THE WARDEN’S DAUGHTER for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

I’m off and running into my sixth year at ALWAYS in the MIDDLE. The winners of my Anniversary Giveaway of a book and gift card are:





Congratulations to all. And now onto this weeks review…


I’ve never come across an editor requesting more prison dramas for middle grade. But here we have the second one in two years with THE WARDEN’S DAUGHTER. Last year I featured ALL RISE FOR THE HONORABLE PERRY T. COOK, the story of a boy born and raised for his first eleven years in a prison where his mother is incarcerated for a crime Perry doesn’t understand.

All Rise For The Honorable Perry T. Cook is a book I’d share with middle grade readers of all ages. It has a heartwarming beat in the face of desperation. I also liked THE WARDEN”S DAUGHTER but not as a middle grade reader. I felt the adult side of me clinging to the pages and would be hesitant to recommend it to children under 13.

The narration is through the eyes of Cammie as an adult looking back on the summer when she was about to celebrate her 13th birthday. Yes, back then she lived with her dad in an upstairs apartment in Pennsylvania’s Hancock County Prison. It’s 1959 and she mingles with the female prisoners in the exercise yard and longs to have a mother. Her own mom was killed, run over by a car while walking Cammie’s baby carriage across the street. Cammie survived but is in a downward spiral of depression.

There’s a murder, a suicide, and underage cigarette smoking that teachers and parents should be aware of before having the younger ones dive in to the pages. The writing is stellar and I’d take this on a long trip to enjoy before handing it off to another adult reader. It’s the best middle grade book for older readers I’ve read this year. Not so much for the 10-year-olds.


FULL PLOT (From AMAZON) Cammie O’Reilly lives at the Hancock County Prison–not as a prisoner, she’s the warden’s daughter. She spends the mornings hanging out with shoplifters and reformed arsonists in the women’s exercise yard, which gives Cammie a certain cache with her school friends.

But even though Cammie’s free to leave the prison, she’s still stuck. And sad, and really mad. Her mother died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. You wouldn’t think you could miss something you never had, but on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, the thing Cammie most wants is a mom. A prison might not be the best place to search for a mother, but Cammie is determined and she’s willing to work with what she’s got.


  1. You get a smidgen of how life was like in 1959 and a sidelight with American Bandstand and its popularity with kids.
  2. I often wonder how young characters in books would emerge in adult life. My question about Cammie is answered in the final chapter written by adult Cammie in 2017.
  3. It’s estimated that an average of one child in every classroom has an incarcerated parent so books like this one could connect in a positive way.
  4. The secondary characters like Eloda, young Andrew, Reggie and Danny were characters I wanted to get to know better. They were bright spots to cover the unlikable qualities of Cammie.
  5. A positive ending brought a smile back to my face.

FAVORITE LINES:  Now, in the weeks after Mother’s Day, something was changing. Enough was no longer enough. Dormant feelings stirred by a smile at a ballpark moved and shifted until they shaped a thought: I was sick and tired of being motherless.

I wanted one. And a second thought: If I couldn’t have my first-string mother, I’d bring one in off the bench.

But who?

A teacher?

The next lady who smiled at me?

The flash point came in five words.

A FEW RECENT WORDS from  Jerry Spinelli: 


Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.

Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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10 Responses to THE WARDEN’S DAUGHTER for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

  1. Thanks for picking ME!! Very excited here. I will have to look for this one. One cannot ignore a Jerry Spinelli book. Thanks or the review.

  2. Andrea Mack says:

    This is a really interesting book. I enjoyed the way the story isn’t “sugar coated” and we do get a real glimpse into a different time and place. Great review!

  3. I was delighted to read your review. It’s fun to see what other reviewers think. You made some good points. I really enjoyed spending time with this book and liked its realism. And, I grew up during the time Cammie did. I think this book would appeal to kids who have parents in jail — so many.

  4. danielle hammelef says:

    I loved All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook! I enjoy Jerry Spinelli’s writing, so this is already on my TBR.

  5. Sue Heavenrich says:

    Definitely putting this one on my to read list! Love Spinelli. And this book sounds like a deeper story.

  6. cleemckenzie says:

    An interesting topic for young readers, especially those who have first-hand experience with a parent in custody.

  7. Sue Kooky says:

    Congratulations to the winners! I’ve never actually read a book set in a prison. It sounds awesome but really deep and intense. Thanks for the review!

  8. Congrats on six years! Here’s to many more.

  9. I like Spinelli’s books. He always chooses interesting themes. I was amazed to learn that, on average, one child in every classroom has an incarcerated parent.

  10. Congrats to the winners. Didn’t realize how many kids have a parent in prison. Sounds like a great book for older kids.

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