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Whirligig

by Paul Fleischman

Published by Henry Holt, 1998
133 pages
ISBN: 0-8050-5582-7

Age 13 and older

We can never know all the consequences of our acts. They reach into places we can't see. And into the future, where no one can." In a drunken moment of despair and self-pity, 16-year-old Brent tries to kill himself by crashing his car. He survives, but a young woman driving an oncoming car is killed. It is the young woman's mother who offers him a chance for some sort of redemption from his guilt and self-loathing. In her own grief, she is seeking to keep some part of her daughter Lea's caring spirit alive. She shows Brent a picture of a whirligig--Lea's favorite toy as a child. Put one up in the four corners of the United States, she tells Brent. Paint them in the image of Lea and write her name on each one, so that in some way she will continue to spread happiness. Brent travels across the country by bus to complete the task, his unskilled work improving with each new creation. He relies on help from the past in the carefully written notes left by another builder in the old book on whirligigs he bought. But Brent, too, is leaving notes for the future--messages that are open to interpretation in the form of each of the whirligigs he builds. Fleischman intersperses his narrative of Brent's journey with chapters that step into other people's lives at some future time, chronicling how each of the whirligigs has been viewed by someone whose life it has touched. In this way, the narrative as a whole moves back and forth through time like the blades of a whirligig spinning with the wind. But the story always returns to Brent's own journey as he gradually learns to trust both himself and others, and in doing so discovers his own strength and kindness, and the unending connections that give life its meaning. CCBC categories: Fiction for Teenagers.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center


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