, Starred

An ALA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year


How to Start a Stargirl Society

Stargirl Societies are currently underway in both
middle schools and high schools. Inspired by the
novel and its main character, the societies offer
everyone a chance to become “Starkids” in their
own right.

Suggested Objectives
• Promote individuality and self-confidence as an alternative to brand-name conformity
• Foster a sense of community in and out of school
• Inspire and role model for elementary-age students (and younger—one faculty advisor brought her two-year-old to a meeting!)
• Promote tolerance for everyone
• Encourage and practice sensitivity to others

Suggested Activitites
• Read and discuss the books, Stargirl, Stargirl’s vision, your vision
• Write and perform skits inspired by the stories
• Plan and carry out school and/or community projects (create constellations rather than committees)
• Have a shindig! Stage skits, games (losers get the biggest cheers), refreshments, and crafts— just be sure to come dressed as you’ve always wanted to dress
• Hold an Inner-Beauty Pageant
• Create Stargirl totes, Happy Wagons, people cards, and/or porcupine neckties
• Drop spare change
• Write, plan, and perform a Stargirl musical
• Recite Stargirl’s Pledge of Allegiance
• Discover enchanted places
• Have a yoga and yogurt party
• Visit a planetarium or observatory

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