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.
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.