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Maniac Magee (2002)

Maniac Magee (2002)
3.85 of 5 Votes: 3
0590452037 (ISBN13: 9780590452038)
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Maniac Magee (2002)
Maniac Magee (2002)

About book: Spinelli, J. (1990). Maniac Magee. New York: Little, Brown and Company. 0316809063 As an orphan, Jeffrey Magee is sent to live with his aunt and uncle who live separately within their house and refuse to share anything. At the age of eleven, Jeffrey, unable to deal with his aunt and uncle’s refusal to interact or communicate, runs away. A year later, he appears in a strictly racially segregated town, doing amazing feats and running like a mad man, earning him the nickname, Maniac. Quick to make both friends and enemies, Maniac searches for a home. This Newbery Winning story, without a clear setting in time, deals extensively with issues of race and segregation. Maniac, who is initially completely naïve of issues of race, seems almost too naïve. What is more, the fact that no character ever reports Magee’s homelessness to the authorities may make this classic story difficult to accept for some adults. Also present in the book are issues of literacy. Despite his refusal to go to school, Maniac loves to read. He also takes on the role of teacher, helping an older man he befriends learn to read. In the past, the presence of this book in schools and libraries has been challenged in some communities for the fact that it could encourage children to run away or quite school. The beginning of the story, intrigued me most. Spinelli’s narrator takes on the voice similar to that of a folklorist, examining the legend, the myth, the boy that is Maniac Magee. This may lead readers to interpret this book as a tall tale instead of realistic fiction. This should be encouraged, especially with students who have trouble with some of the more painful aspects of the text.Activities to do with the book: This is a good book to discuss topics of race, segregation, school truancy, homelessness and loss. This is also a good way to introduce the idea of ‘whiteness.’ To help students visualize the text, they could create maps of Two Mills, reinforcing the division between the sides of the town. Students could then create a second map, trying to unify the town. Other techniques used with the text include making Venn diagrams, comparing and contrasting characters that have parallel positions. Also, students could examine the characterization of Maniac as a transgressor. Favorite Quotes “The history of a kid is one part fact, two parts legend, and three parts snowball. And if you want to know what it was like back when Maniac Magee roamed these parts, well, just run your hand under your movie seat and be very, very careful not to let the facts get mixed up with the truth” (p. 2). “If you listen to everybody who claims to have seen Jeffrey-Maniac Magee that first day, there must have been ten thousand people and a parade of fire trucks waiting for him at the town limits. Don’t believe it. A couple of people truly remember, and here’s what they saw: a scraggly little kid jogging toward them, the soles of both sneakers hanging by their hinges and flopping open like dog tongues each time the came up from the pavement” (p. 9). “For the life of him, he couldn’t figure why these East Enders called themselves black. He kept looking and looking, and the colors he found were gingersnap and light fudge and dark fudge and acorn and butter rum and cinnamon and burnt orange. But never licorice, which, to him, was real black” (p. 51). For more of my reviews, visit

Maniac Magee is about a boy named Jeffrey Magee. His parents have already died. Jeffrey lives with his Aunt and Uncle who won't speak to each other but won't get lawfully divorced. He runs away when he is eleven. He meets many people including John McNahb the best Baseball player in Pennsylvania. When John throws his fastballs that no one can see except Jeffrey Magee. That is only one of the ways Jeffrey got the name Maniac. Another was when where most kids walked on one train rail Maniac RAN. Maniac ended up on the "East End" where people that were not white lived. Maniac was white. While he was there he met a girl with a suitcase and asked her if she was running away too. She said that she was going to school like practically everybody in their right sense of mind. Maniac begged her for a book and she eventually gave him one. That was how Maniac met one of his new family members, Amanda Beale. While on the "East End" he met many unkind people and many more kind people. At one point he learned he was allergic to pizza, at another he walked barefoot through a rat infested dump. He lived at John McNahb's house, a ball storage area, and the zoo, specifically the buffalo pen. He stands up to bullies, and racism. He goes through a lot of stress. In the end he goes back to Amanda's house and lives there at the end. I think this book is very good. I read it with my Mom ,one of my brothers, and my sister. -Jocelyn Kuntz
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In my continuing quest to read all of the books Roosevelt students read in their language arts classes, I picked up Maniac Magee to read over winter break. I’m glad I did. Jerry Spinelli tells the story of Maniac Magee, an orphan who escapes an aunt and uncle who don’t communicate and becomes famous around town for his skills in sports, untying knots, and running. I liked Maniac’s observations on the ridiculousness of a town split by race and his efforts to improve race relations in his own small way. I also appreciated his devotion to reading, education, and helping people even though his life had been difficult. Spinelli writes in an informal and engaging way and his themes of searching for family and caring for each other seemed appropriate for Christmas. Maniac is a good example for my students and for all of us.
This WOULD have been a childhood favorite. If it had been written 30 years earlier. As it is, it's a wonderful, light-hearted, good spirited book that deserves to be read by children of all ages (including those in their 50's) Yes, it's a kid's book, but it's a fast fun read and adults would be well advised to give it a read as well. While it has much the same allegorical feel as Holes, in some ways it avoids a few of the pitfalls of that book. As with any good fiction, there's some truth hidden here in the story that we can all be reminded of from time to time. The presentation makes it a good choice for reluctant young male readers as well. Bravo!
He wasn't born with the name Maniac Magee. He came into this world named Jeffrey Lionel Magee, but when his parents died and his life changed, so did his name. Maniac Magee took to the streets.And Maniac Magee became a legend.Even today kids talk about how fast he could run; about how he hit an inside-the-park "frog" homer; how no knot, no matter how snarled, would stay that way once he began to untie it. Little girls jumping rope chant: "Ma-niac, Ma-niac He's so cool Ma-niac, Ma-niac Don't go to school Runs all night Runs all right Ma-niac, Ma-niac Kissed a bull!" But the thing Maniac Magee is best known for is what he did for the kids from the East Side and those from the West Side.He was special all right, and this is his story, and it's a story that is very careful not to let the facts get mixed up with the truth.Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, Scholastic Inc. 2002.
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