Author: Jerry Spinelli
Publisher: Boston : Little, Brown, c1990.
Maniac Magee had a family once. But not anymore. He might have originally been called Jeffrey. But now everyone calls him Maniac. They call him Maniac because he runs. Constantly. They call him Maniac because he does things no kid has ever done before. Like run on the rail on the railroad tracks. Or kiss a baby buffalo. Or sit on Finsterwald’s doorstep. Or cross from West to East Hector street and back like there’s not a line between them. Maniac can’t see why anything he does is special, or why people on both sides of Hector Street think he’s crazy to be going back and forth. Maniac can’t understand why the color of someones skin means that they have to live on a certain side of town or why they should think the others live differently than they do. Maniac’s a special kind of kid.
Maniac Magee is a fantastic book which allows kids to explore the problem of racism from both sides of the fence. Maniac lives with an African American family and learns the value of family from them. He also is exposed to racism for being the only white kid in the neighborhood. He lives with a white family who decides to arm themselves for when the blacks decide to attack them. Maniac approaches these situations with confusion, the scene when he talks about how he doesn’t understand why people call him white when he’s really a pinkish color is a great illustrator of this. He also demonstrates wisdom beyond his years in dealing with these situations and helping others overcome their own prejudices. It’s a great read for boys and girls alike, definitely recommended as a way to show how racism flowers in communities with no one there to stop it.
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Reading level: 5th Grade
Similar Books: Esperanza Rising
Personal thoughts- one of my favorites from childhood, has an even better meaning to it reading it now
Subjects/themes- loss, racism, prejudice
Awards- 1992 Newbery Medal
Maniac Magee- runs all night, lives with families on both sides of Hector street
Grayson- old baseball player who befriends Maniac and teaches him about family
Amanda Beale- first person to take him to her home, gives him her room and
eventually reminds him that her family is his family
Mars Bar- toughest kid in East End
John McNab- toughtest kid in West End
Annotation: Running might be hard for you, but for Maniac it’s a way of life.