Maniac Magee

by Jerry Spinelli

Paperback, 1990



Local notes

PB Spi




Boston : Little, Brown, c1990. $6.50.


After his parents die, Jeffrey Lionel Magee's life becomes legendary, as he accomplishes athletic and other feats which awe his contemporaries.

Original publication date


Physical description

184 p.; 22 cm

Media reviews

2 more
Adrian Jackson
Adrian Jackson (Books for Keeps No. 96, January 1996) A marvellous and special book (a Newbery winner) - worth having as a set. It's the part mythic story of Maniac, always running, looking for, a home, how he got his name and how he became a legend. In between the stories of his untying the
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legendary Cobble's Knot, the baseball game involving a frog, sleeping alongside the buffalo at the-zoo and beating an ace sprinter by running backwards, is the racial, divide of the town. Maniac runs between the two, fighting his own battles, but also battling to bring people together. A wonderful read and read-aloud. Category: Middle/Secondary. . ...., Hippo, D3.50. Ages 10 to 14.
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Fran Lantz (KLIATT Review, September 1992 (Vol. 26, No. 6)) Jeffrey "Maniac" Magee is a scruffy 12-year-old runaway orphan with some exceptional powers--he can run faster than anyone, he can hit an inside-the-park homerun bunt, and he can untie any knot. One day he wanders into Two Mills, a highly
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segregated town. But Jeffrey is an innocent who makes friends with both black kids from the East Side and white kids from the West Side, and eventually--with only the force of his personality and unusual talents to help him--manages to unite the town. Spinelli has written an unusual and moving story. He presents Maniac as a legendary figure, and leaves it to the reader to decide what is true and what is myth. Although the book is a bit difficult to get into, the persistent reader will be well rewarded. Winner of the 1991 Newbery Medal. KLIATT Codes: J*--Exceptional book, recommended for junior high school students. 1990, Harper-Trophy, $3.95. Ages 12 to 15.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member beckystandal
Ages 8 and Up - Maniac Magee was the 1991 Newbery Award Winner. In a tall tale style, this short novel tells the story of Jeffery "Maniac" Magee, an orphan and runaway, whose interesting feats and quest for a home make him a legend to children in one town. In a large sense Maniac Magee is a
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didactic story about post-civil rights movement racial segregation, but it also has strong themes of family and home. While the tall tale style naturally lends itself to generalizations and stereotypes, I was a bit concerned about a few of them that came across in this story that is, I think, purposefully trying to combat them. I noticed, for example, that all the racist people in the story are poor males, that all the women are kind and nurturing, and that the sweet, welcoming people on both sides of the tracks are large nuclear families, and that the ignorant people are, on top of being poor and male, from broken homes. These characteristics might be a sign of them time the book was written or an effect of the writing style.
On top of being an award-winner, this book is still popular with children, particularly boys. Recommended for all juvenile fiction collections.
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LibraryThing member calvetti
This is a book about a boy who has lost both of his parents - and he runs away from living with his aunt & uncle. He strolls into the town of Two Mills and he befriends a young girl his own age. When her parents learn that this boy - whom people around town have begun to refer to as "Maniac" - does
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not have a place to live, they invite him to move in with them. The problem is, they are black, and he is white. While the boy, Jeffery Magee, and the family have a perfect living arrangement - the town does not approve.

Jeffery leaves the home on his own accord in order to protect the land and feelings of the people who let him stay with them. He eventually moves into a small storage room in the town zoo. He befriends the old man that runs the zoo - and eventually teaches him to read.

The story eventually gets back to the center of the problem. The fact that the town of Two Mills is divided by a street - and the people from either end do not dare intermingle. Maniac Magee and a friend - a friend who was largely responsible for running him out of the home that he once enjoyed living in - work to bring this divided town together.

