Where is the zoo in Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli is the story of an exceptional boy named Jeffrey Lionel Magee, but nearly everyone calls him "Maniac." His parents die when he is young, and he is goes to live with his aunt and uncle. Life with them is miserable, so one day Maniac Magee just leaves. 

There are many legends surrounding this young boy, and one of them is that he ran two hundred miles away from home until he arrived in Two Mills, Pennsylvania. He is befriended by the Beale family and is treated quite well. Unfortunately, even though Maniac Magee does not care a bit about race, Two Mills is a town deeply divided by race. 

The Beales live in the East End, which is made up entirely of African Americans. There is trouble for Maniac Magee at nearly every turn, but he also does several amazing things which awe the town. Unfortunately, tensions eventually get too high and the boy simply walks away one day, just as he appeared one day.

We do not know much about his journey, but we do know where he ends up: the Elmwood Park Zoo. Here he lives a rather dirty, wild life until he is befriended by Mr. Grayson. 

It has to be near Two Mills, of course, because in chapter 23 we learn that Earl Grayson lives at the Two Mills YMCA. 

It turns out that the Elmwood Park Zoo is a real place, located in Norristown, Pennsylvania. It was opened in 1924 and houses several hundred animals representing one hundred species. More than 300,000 people visit this zoo each year. 

In the Newbery Medal-winning fiction book Maniac Magee, the titular character [Jeffrey Magee] lives briefly in the buffalo pen of the Elmwood Park Zoo.

For more interesting information and analysis of this and other novels, visit the excellent eNotes sites linked below. 

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