Great Reads for Teens and Tweens!

Helping you make an informed decision about that book

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

on April 2, 2012

Title: Maniac Magee

Author: Jerry Spinelli

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers      Year: 1990

ISBN-10: 0316807222

Genre: Fiction

Age: 9 and up

Awards: Newbery Medal (1991), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award (1993), Nene Award (1996), Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (1993), Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award (1992), Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award (1992), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award (1992), Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award (1993), New Mexico Land of Enchantment Award (1993)

Themes / Subjects: Social issues, prejudice & racism, runaways, orphans, relationships, family relationships

Plot Summary:

All Maniac Magee wants is an address with numbers that he can tell people is where he lives and a loving family to come home to. Before he became Maniac Magee, Jeffrey Magee was orphaned as a baby when his parents died in a trolley accident. Sent to live with an unloving/feuding aunt and uncle who refuse to divorce because they are Catholic, Jeffrey finally decides to run away at age 8. Eventually he makes his way to the highly segregated town of Two Mills where through his amazing feats, Maniac (as the townspeople will call him) transforms the town forever.

My Take:

I love action and stories that don’t spend too much time building the story up. Within the first three pages, Maniac is orphaned and living with his feuding Catholic aunt and uncle. This is going to be good!

Maniac Magee is a truly wonderful character and young hero. Although much of the time he is sleeping on the streets or with other down-and-outs like himself, he continues to amaze everyone he meets with his friendly nature, athletic feats, and complete color-blindness. This book is part of the 6th grade curriculum at the school where I work. Although the targeted audience of this book is ages 9-12, a few of the teachers agree with me that older kids would benefit from reading (or re-reading) this book. The issues or prejudice & racism and how Maniac handles the situations would make for an awesome in-depth discussion and debate.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. I couldn’t give it a full 5 stars because there were a couple scenes that made me feel a little weird. Why didn’t anyone call the authorities when this kid wouldn’t go to school or go home? Then again it was a different time when this book was written.

Similar read: The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson


One response to “Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

  1. Katiepies says:

    Loved this book-as a teacher I love it becasue there is something for everyone. It does deal with so many prevelant issues today although it was written 12 years ago.

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