This is an uplifting story on race relations and people in small towns across America. I believe that any teenager can relate to Maniac or the way he's being treated. This is a guys book through and through - and it should be a must read in the middle school curriculum in most schools in our country.
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LibraryThing member stephxsu
Jerry Lionel “Maniac” Magee might’ve had an average childhood, but nothing else about his life would be normal again after he runs away from home at age eleven and ends up in Two Mills, Pennsylvania at twelve. Residents of Two Mills don’t know what to make of the new boy. He’s impossibly
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athletic. Loves to learn even though he doesn’t go to school. And, above all, he doesn’t seem to notice the way the town is divided in two, with whites living on one side of town, and blacks on another. As far as Maniac is concerned, he can talk to, befriend, and live with anyone he chooses to.

This is the story of the unassuming boy who singlehandedly changed the way a town felt about racial divide.

MANIAC MAGEE is one of those unassuming, yet quietly powerful novels, despite its Newbery Award win and near canonization in modern children’s literature. It’s a seriously ageless novel, in that readers can always get something new out of it, no matter what age you are. When I read this book for the first time in elementary school, I enjoyed the realistic banter between the children, between the blacks and the whites. Now, as I reread it for my children’s literature class, I am in awe of the way that Spinelli effortlessly weaves a moral tale into something entertaining and unique. His language is brilliance, stars and moon itself, and his characters are memorable and relatable. Even though I’m still not a fan of Maniac, with his improbable feats and passivity, this book is a must-read if you’re looking for the best of the best in children’s lit.
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LibraryThing member sllumpkin
Maniac Magee is a very funny, sometimes touching, story of Jeffrey Lionel "Maniac" Magee, a young man who is a legend in his youth. He performs phenomenal athletic feats, yet he shows wisdom and insight far greater than are normal for his age. The book is a combination of realistic fiction, humor,
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folklore, and even a little legend
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LibraryThing member debnance
I listened to Maniac Magee on CD. I know I have read this book in the past, but I did not remember much about it; I read it after Stargirl and found Maniac Magee less compelling.I liked it a lot more this time. Maniac is an orphan with superhero-like athletic abilities. He settles in with an aunt
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and uncle but soon wanders away to find a new home with a black family. At the time of this story, a white boy living with a black family is a difficult situation. Maniac becomes the target of both blacks and whites who find the situation intolerable. Finally, Maniac gives into pressure and wanders away from the black family to live with an old black man. Maniac teaches the old man to read and the man helps Maniac hone his baseball skills. Maniac is finally able to find a way to come home to live with the black family who had so warmly received him.
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LibraryThing member farfromkansas
Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee is a testament to the power of American mythmaking and urban legends. In the book, Jeffrey Lionel Magee (nicknamed “Maniac”) is a homeless, orphaned runaway whose fearlessness and athletic prowess make him the envy of all he meets. Over the course of the story,
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Magee ends up positively influencing the lives of everyone he encounters through his good-natured efforts and sound heart.

The setting is clearly urban Pennsylvania, but the time period is unclear; based on the “small-town” feel of the story, Maniac Magee seems to depict a fanciful 1950’s or 1960’s America – albeit one with its bitter racial divisions. However, the fact that the racial divide between black and white is still an issue today actually lends itself to the timelessness of the story, sadly. The characters of the story are a little too “Disney-fied” in their nature: most of Spinelli’s characters lack the rough edges and deep weaknesses that would make them truly three-dimensional. Because the (many) good characters are so good and the (few) bad characters are so bad, the reader tends to see Jeffrey, Amanda, and their comrades in the story more as character archetypes, and less as representations of actual human beings.

Although the book is a little fanciful in its depiction of Magee’s exploits, it does tackle some adult subject matter in a very straightforward fashion – namely homelessness, death, and racism. Jeffrey’s resourceful ways of coping with a homeless existence (including living in a zoo!) are almost painful in their specificity; however, Magee’s unflinching optimism help make the difficult subject matter more digestible. The ugliest aspect of the book comes towards the end with the horrific behavior of George McNab: his racism and “parenting” will scare even the bravest reader.

The book is easy to breeze through, but the reader will find that poor Magee just can’t catch a break! Until the end of the novel, Magee loses one home after another, and it isn’t until the end of the novel that he finally manages to find a semblance of a “home” – which is all he’s ever wanted anyway. In the end, Spinelli’s book will help children understand the value of perseverance and racial equality. The most entertaining aspect of the book, and the part that will engage most young readers is the “larger than life” narrative storytelling that makes young “Maniac” seem like a modern-day version of Paul Bunyan or John Henry. Spinelli sums it up best: “But that’s okay, because the history of a kid is one part fact, two parts legend, and three parts snowball.” Although Maniac Magee might be more legend than fact, it does provide all the joy and entertainment of a really good snowball.

