In Maniac Magee, what did Maniac mistakenly think were raisins at the McNabs' house?

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What this rather icky episode demonstrates is the sheer folly of the idea of racial supremacy. The McNabs live in a state of conquerable squalor, in a ramshackle house infested with roaches that look like raisins, and where their mangy, yellow-haired mutt is allowed to take a pee wherever he likes. And yet, despite this, they still believe themselves to be racially superior to the African-Americans who live in the East End of Two Mills.

Poverty should unite East End and West, but it doesn’t. Instead of seeing themselves as in the same boat as their neighbors across town, the McNabs cling to a misguided sense of racial superiority. Their whole attitude seems to be that although they don’t have much in life, they still have their race, something that sets them apart from the East Enders. And to white supremacists like the McNabs, that’s what’s most important.

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The answer to this question can be found in Chapter 35 of Maniac Magee.  In this chapter, Maniac has gone to live with the McNabs.  He has met the twins and has decided to go live with them.  When he gets to their house, he finds that it is a terribly disgusting place.  There is a dog that is urinating on the floor and no one cleans up after it.  There are apparently feces from the dog in the corner.  There is a huge hole in the ceiling of the dining room.  But none of that is as bad as what is in the kitchen.

It is in the kitchen that Maniac sees the things that he thinks are raisins.  He notices that there are many of them all over the place.  On p. 132, the narrator tells us

The raisins here were even more abundant.  He spotted several of them moving.  They weren’t raisins; they were roaches.

All of this is meant to show the squalor in which the McNabs (whose older brother is a white supremacist gang leader) live.

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