by Paul Fleischman

Audiobook(Cassette - Unabridged, 4 Cassettes)

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Brent Bishop longs to have the popular Brianna strolling around school on his arm. But when she rejects him at a classmate's party, Brent's hopes for popularity are instantly shattered. Devastated, he tries to destroy himself in a car crash... but instead kills an innocent girl named Lea.

Instead of sending him to jail, Lea's parents challenge Brent to create four whirligigs modeled on a picture of Lea and position them at the four corners of the United States. Lea's mother hopes that the whirligig that used to delight Lea will be a fitting memorial for her precious daughter. She sends Brent off with an unlimited bus ticket, a few pieces of wood, and the tools to memorialize Lea. On his mission to preserve his victim's memory, Brent ultimately rediscovers his own love of life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781883332389
Publisher: Audio Bookshelf
Publication date: 01/28/1999
Edition description: Unabridged, 4 Cassettes
Pages: 5
Product dimensions: 5.14(w) x 6.24(h) x 1.23(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Paul Fleischman won a Newbery Medal for Joyful Noise and a Newbery Honor for Graven Images. He is also the author of the young adult novel The Mind's Eye, and middle-grade novels including Bull Run and Seedfolks. He lives with his wife in northern California.

Read an Excerpt

The day's first squirt of sunlight hit the window. The bus changed gears. Brent opened his eyes. They were climbing through mountains now. The other passengers around him were sleeping. Twitched alert by the light, he craned his neck to get a better view, pressed his head to the tinted glass, and raptly observed the sun's rising. After night came another day. And after death another life. Mornings seemed mysterious gifts. He inspected the dawn with fascination.

The bus's gears growled. Behind him he heard a faint conversation in another language. This is the afterlife, he told himself. To be crowded in with a collection of strangers, plunging through a foreign landscape, headed toward an unknown destiny. The bus was his ferry across the river Styx. It descended now into an unlit valley. Brent squinted at his map and realized he was in the Cascades. Seattle wasn't far off. He'd been riding for two days, watching new souls board in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Fargo, Bozeman, Butte, Coeur d'Alene, Spokane. He'd speculated on their previous lives. He had surprisingly little interest in his own. His second life had eclipsed his first. Its moment of birth had been the crash.

He didn't remember the actual impact. He did recall the ambulance lights, the policeman asking how he felt, the discovery that he'd escaped with only cuts and a minor head injury. Then came the alcohol test. Then the drive to the police station, being booked for drunk driving, the photographs and fingerprints—registering his new birth, he thought now. Then the realization that the ambulance at the scene had been tending someone else, that he'd hit another car. His father had arrived at the station. There was talk of the Chevy, its back end mangled, the car probably totaled. Then the news, delivered by one of the officers, that the woman he'd hit had died.

The muteness had begun in that moment. He spoke not at all driving home with his father, slept fourteen hours, and didn't speak the next day. He remembered the party and that he'd tried to kill himself. That he'd ended up killing someone else left him frozen, numb from scalp to soles. Words returned on the second day. His turmoil, though, wasn't translatable into words.

His mother got rid of the newspaper that had a story about the crash, but Brent dug it out of the bottom of the trash can. His car had apparently hit the divider, spun, then been struck by the driver behind him. His blood alcohol was 11. The story was brief and gave only the victim's name, age, and residence: Lea Zamora, 18, Chicago. He plumbed those few facts. She was nearly his own age. He was determined to know more. He tried the obituaries, but her name wasn't listed. He rummaged through the trash for the following day's paper, turned to the gravy-stained obituaries—and found her. Daughter of Cesar and Tamara Zamora, senior at Niles North High School, an honor student, member of the student council, the orchestra, the track team, active in the Filipino community, volunteer at Resurrection Hospital. Why did he have to kill someone like that? Then he realized with a surge of relief that he could perhaps go to the funeral. The police had confiscated his license, but he could take a cab, stand in the back, leave an anonymous offering of some kind. He checked the paper. It had been held the day before.