Spinelli, Jerry. Maniac Magee. New York: Scholastic, 1991. Print.
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LibraryThing member librarymeg
A lot of people stop reading children's books altogether at some point, usually because they start seeming overly simple. I still like reading them from time to time, though, and this book is the perfect example why. It's not simple, it's just pared down to the purest storyline. No fancy author's
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tricks and writing cartwheels. Just a straightforward, honest, and heartfelt story about family and friendship, with no camouflage at all. It's sometimes nice to go back to a story that just tells me what it has to say without any games. It reminds me about why I fell in love with reading in the first place.
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LibraryThing member crazy4reading
I remember my children having to read this book in school. They never talked about it. This is the story about a young boy who becomes an orphan and is left with an aunt and uncle who don't love each other any more.

You follow Maniac Magee around as he runs away from his 'family'. He feels that
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anytime he gets close to having a home that something happens to prevent it from lasting. Maniac meets a family of blacks that he feels like one of them. The child Amanda of the family wonders why he is on the wrong side of the tracks. She keeps telling him to go back to where he belongs.

I enjoyed Maniac and his wild ways and the people that he met along the way. Maniac's real name is Jeffery Magee. He got the name Maniac because of the stuff he did.
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LibraryThing member amygatt
This was one of my favorite books when I was in late elementary and middle school - I read it over and over again. I loved the character of Maniac and I was fascinated by his adventures and his legendary abilities. The book's depiction of the racial divide was especially powerful for me - Maniac
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lived with a loving African-American family, and then later with a hateful white family, and this was quite a powerful juxtaposition. I think this book does a really good job of showing, not just telling, how wrong it is to think that the two "sides" are so different or that one is better than the other. This book does a lot to dissolve stereotypes and is a fantastic story with many great characters. I would recommend it to male and female readers.
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LibraryThing member carebeargirlie5187
After a trolly accident leaves Jeffrey Magee orphaned he is send to live with his aunt and uncle who constantly argue. Unhappy with his home life, Magee decides to run away and is eventualy taken in by a black family. At the time the town was racialy devided and this living arangement created a lot
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of tension. Magee's antics such as running super fast and his ability to untie massive knots relieved some of the tension and lended him the nickname Maniac Magee.

I realy enjoyed this book. Jeffrey Magee is a realistic hero and his antics created a very entertaining story line. I loved when he untied the gross knot and knowing that he is allergic to pizza.

As an extension in the classroom I would ask my students to depict their favorite part of the story and write a brief synopsis of the scene.
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LibraryThing member jrozean0128
Maniac Magee is a story of an orphan boy who wanders homeless throughout a city divided on racial lines. He is a gifted athlete who advanced skills make him famous in the town. He also has other superhuman skills that add to his fame. He eventually tries to bring an end to the racial division
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within the town by bringing the black people together with the white people. He is successful with some of the more moderate thinkers, but the hardliners remain strong in their racial beliefs.

I liked the book pretty well throughout. The colorful action was intriguing and it kept me reading on. I could see where the author was going with the racial issue but I was a bit disappointed by the ending. It appeared that with all of Maniac Magee’s superhuman skills he would be able to do away with the racist ideas that permeated his little town. I guess the theme of the story is that despite all that Maniac was able to accomplish, all the magical feats and stunts, racism would prove to be too complicated of a knot to untie.

