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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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.

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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...

(The entire section contains 323 words.)

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