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Spin: the Story of Michael Jackson by Sherry…

Spin: the Story of Michael Jackson

by Sherry O'Keefe

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I thought this book on one of the most exciting and intriguing figures in 20th century music was a disappointment. However, I will start with what I like. I think the cover is very appealing and would definitely encourage a student to pick it up off a shelf. In browsing through the pages, I see a medium-sized text that makes the book look readable without making students feel like babies for wanting to read it. (Sometimes books with large text have that effect, especially in a high school library like mine.)

The photographs, nearly all of which are full-color, are stunning, and the captions do a good job of describing each picture. At the back of the book are notes for the sources used in each chapter, comprehensive timeline, bibliography and index, and a short list of web sites should students choose to further their research.

I also like that each chapter begins with a direct quotation from Jackson, many of which are very compelling. For instance, on the first page of Chapter Three, which is titled "On His Own," the quotation reads, "I don't know if I can do this forever." Considering the chapter recounts the late 60's and early 70's of Jackson's career, and knowing he would "do this" for 40 more years, I can't help but to shiver a little at what the prospect of his career might have felt like to him at this point, considering he was only ten years old in 1968. And eerily, it also foreshadows his much too early death, although of course he couldn't possibly have known that.

I have three particular issues with the book. I was dismayed to see numerous typographic and mechanical errors, as well as word level errors such as using the word "resemblance" instead of the correct "semblance" (98). I know the book was released very soon after Jackson's death, but it still should have been edited carefully, considering it was published as a school library book.

I am also concerned that much of the content of the book has a very gossipy tone, rather than being a more factual representation. An example is when Michael Jackson invited Elizabeth Taylor to a concert and later heard that she had left because of her dissatisfaction with the location of the seats. O'Keefe writes that "when Michael learned of this after the concert, he called her in tears." Although it does reveal Jackson as a man of emotion, Taylor is made out to be a fussy, egotistical eccentric. That kind of "reporting" disappoints me.

Finally, the source work is just not good, even though at first glance the extensive chapter notes seem like a positive sign. On page 76, O'Keefe is describing the business transaction in which Michael Jackson took possession of the royalty rights to much of the Beatles music collection. She explains, "Michael's purchase of part of the Beatles' catalog was hurtful to Paul and Linda McCartney, although Yoko Ono, John Lennon's widow, was satisfied with the transaction." When I turn to the notes for chapter six, however, there isn't even a note for page 76, even though the comments on that page are highly subjective.

I think any non-fiction in a school library should hold to high standards of scholarship, including spelling and grammar, diction, tone, and especially appropriate citation, which is a skill our students need excellent examples of in their reading.

School Library Journal suggests this book for ages 11 and up, grades 6-9. I agree. Although we have it in our high school library, fortunately we also have other, more scholarly texts about Jackson that students can use if they are writing a serious research paper. ( )
  katielder | Apr 26, 2012 |
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Discusses the singer's rise to stardom, his changing personal appearance, legal battles, family life, and unexpected death at the age of fifty.

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