I think this story would prove to be a good social studies lesson on segregation. I would break the kids into groups such as brown eyed vs blue eyed or blonde hair vs brown hair and make rules that the two groups could not interact with one another. This would help them to understand the oppressive nature of segregation and racism. Another extension I would come up with would be based on Maniac frequent trips to the library and his uncanny ability to learn on his own. I would have each student go to the library and check out a book that they would read and share the book with the class either through a written response, a piece of art work, a poem or other means approved by the teacher.
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LibraryThing member btivis
Racial and domestic isuues, runaways, death, and truancy all go together to put Maniac Magee on many challenged book lists. But when you read the story, you realize that it all works together in a positive way to make a wonderful story for kids that is full of life lessons. Maniac is homeless and
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living anywhere he can to survive. During this time, he is faced with challenges that many adults won't ever have to face. Oddly enough, he manages to come out of each situation with a positive attitude and finds a way to help those who are around him. Humor, frustration, grief and excitement are all found in this book to make it one many all time favorites for many children.
I was very impressed with this book, and it turned out to be nothing that I thought it would. Jerry Spinelli did a great job addressing many difficult issues that children may be facing, and turned them into something positive every time.
I think this is an excellent book to use in middle and upper grade classrooms. There are many writing activities that could be used with it. Exaggeration poems and stories could be written to try to outdo some of Maniac's stories. You can also use it to address the issue of homelessness and our civic duties to help those people.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
The story of Jeffrey Magee is told in a sort of mythical way, which defuses some of the real sadness of the story. Just when the thought of Jeffrey living in the buffalo pen seems too awful for words, there's a story of the frogball to bring a bit of humor to the table. Along the way Jeffrey
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becomes a kind of bridge for his town, linking the white and black neighborhoods. This is certainly a thought provoking novel.
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LibraryThing member Amy_Marie
When Jeffrey Lionel Magee's parents died, he began running in order to find a new place to live away from relatives and orphanages. Unaware of the strict racial boundaries of a town, he steps into a race war. Maniac Magee's ignorance or ability to avoid being typecast allowed him to remain in the
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middle ground between the two racially divided sides of town. His courage and kind heart makes friends, wins races, unties knots, and eventually ends the racial divide among the children in the town. This book is great for units on stereotypes and prejudice, and both girls and boys alike enjoy it.
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LibraryThing member cbaughman524
Maniac Magee is about a boy whose parents died in a car crash, so he went to live with his aunt and uncle and he ends up running away because they fight all the time. Magee runs all the way to a town called Two Mills, where he meets a girl and she ends up being his friend. Magee ends up living at a
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zoo in a cage, and he plays baseball and hits alot of homeruns so he get picked on by some bullies at school.

I liked like book as well. It was kind of sad because Magee had a tough life and it seemed like everyone picked on him. Im glad he did have one friend though. I think alot of students would enjoy this book.

I would have the children read this and write a paper as to why we dont bully, and then we would go and play a game of baseball on a pretty day.
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LibraryThing member ShuddersGrin
A wonderful, heart-warming adventure. I haven't read this book in years but when it showed up in my "recommendations" page it brought back a flood of snapshots of scenes. The big ball of yarn is my favorite part.
LibraryThing member andy_21
Maniac magee is a book about a kid that lived in his parents house when he was three years old.His parents got on a trolley.The trolley crashed and the parents died.So he had to go with his uncle and aunt.His uncle and aunt didn't like each other and wanted to get a devorce,but they couldn't
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because they were religous.It was against there religon to brake up so they stayed together.They had two of every thing,two cars,two microwaves,two refrigerator,and so on.He had to meet his uncle on monday aunt on tuesday,his uncle on wensday,and went back and forth.There home was very dirty,it had roches,rats,mosqitos,flies and many other insects.Magee had a school play and he was the main character.His aunt and uncle wanted to go so each of them had to sit down on each side of the autitorium. Then his aunt and uncle got in a fight and they stopped the whole play.Jerry got mad and ran away.He had to walk 50 mile to get to a city or any kind of place so he started walking.He finally got to a city and he met this girl,she liked him as a friend.Mean while, his aunt and uncle were calling the cops to help them find there missing nefew.Jerry met this hobo that lived in this big garage and jerry went in and made friends with this hobo.The man told him that they had a contest in the liquir. There was a big bal of knotts and whoever can untie it get a free pizza so he let some old man try to untangle this big ball and he could not after 45 minutes.Jerry decided to untangle it and he did in 5 minutes.He got his free pizza and he shared it with his hobo friend. To make this story short Jerry lived with the hobo and made good friends with the girl.
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LibraryThing member mcrook
I loved this book. This is about a 12 year-old orphan who has runaway from his cold, and unloving aunt and uncle. In his quest for aplace to call home, Jeffrey learns that it's not the color of a person's skin that matters; it's what's inside a person's heart that means the most and he tries to
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teach that to all he meets.
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LibraryThing member madelinelbaker
This novel is a good example of realistic fiction because the events that take place in this book could happen, such as having your parents die and having to live with your fighting aunt and uncle, and running away because of it; but the events in this book did not really happen.
LibraryThing member heytiger26
Awesome book about a runaway ragamuffin kid who struggles with love, the difference between black skin and white-why can't they mix?-, and, most of all, the significance of home. I recommend this book for fourth to sixth graders.
LibraryThing member Whisper1
Continuing the quest to read all Newbery books, this 1991 Newbery medal award winning book is a keeper!

