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Maniac Magee [Audio]
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About the Author

Jerry Spinelli won the Newbery Medal in 1991 for Maniac Magee, the sixth of his more than 15 acclaimed books for young readers. Jerry is known for his entertaining and funny books for children and young adults. He grew up in Norristown, PA. At one time, he dreamed of becoming a major league baseball player. All of this changed when his poem about a football game was published at age 16 in the local newspaper. From then on, he wanted to become a writer. After college, Jerry became an editor for a magazine about engineering. For many years, during his lunch hour, he wrote books for adults. None of them were published. Jerry's first book for children was published when he was 41 years old.

He now lives in Phoenixville, PA with his wife, Eileen Spinelli, who is also an author of children's books. They have six children -- five from Eileen before they married, and one of their own.

Reviews

Winner of the Newbery Medal, this humorous yet poignant tall tale concerns a super-athletic teenager who bridges his town's racial gap. Ages 8-12. (May)

Gr 6-10-- Warning: this interesting book is a mythical story about racism. It should not be read as reality. Legend springs up about Jeffrey ``Maniac'' Magee, a white boy who runs faster and hits balls farther than anyone, who lives on his own with amazing grace, and is innocent as to racial affairs. After running away from a loveless home, he encounters several families, in and around Two Mills, a town sharply divided into the black East End and the white West End. Black, feisty Amanda Beale and her family lovingly open their home to Maniac, and tough, smart-talking ``Mars Bar'' Thompson and other characters are all, to varying degrees, full of prejudices and unaware of their own racism. Racial epithets are sprinkled throught the book; Mars Bar calls Maniac ``fishbelly,'' and blacks are described by a white character as being ``today's Indians.'' In the final, disjointed section of the book, Maniac confronts the hatred that perpetuates ignorance by bringing Mars Bar to meet the Pickwells--``the best the West End had to offer.'' In the feel-good ending, Mars and Maniac resolve their differences; Maniac gets a home and there is hope for at least improved racial relations. Unreal? Yes. It's a cop-out for Spinelli to have framed this story as a legend--it frees him from having to make it real, or even possible. Nevertheless, the book will stimulate thinking about racism, and it might help educate those readers who, like so many students, have no first-hand knowledge of people of other races. Pathos and compassion inform a short, relatively easy-to-read story with broad appeal, which suggests that to solve problems of racism, people must first know each other as individuals. --Joel Shoemaker, Tilford Middle School, Vinton, IA

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