Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

I've read a few other books by Jerry Spinelli. I can see a pattern emerging. Correct me if I'm wrong, but he seems to like to write about people who stand out from the crowd. My favorite was Star Girl. I also read The Library Card. We read this one for our parent-child book club (LOVE LOVE LOVE the parent-child book club!)

Jerry Spinelli won a Newberry Award for Maniac Magee. I found myself wondering all the way through the book why they picked this book for that award. It's good. I just wonder what about it got the attention it got. It seems to be about a lot of things - lost children, prejudism, family, home, etc....and yet it seems to really not have much flow. I sometimes found it hard to follow because it seemed so disjointed. I wonder, however, if that was on purpose - kind of like how Maniac Magee's life was. Magee kind of reminded me of Huckle Berry Finn. (I should read that again actually!) It would be interesting to compare those two books side by side.

There's a good plot summary on Wikpedia. It says:
Jeffrey Lionel Magee is orphaned at age three when his parents are killed in a P&W trolley accident. After eight intolerable years with his Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan, Jeffrey runs away to Two Mills, Pennsylvania. There he amazes the townspeople with his athletic feats and his fearlessness, earning the nickname "Maniac." Jeffrey is out of place as he moves back and forth between the (primarily black) East Side and (primarily white) West Side, something no one else in Two Mills will do due to racial prejudice. During his time in Two Mills he makes friends and enemies on both sides of town, experiences living with the accepting Beale family on the East Side, the prejudiced McNabs on the West Side, as well as living in the bison pen at the zoo and with a retired baseball player named Earl Grayson. Together, Grayson shared his many minor leauge baseball stories and Jeffery taught him how to read. One enemy turned friend was named Mars Bar Thompson. As Jeffrey grows, he begins to understand the racial tensions dividing the city and joins with his rivals John McNab and Mats Bar, to bring both sides together. In the end he goes home to the Beale's house for good, after being homeless for so long.

I guess the thing I thought was odd about this book is how the narrator tells the story. He doesn't really seem to understand Maniac (like when he has the race and wins it quite handedly, but decides to do the end of the race backwards...kind of cocky - but we're never sure why he does that)

Anyway, it's an intriguing book. I'd recommend it. It give you interesting things to think about.

Jill and I read this for the book club. At one point she said to me, "Don't you think it would be cool to run away?"

Uh, no. I don't.

1 comment:

Sandy Hunter said...

I love Stargirl too. It broke my young heart.. :(