Maniac Magee wasn’t always known as Manic Magee, instead he was born as Jeffrey Lionel Magee. There are many legends about him and it’s sometimes difficult to know the whole truth. His parents died when he was only three, so he lived with his aunt and uncle who continually fought. Jeffrey had enough and he ran away, but he didn’t just run away. No, he ran and ran until his shoes fell apart. You may be curious how Jeffrey became ‘maniac’. When he finally slowed down, he left memorable impressions with individuals. Some people thought it appeared odd to rescue a kid from the feared house in the neighborhood or throw a football with one hand or eat dinner without knowing anyone at the table or hit a baseball from an unbeatable pitcher. Finally, whenever anybody discussed the new kid he was now known as Maniac. Maniac Magee didn’t have a home, so he often ran house to backyard to even the zoo. The legend is true that he never went to school, since he didn’t have a home to go to when school was out. Maniac Magee is most remembered for bringing the East Side and West Side together, which was racial divided by misunderstandings.
Maniac Magee won a Newbery Medal in 1991. Some Newbery Medal books I don’t think are worthy, but Maniac Magee is worth the high honor. I really enjoyed this book and even cried. It’s a great book with a powerful message to break down barriers and not keep prejudices, instead learn and understand about each other. There are racial remarks and hate messages throughout the book. The subject is complex, but there are many humorous situations as Maniac Magee doesn’t see black and white instead he sees challenges to overcome. I highly recommend this book.
For the life of him, he couldn’t figure why these East Enders called themselves black. He kept looking and looking, and the colors he found were gingersnap and light fudge and acorn and butter rum and cinnamon and burnt orange. But never licorice, which, to him was real black.
– Jerry Spinelli (Maniac Magee, page 51)