“Maniac Magee” by Jerry Spinelli
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction
Summary from Goodreads:
Maniac Magee is a folk story about a boy, a very excitable boy. One that can outrun dogs, hit a home run off the best pitcher in the neighborhood, tie a knot no one can undo. “Kid’s gotta be a maniac,” is what the folks in Two Mills say. It’s also the story of how this boy, Jeffrey Lionel “Maniac” Magee, confronts racism in a small town, tries to find a home where there is none and attempts to soothe tensions between rival factions on the tough side of town. Presented as a folk tale, it’s the stuff of storytelling. “The history of a kid,” says Jerry Spinelli, “is one part fact, two parts legend, and three parts snowball.” And for this kid, four parts of fun.
I really enjoyed this book. I can’t believe this was my first time reading it.
I loved the tall tale/mythology aspect to the story. It was told in a way that made it seem like this was a story passed down from kid to kid. I remember those kinds of stories growing up that people used to tell on the playground. This story captured the essence of those stories. Hitting a ‘fast frog’ ball? Being allergic to pizza? Cleaning up without being asked? All of those to a kid seem bizarre and have to be made up.
I picked this book up without knowing anything about it and the back cover had a much different summary than Goodreads did. So when the story eventually got around to the racial issues I was surprised because I had no idea that would be in the book. I thought Spinelli did a fairly good job with it. He treats both races with care. He showed the ‘good’ on both sides by introducing 2 different loving families. But he also shows the ‘bad’ on both sides by showing how both sides can be racist and not even want to talk to others. The issue is ‘solved’ in a cliche way but for the intended audience (elementary to mid school) it worked well.
3/5 as an adult reading the book. It probably would have been rated higher if I read this as a kid.