Maniac Magee Summary
by Jerry Spinelli

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Maniac Magee Summary

Maniac Magee is a novel by Jerry Spinelli in which Jeffrey Lionel "Maniac" Magee is orphaned and spends his youth living with various people in his small, racially segregated town.

  • Maniac Magee, a homeless white boy, begins living with the Beales, a loving black family victimized by racist attacks.

  • Due to racial attacks, Maniac leaves the Beales' and begins living with Grayson, a former baseball player. When Grayson dies, Maniac becomes homeless again.

  • After convincing two runaway children to return home, Maniac is taken in by a dysfunctional white family. He observes that most families—black or white—have more things in common than not.

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(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Maniac Magee is a very funny, sometimes touching, story of Jeffrey Lionel "Maniac" Magee, a young man who is a legend in his youth. He performs phenomenal athletic feats, yet he shows wisdom and insight far greater than are normal for his age. The book is a combination of realistic fiction, humor, folklore, and even a little legend.

While the story is very entertaining, Spinelli intertwines several important issues within the plot. Maniac's parents have died, and he is homeless. He does not attend school, but he is a voracious reader. He is white, but he finds a home and love with a black family until racial attacks force him to move. A starving Maniac is then taken in by Grayson, a former minor league baseball player who is now a caretaker at the zoo. Grayson is illiterate, but Maniac teaches him to read. They buy a small chalkboard and chalk, and Grayson quickly masters the alphabet, consonants, vowels, and one-syllable words. When he reads, "I see the ball," his smile is "so wide he'd have to break...

(The entire section is 323 words.)