Wow, my fourth book review? First there was Knuffle Bunny. Then came The Book Thief. After that was The Perk of Being a Wallflower. This week’s book is about a runner. His first run covered 216 miles. Holidaysburg, PA to Bridgeport, PA. It took him a year. He first ran to escape. Now, he deeply feels the need to. Ultimately, his running could unite a racially divided town.
Jeffrey Lionel Magee, the “Maniac” of Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, was born in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania. He became an orphan at three years old when the train his parents were on “took a swan dive into the water”. Jeffrey was then sent to live with his aunt and uncle in Holidaysburg, PA.
His aunt and uncle despised one another but refused to get a divorce. Jeffrey managed to stick it out with them for 8 years. Then he ran. Eventually, he ended up running back to his home town, where he earns the nickname “Maniac” and his story develops. Maniac seems to have no fears or worries. He takes people and life at face value regardless of any beliefs or stereotypes. Mars Bar might be the bully to everyone else, but that’s not how Maniac see him. There may be kids of “a different color” but that’s not how Maniac sees them.
I love Jerry’s style of writing. Often using short sentences with lots of expression. His descriptions are spot on. Like when shows us Mars Bar’s super-slow dip-stride slumpshuffle or how the trees flaunt their colors in October. His imagery is spectacular and something I could only hope to achieve in my own writing.
His characters are believable. From Maniac himself, to Amanda and Mars Bar and old man Grayson. They are more than just believable. They could be real. Actually, in all the Spinelli books I’ve read, his characters are always highly believable. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think the story was real, too.
This story would be appropriate for nine to ten year old (or older, of course). It deals with racial tensions, poverty, and death, though not confronted directly.