The Warden’s Daughter

The Warden's Daughter Book Cover The Warden's Daughter
Jerry Spinelli
Juvenile Fiction
Knopf Books for Young Readers
January 3, 2017

Cammie O'Reilly is the warden's daughter, living in an apartment above the entrance to the Hancock County Prison. But she's also living in a prison of grief and anger about the mother who died saving her from harm when she was just a baby. And prison has made her mad. This girl's nickname is Cannonball. In the summer of 1959, as twelve turns to thirteen, everything is in flux. Cammie's best friend is discovering lipstick and American Bandstand d killer is caught and brought to her prison. And the only mother figures in her life include a flamboyant shoplifter named Boo Boo and a sullen reformed arsonist of a housekeeper. All will play a role in Cammie's coming-of-age. But one in particular will make a staggering sacrifice to ensure that Cammie breaks free from her past.



“The Warden’s Daughter” is one of the best historical literary young-adult novels I have ever read.  I couldn’t put it down.

There are some flaws in the novel, with a child protagonist who is extremely limited in her view of others in the world.  However, these flaws are intentional and acknowledged by the adult narrator saying they come from memory and may not even be in the correct order.  I love that the big stories of the day were related only as to how they affected Cammie.  Isn’t that how most of our childhood memories are?  Actual awareness about the meaning of that summer came with age.

The entire idea of a child living inside of a prison is fascinating.  During the time period it wasn’t all that uncommon.  What is uncommon is her progressive father.  Once again, something only seen in hindsight.

The story is a slow-burn that is worth the time and commitment.  I think upper middle-graders through adults will enjoy “The Warden’s Daughter” if they have any interest in history or unique childhood situations.  Highly recommended!

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.


Content Warning:

Language, Violence


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