He ate little, spoke little, and no longer listened to music. He turned seventeen, an event he scarcely noticed. He heard his parents whisper about the blow to his head and his personality change. He'd been diagnosed with a mild concussion. The headaches, like a wrecking ball working on his skull, came less often, replaced by the endless tolling in his mind of the word murderer. Everyone knew. He refused to go to school and made arrangemeets to finish his classwork at home. He disliked being seen in his neighborhood, where the glances he drew were too long or too short. Among strangers he felt no less an outcast, their blind assumption that he was one of them making him wince inside. He studied their carefree innocence with envy: an old woman reading on a bench in a mall, a baby sleeping in a stroller, a pretzel seller joking with a customer. He was no longer of their kind and never would be.

There was a hearing with a judge soon after the crash. Like a ghost, Brent listened to other people discuss the accident and his fate. He was charged with DUI and manslaughter. He hadn't contested his guilt; his punishment was the issue at hand. The judge asked for more information and set a date for a second hearing. It was then that the interviewing began. Social workers and psychologists questioned him, his parents, his friends. He found the fact that he'd tried to kill himself impossible to share with another soul. He could scarcely believe he'd actually tried it and wondered how he could have given no thought to the other cars he would hit. His parents hired their own lawyer and a psychologist. Their job was to argue that sending him to the juvenile detention center would be detrimental to his worrisome mental state. His father tried to cheer him up, promising he would serve no time, telling him to put it behind him, assuring him people would forget.

"I won't," Brent answered silently. He took the obituary from its hiding place, looked up Cesar Zamora in the phone book, and spent all of one day composing what became a four-sentence apology. He mailed it on a Monday. The reply came on Friday—an envelope with his own letter inside, mutilated with scissors, stabbed, defaced with cigarette burns.

Nightmares about Mr. Zamora stalking him through the Philippine jungle joined those about the detention center. Entering the courthouse for his second hearing, the latest dream of being beaten by a circle of inmates recurred to him. He passed a young man, his arms swarming with tattoos, whom he was certain he'd seen in the dream. He and his parents found their room. The psychologists spoke, then the lawyers. Brent suddenly wondered if Mr. Zamora might be there. He was trying to scan the faces to his rear when his father squeezed his forearm. The judge was addressing him, sentencing him to probation in place of the detention center. His parents beamed. He felt relief, but also an unanswered hunger. He realized he wanted a punishment. Brent knew also that, grim as the detention center might be, he'd have welcomed the chance to leave his family and his previous life behind. The listing of the terms of his probation hardly registered with him—alcohol counseling, therapy for depression, volunteering in an emergency room. Then the judge came to the final item: meeting with the victim's family, if they desired, to discuss restitution.

Brent knew the meeting would never take place, an outcome that once again left him both relieved and unsatisfied. He wanted to do something for the family. Two days later the probation officer called. The victim's mother had agreed to talk with him.

The meeting was scheduled in a building downtown. Entering, Brent wished his parents weren't with him. The room was spacious and had a view of Lake Michigan. Miss Gill, young and black and soft-voiced, was there to serve as mediator. A few minutes later Mrs. Zamora arrived, not the tiny Asian woman Brent had pictured but a heavyset redhead in an India print skirt. Among the dozen necklaces jangling on her chest, Brent picked out pendants of an astrological sign and a Native American sun symbol. Her wavy hair flowed exuberantly over her shoulders; the rest of her seemed only half-alive. She navigated the introductions with an eerie, ethereal calm. Brent gazed openly into her face, offering himself up to her, and noticed that her eyes were slightly bloodshot. Those eyes searched his own, then released him. How strange, he thought, that he'd somehow caused this woman, whom he'd never met, to cry.

"We're meeting today," said Miss Gill, "to apologize, and to understand, and to atone." Her voice was hopeful rather than accusing. "We never know all the consequences of our acts. They reach into places we can't see. And into the future, where no one can."

She looked at Brent, then invited Mrs. Zamora to describe the results of Lea's death.

"When the phone rang," she began, "I was sorting through lentils, to soak for soup the next day." Her voice had a faint flutter to it. Eyes down, she continued her detailed, dispassionate account of that night and the days that followed, of her husband's smashing a wooden chair in his rage, the younger children's endless crying, her sleeplessness, the thought of killing herself to be with Lea, the voice from Lea's photo saying, "No."

