Title: Maniac Magee Author: Jerry Spinelli Illustrator: n/a Publisher: New York, Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Realistic Fiction Level: Upper Number of pages: 184 Pub. Date: 1990
Jeffery Lionel “Maniac” Magee loses his parents when he is three-years old, and goes to live with his aunt and uncle. However, after awhile Jeffery get’s fed up with his aunt and uncle and runs away. When he reaches the town Two Mills, Jeffery meets Amanda Beale, a young black girl, and borrows a book from her. The story continues to follow Jeffery and his adventures in Two Mills, how he gets the name Maniac, and how he crosses the unofficial lines between the white and black community. Eventually, Jeffery learns what family really means.
Maniac Magee is a realistic fiction story. I believe it can be classified as both a “Becoming one’s own person “ story and a “Living in a Diverse World” story. Like other Becoming one’s own person stories, it talks about the role of the extend family and the importance of friendship. Without Amanda’s friendship and her family taking him in Jeffery would never of had a real home. However, this story also discusses racial diversity like other Living in a Diverse World stories. Jeffery is able to see beyond a person’s race but other characters aren’t allowing for growth of different characters in the story.
I believe this story is a good book to read when discussing the issue of race. Jeffery doesn’t seem to understand why people are called black and white, no matter how hard he looks he always sees some kind of color, like mocha or peach. Furthermore, Jeffery crosses the line in the town of Two Mills, living with both a black family and a white family.
I really like this book but it definitely had some depressing sections. When Grayson passed away, I almost threw the book across the room because I was so upset with what happened. I think this emotional reaction to what happened in the book talks to how powerful this book is. Another part of the book that really struck me is that none of the adults in the book made Jeffery go to school. Even though this book depicts a time period where segregation was still okay, I can’t imagine parents being comfortable with a young boy not going to school. Also Jeffery tries to keep others in school so I wonder why he doesn’t go himself, he obviously loves to read. I believe this part of the book is the least realistic and makes you wonder about its classification.
Before: Teacher could divide the room and tell all the kids that they couldn’t cross the line no matter what. Only one student would be allowed to cross (this will be the classes Maniac). Each side of the class would learn a different lesson. At the end of the day the class can discuss what they learned and how it felt to be separated. Then they can understand what kind of town Jeffery Magee lives in and can refer back to those feelings while reading the book.