Form and Content (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series, Supplement)
Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee is a fast-paced novel in three parts, each part subdivided into short chapters. The three parts describe three pivotal periods in the life and growth of the main character Jeffrey Lionel “Maniac” Magee, a young orphan with amazing physical abilities who, through a series of adventures, pursues his dream of finding acceptance in a loving home.
The book is written from the omniscient point of view, as if by a narrator looking back on a legendary hero. By using this approach, Jerry Spinelli helps the reader view Maniac not only from the perspective of kids who chant about how fast he could run, how high he could jump, or how he could untie any knot there ever was, but also from the perspective of adults who marvel at how he managed to bring folks from the black East End and the white West End together. The omniscient point of view also enables the reader to see inside Jeffrey Magee, to know his confusion and his solitude, to be a part of his internal struggle and change.
Although Maniac possesses nearly magical athletic prowess, his dealings with racial problems, peer pressures, homelessness, and family situations are all too realistic—and often overpowering. Spinelli has created a novel that is an interesting blend of folktale and contemporary realistic fiction. The superboy dazzles people on the football field but struggles to deal with racial strife. Blending the two genres enables Spinelli to deal with difficult issues in an engaging manner—to create a tall tale out of real-life drama.
The contemporary setting of Two Mills, Pennsylvania, could be any American city that is literally and figuratively segregated into black and white districts. Specific details of time and place are intentionally omitted, in order to suggest that this could happen anywhere or anytime, or perhaps that it already has happened.
The story describes the exploits of Jeffrey Magee, whose parents were killed in a bizarre accident when he was three years old. Sent to...
(The entire section is 832 words.)
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