Why children’s author Jerry Spinelli won’t shy away from tough topics

Though Newberry Award-winning author Jerry Spinelli has always written for kids, he’s never shied away from tough topics. In his writing, Spinelli — best known for his 1990 novel, “Maniac Magee,” which explores racism and homelessness, and his 1996 novel “Wringer,” about a boy learning to stand up to peer pressure towards violence — explores the difficulties of adolescent life with empathy, humor and realism. His new book, “The Warden’s Daughter,” is no different, as it follows a girl who grows up without a mother in a county prison.

In an interview with correspondent Jeffrey Brown, Spinelli said he doesn’t worry about whether kids can handle more mature themes.

“It’s the world they’re growing up in,” he said. “They have their own problems, the same as the problems that I had when I was their age.”

Spinelli said he’s more concerned about telling a good story with believable characters. If that happens, “then the kids who are reading it, they’re going to move up to it,” he said. “So I don’t think of myself so much writing for kids as about kids.”

Watch that full interview below: