Topics for Discussion
1. If Grayson had lived, Maniac's life might have changed significantly. Discuss what may have occurred, particularly in regard to Maniac's bringing the West and East Enders together.
2. Why is the McNabs description of blacks as "today's Indians" likely to be offensive to blacks and native Americans? Are there other ethnic groups today that people like the McNabs might label this way? Why? Where do they live?
3. The book says that girls in elementary school in Two Mills still have a jump rope chant that begins "Ma-niac, Ma-niac, He's so cool . . ." Find examples in the book that could be used to support this idea.
4. Between the time that Maniac flees from Hollidaysbury and when he finally arrives in Two Mills, a year passes. What might have gone on during that year? How could he have survived? Is this credible today?
5. When Maniac is able to hit many of John McNab's pitches, McNab finally pitches him a frog—which he also hits! How does the theme justify such a cruel act? How would animal rights activists react to this incident?
6. Talk about the different incidents that led to Jeffrey Magee getting the name Maniac. Does it seem to be appropriate? Is there another name that might fit him better? Why?
7. When Maniac first stays with the Beales, Mrs. Beale calls him "the miracle on Sycamore Street." What makes him miraculous to her? Give specific examples.
8. When Grayson is able to read his first sentence, "I . . . see . . . the . . . bail," Maniac whoops and Grayson yips. Why is this such a happy time for them? How might it have affected Grayson's life if he had learned to read sooner?
9. Maniac, in answer to Grayson's questions, tells him how black and white people are alike. What are some of the examples that he gives? What are other topics that he might have mentioned that could be more meaningful?
10. Spinelli writes that Maniac surmised that "the East Enders stayed in the east and the West Enders stayed in the west, and the less they knew about each other, the more they invented." Was this true? Why or why not? Do you know of similar situations today?