Wringer is a Newberry Honor book by Jerry Spinelli. The story focuses on a young boy named Palmer who becomes part of a “gang” on his ninth birthday. At first, he enjoys the feeling of being accepted. But soon he discovers that his feeling of loyalty to the gang will lead to difficult decisions.
Palmer lives in a town that hosts an annual Pigeon Day. The festivities include typical entertainment such as barbeques and amusement rides, but the highlight of the event is a pigeon shooting contest. Thousands of pigeons are released into the air, for contest participants to shoot down with their shotguns. The participant who shoots the most pigeons wins the coveted Sharpshooter’s trophy.
Pigeons that are wounded and fall to the ground during the contest are collected by “wringer boys.” These boys are tasked with breaking the pigeons’ necks, to ensure death. All dead pigeons are then placed into plastic bags. A boy can become a “wringer” once he reaches the age of ten. The other members of Palmer’s gang all want to become wringers, but Palmer secretly dreads the idea of breaking pigeons’ necks.
The story becomes suspenseful as Palmer struggles with his loyalty to the gang and his innate desire to avoid harming the pigeons. Palmer finds himself in a difficult position because the killing of pigeons is widely accepted and even celebrated by his community. He feels pressure to become a wringer, even from his own father. This creates a challenging moral dilemma for Palmer.
I found this book to be very compelling. It was hard to put it down once I started reading it. The characters are well-developed and the ending is quite poignant. The book conveys a thoughtful message about the killing of animals. Overall, I would say that this novel was quite deserving of the Newberry Honor award. I highly recommend it.
Wringer by Jerry Spinelli is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.