Maniac Magee Summary

Jeffrey Lionel "Maniac" Magee is a young orphan and local legend, fearless and athletic. He experiences periods of homelessness and bounces around from home to home, never losing his edge.

The book discusses racial divides in the fictional town of Two Mills, Pennsylvania. Black people and white people live in segregated parts of town, East End, and West End.

  • In his youth, the previously homeless Maniac Magee goes to live with the Beales, a black family victimized by racial attacks.

  • After being forced to leave the Beales's house because of racialized prejudice, Maniac is taken in by Grayson, a former baseball player. Grayson soon dies, though, and Maniac is forced to fend for himself in Valley Forge.

  • Maniac later goes to live with a white family near Two Mills, where 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....

(The entire section is 323 words.)