Whirligig

Whirligig
Publisher
Age Range
12+
Release Date
October 12, 2010
ISBN
978-0312629113
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With a family always on the move, popularity and the ability to fit in quickly are vital to Brent Bishop’s high school survival. When he blows his chances with the girl of his dreams in front of everyone, he’s devastated. Brent tries to end it all in a fatal car crash, but instead he finds an unlikely beginning. He’s sent on a journey of repentance—a cross-country trip building whirligigs. His wind toys are found by people in need: a Maine schoolgirl yearning for her first love, a Miami street-sweeper desperate for peace and quiet, a kid in Washington who just wants to play baseball, and a San Diego teenager dealing with loss. Brent’s whirligigs bring hope to others, but will they be able to heal the wounds deep inside himself?

Editor review

1 review
One Decision Changes Everything
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Paul Fleischman's tale of atonement is deceptive. It has a strange drawing on the cover (which turns out to be a whirligig) and is only 144 pages, so one would think that is a breezy little ditty. It's not. Whirligig starts out with a bang (literally, a drunk driving accident) and continues to be thoughtful and heavy throughout.

After Brent kills a girl in a mistaken suicide attempt, he is sentenced to place whirligigs in the four corners of the US in order to honor her. Brent is a spoiled teen whose parents want to figure out his problems for him, but he decides to head out on a road trip to fulfill his mission. Along the way, he learns self-reliance, his values, and how to forgive himself and others.

Fleischman grows Brent beautifully into a man who is shaped by the actions he's taken. I often like to think in terms of "sliding doors" (like the Gwyneth Paltrow movie), where would Brent be without this tragedy? Definitely a worse person, drifting angrily throught life. I hope my students are able to look past the cover, which definitely won't appeal to them, and enjoy this story. I know I will be pushing it hard to the ninth graders who are making big decisions right now.
Good Points
Brent's coming of age is realistic
Teaches about consequences without being preachy
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