Brent closed his eyes. What murderous machine had he constructed and set in motion? When his turn finally came to speak, the long apology he'd rehearsed reduced itself to the two words "I'm sorry," words he spoke over and over, then wailed miserably through tears, not caring that his parents were watching.

Miss Gill spoke for a while. When it came time to discuss restitution, Brent saw his father shift nervously. The Zamoras hadn't sued; apparently they were content with the insurance company's payment. His father had brought his checkbook just in case. Brent spied the silver pen beside it in his jacket's inside pocket, stationed like a butler awaiting command. Miss Gill reviewed various possibilities: a written apology to each family member, service to a charity of the Zamoras' choice, service to the Zamoras themselves. Whatever it might be would have to be agreeable to both parties.

Mrs. Zamora stared back at her. "I don't believe in retribution. Lea was born in the Philippines. I was teaching English and met my husband there. I saw what an-eye-for-an-eye looks like, with the rebels fighting the government and all that. My husband feels a little differently. I also believe everything happens for a reason." She toyed with her necklaces. "That the universe required this. For some reason."

She paused, then directed her words at Brent's parents. "Lea had a very caring soul. Very strong and generous. Everybody who saw her smiled. They loved her at the hospital where she worked. This summer she was going to do volunteer work in California. In the fall, she was going to college in Boston. She would have spread joy all over the country."

Brent wondered what his own eulogy would sound like. Mrs. Zamora turned her gaze on him.

"I've thought about you, for hours and hours. What can you possibly do for me? Paint the house? Mow the lawn all summer?"

Her voice had acquired a stronger tremble. She let the questions hang in the air, then looked to Brent's left, out the window.

"My father is a very fine carpenter. Lea was his first grandchild. When she was little, he made her lots of wooden toys. Her favorite was a whirligig, of a girl with arms that spin in the wind. He painted the face to look like her. We've had it on a pole in our yard forever. Hundreds of people over the years have noticed it, and stopped, and smiled. Just like people smiled at Lea."

She opened her purse, extracted a photo, looked at it, and passed it to Brent. It showed the wind toy in motion.

"Lea is gone. I'm learning to accept that. I thought I had nothing I could ask you that would help. You can't bring back her body. Then I thought about her spirit."

Brent's skin tingled. He stared at the photo, then at her, anxious to hear her bidding.

"This is my only request. That you make four whirligigs, of a girl that looks like Lea. Put her name on them. Then set them up in Washington, California, Florida, and Maine—the corners of the United States. Let people all over the country receive joy from her even though she's gone. You make the smiles that she would have made. It's the only thing you can do for me." She exhaled. "That's what I ask."

"You must be joking," said Brent's mother.

His father strained forward in his chair. "This is crazy!" He appealed to Miss Gill. "That's not the kind of thing you ask for!" He faced Mrs. Zamora. "And how's he supposed to zip around the country? In his private jet?"

She pulled something else out of her purse. "I bought him a Greyhound bus pass. Good for forty-five days. He can go anywhere."

Miss Gill repeated that restitutions weren't imposed, but accepted voluntarily by the offender. Brent's parents raised one objection after another, from his commitment to the emergency room to his need for his family, his nonexistent carpentry skills, and the cruel and unusual conditions of bus travel. Brent was oblivious of the arguing. In the quiet storm cellar of his mind, he pondered the proposal. Strange as it was, it would get him away from Chicago, his parents, and his recent past. It would also give him a chance to do penance. He'd never traveled on his own before. The idea held sudden appeal. He smiled inside. He cleared his throat. Then he spoke the words, "I'll do it."