Jeffrey Magee is orphaned when his parents die in a trolley accident over the Schykill River in Bridgeport, PA. Temporarily living with his bickering Aunt and Uncle, he literally runs away,
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pounding miles on his beat up sneakers.

Spinelli created a hero in Magee. Unlike superman he is not able to leap tall buildings, but like many fantasy characters, he possesses powers many of us can only dream about. He can run like lightening, he can untie knots that are a huge tangled mess, he can pitch a ball as good as a pro and he can fend for himself as a young homeless boy who lives in the zoo in the pens with the deer and buffalo.

But, the most incredibly endearing hero-like characteristic Maniac Magee has is the ability to unite people, to gain their trust, to comfort and challenge.

Befriending an intelligent, well-read young black girl, he is loved by her warm, caring family. While living in the zoo locker room, sleeping on a cold floor, he is loved by a caretaker of the grounds. Even those who jealously fight with Maniac are won over by him.

There are beautiful social statements woven throughout as Maniac Magee magically unites.

Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member Brooke28
Maniac Magee is a boy on the run after his parents die. He meets a girl ,Amanda, who gives him a book, his prized possession. Meanwhile he encounters a boy,MarsBar, from the town who is very mean to him. Maniac moves in with a grounds keeper. Their relationship develops as Maniac teaches the man to
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read and he gives him baseball tip, as he is a former baseball player. He then is on the run again after the old man dies. He ends up helping the mean boy, MarsBars and his friends. In the end, he finds a permanent home with the girl's family who originally gave him a book.

The strength of this book is its message. Kids really learn that people can persevere and triumph even when life is hard.
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LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
Fast, funny, touching, original, and smart...not to mention well-written: this is everything a YA novel Should be. Spinelli's world and characters come to life beautifully, and this may well remain my favorite YA reading long into the future. Certainly, this is a book that I'll be remembering and
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passing on to others. Absolutely recommended.
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LibraryThing member Hamburgerclan
This is the tale of a runaway... Hey! What the heck is Sonlight trying to teach my kids here? This is the third runaway protagonist in a row. I should probably write them a letter or something. Anyway, the fact that "Maniac" Magee is a runaway is a secondary part of the character. "Maniac" is a
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classic... well, I don't what the label is. He's not quite the archetypical trickster, because he's not out to fool anybody. He's that type of magical personality--the person who can do amazing things, yet isn't self conscious about it. He's the innocent who steps into a setting and immediately and honestly brings the status quo into question by some child-like comment or by unknowingly breaking some social taboo. In this tale, the society that gets shaken up is Two Mills, Pennsylvania. The era of the story is unclear, but when "Maniac" arrives in Two Mills, the town is nice and orderly. The black folks live on the East End, the white folks live on the West End and everyone tries to keep to their own side of town. "Maniac", of course, goes where he pleases and makes friends and enemies on both sides of town in his quest for... well, why don't you just read the book to find that out. It's an enjoyable and somewhat quirky tale, well worth checking out.
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LibraryThing member clshelkoff
This book is about a boy named Jeffrey and his parents died in an accident when he was a young boy. He lived with family that was abusive. He ran away from his family and ends up in a different part of Pennsylvania. Read this book to find out Jeffrey's journeys in his new city. Jeffrey meets many
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new people and he even finds a new family to live with.
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