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Party Time,
Weeksboro, Maine,
The Afterlife,
Miami, Florida,
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,
Bellevue, Washington,
San Diego, California,
"Everybody Swing!",

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Whirligig 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 56 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the way the author wrote this novel. It is probably one of the most unique books i have ever read, and a very captivating one as well. The story line is very creative and you can really connect with the characters in the book.
coffeechica More than 1 year ago
Four tales about redemption, family, and hope are framed by a fifth tale of the boy who touched all of their lives without even being there. Tight prose and a joyful ending to contrast the tragic start. Fleischman has an ear for dialogue and an eye for nuances that make this story feel real. One of my favorite YA titles.
red14 More than 1 year ago
Whirligig is an interesting, yet very short book. Whirligig does have a few chapters that don't really live up to the standard presented throughout the book, but they are few and far between in this emotional journey of a teenage kid. If you're into psychology, I highly recommend this book. For the rest of us, Whirligig is an entertaining story that is worth reading and has that special quality that makes you want to read it twice.It won't blow you away, but Fleischman didn't set out to do that, and Whirligig certainly doesn't need to blow you away to show you its charm. Four ot of Five: Recommended.
bookloveteen More than 1 year ago
New to town and only caring if the cool kids like his car and clothes, Brent is excited to be at one of their parties. Trying too hard to be accepted, he is humiliated by the people he is trying to impress. Leaving in his car angry and drunk, he decides to end his life but instead causes the death of Lea Zamora', a beautiful teenage girl with a love of life. The mother of his victim asks that he create four whirligigs with the face and name of her dead daughter, and place each one in the four corners of the U.S. With all the tools he needs, including a 45-day bus pass, Brent sets off on his journey in hopes of some redemption. As he travels, his whirligigs begin to deeply affect four dramatically different people in ways no one but Lea's mother could have imagined. The stories of a young violinist, an immigrant from Puerto Rico, an Auschwitz survivor, and a Maine teenager are weaved throughout Brent's as he slowly begins to heal and realizes how powerful smalls positive deeds can be. I am constantly reading about poor innocent young people dieing at the hands of the irresponsible. Although unlike real life Lea's death does not seem to be completely in vain. Brent's growth felt genuine and my hope for the world was renewed a little. A fast, heart-wrenching read, Whirligig will take but a few hours to get through but just might change your life forever.
almy More than 1 year ago
This book was great. Very thought-provoking, "life changing" (as my 13 yr. old put it), and just a good story. It really made you think of how your choices and actions affect others lives, without even meaning to. I think it's a great read for teens especially, and although the author's manipulation of time may seem jumpy at times, making you have to really think... it's very worth it!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can't believe everyone things this book is boring. It's different, but not at all bad, it's a cool and refresing way to look at writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing! This book is so good,it’s got adventure,and love and has such good detail??????
miksmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brent Bishop, high school junior, just wants to fit in. He thinks the party at the home of one of the popular kids at his new school will be his big chance, but the evening could not have turned out worse. Brent makes a fatal mistake, and must set out across the country to right the wrong he has committed. Like the whirligigs Brent is commissioned to create, in honor of a girl he never knew, Paul fleischman brings together four unrelated characters - with their own stories of love, acceptance, forgiveness, and peace - as they are each affected in their own way by Brent's work. The main story, of course, is that of Brent and his journey toward redemption and peace. Fleischman demonstrates well how our actions - good or bad, deliberate or accidental - can have the power to change someone's life. This multi-layered story is thought-provoking and beautifully told from the perspective of the different characters, with times and places shifting in each chapter.
Jill.Barrington on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brent is a teenager who tries to commit suicide while driving. His attempt at suicide results in the death of a teenage girl, rather than himself. Brent just wants to get away; making and placing four whirligigs at each corner of the U.S. per request of the girl's mother is his ticket to getting away. Along his journey alone, Brent learns a lot about himself and matures.The book would be useful in a discussion about how outcomes can seem so clear, but something different results.
BGMSTeachers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A teenage boy is responsible for another's death in a drunk driving accident. He sets up a whirligig in all 4 corners of the US as atonement. The book is more about the healing for the boy and the mother of the accident victim than about drinking and driving. This would be a great book for discussion.
MrsBond on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A young boy decides to end his life, instead he accidentally takes the life of another. The victim's mother requests that he build whirligigs in honor of her daughter, to make people smile the way she did in life. Follows the boy as he journeys across the country, putting himself together after the car crash that changed his life. Also shows how each of the whirligigs have positively impacted someone's life.
lalalibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love how all the stories intertwine. I'm still working it all out in my head, but I thought this story was beautiful.
Ynaffit27 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book didn't have a big affect on me like I thought it would. The way the chapters were set up was kind of confusing and difficult to read. I think everything could have gotten into more detail. I couldn't really see the change in the main characters feelings and everything seemed "too convenient."
bettyjo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Every young adult should be made to read this short novel about actions and consequences.
snapplechick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brent is all caught up on the his new social life in Chicago. His father has just had another transfer and it's all about fitting in. When he goes to a party and is called out by the girl he really likes,everythingbecomes too much for him. As he's driving along the high-way, a voice inside his head tells him he doesn't have to deal with life anymore, that he has the power to end it all. So Brent closes his eyes and lets go of the wheel. He's fine, but it turns out he hit another car. He later learns the person he hit has died. He speaks to the mother of the girls he has killed, and she asks him to do one thing- make 4 whirligigs, put one in each corner of the U.S.- California, Washington, Florida, and Maine. And for some crazy reason he says he'll do it.
4sarad on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a quick and easy read. You can feel the main character grow through his efforts to build the whirligigs and it was enjoyable to follow along. It makes you want to travel, and it also makes you want to take up woodworking and learn an instrument. Good read.
ewyatt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brent Bishop has moved around a lot, so he knows "the rules" of trying to fit in at different high schools. A lot of these things have to do with status and appearance: the right clothes, cars, girlfriends. Those things matter to Brent. After getting humiliated at a party, he decides to end his life. The car crash he gets in doesn't kill him but instead it kills Lea, an 18-year-old with a bright future. Her mother gives Brent the task of building whirligigs in Lea's honor at the four corners of the United States. The story is interwoven with vignettes of how the whirligigs touch the lives of people who come across them. The story is beautifully written and the structure of the story reinforces the themes of interconnectedness, loss, and healing. Brent is a person transformed by his experience.
eloehmann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My husband and I read this one aloud to each other. Loved the concept of the boy making ammends by taking on the task of building whirligigs and setting them in the four corners of US learning life lessons along the way.
GwenContraire More than 1 year ago
Very inspirational. This book made me want to go on a journey of my own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book called Whirligig is a somewhat interesting story, as you can tell by the title. This is about a boy named Brent who wants to be around all the popular kids, and also with his dreamy girl Brianna. However, one thing that didn't go according to plan is that Brianna doesn't like Brent. She finds him to be too clingy to her even though they aren't a couple. Brent is crushed after being made fun of at a party with all his schoolmates. After experiencing that he tries to commit suicide by getting into a car crash while drinking. In doing this, he unfortunately ended up killing a teenage girl instead of himself. His victim was Lea. She was only 17 years old. She was a very intelligent girl who had a successful life to look forward to. As the result of this terrible loss, Lea's mother asks one thing as a favor of Brent. He should create 4 whirligigs from a picture of Lea and draw symbols that represent her. In addition, he must put one of each whirligig on the four corners of the United States. Lea's mother believes that spreading whirligigs of her will keep Lea's spirit alive. Brent is willing to do this favor but his parents are worried and not sure about this commitment, yet they let him do it. He sets out on his journey, gets the supplies he needs, and goes to finish that project. On the way going to the four corners of the country Brent learns a very important lesson he should have learned a long time ago: be grateful and appreciate what you already have. Trying to control and posses others to gain happiness or popularity will not bring fulfillment. It may end up causing more pain and suffering. This book is easy reading. It took some time for it to capture my attention. Although some events were predictable, I was surprised by the death of Lea and also by the request her mother gave to Brent. She seemed to be a very forgiving person. I imagine it would be hard for a parent to loose a child in such a tragic way. That terrible tragedy could have been prevented.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Coltieee More than 1 year ago
The Book was made to show you how great life is, and is not worth giving up. The book starts out with this guy that goes to a party. He tries to end his life after the party, because a girl doesn't like him. But he ends up killing someone else with his car, a different girl. The girl's mother asks him if he can make Whirligigs that look, and explain her, and put them on the corners of the United state. The book isn't boring at all. It always keeps you thinking. But once it get near the middle it doesn't get as exciting as the beginning. All together I think this is a great book. I recommend this to people that like to read stories about Teen's lives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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