September 22, 2003

Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli

I find it useful to take an occasional peek into the books my kids are reading. I gave up trying to keep up one-for-one with them, especially during the summer months when they are knocking off 5 and 6 books a week. However, books make good lead-ins to chats in the car or over dinner and it's amazing how much you can pry out of a normally reticent teenager, or worse, preteenager, by asking them about what they are reading.

So, in the interests of good parenting and mutual discussion, I read this one. My daughter is on a Spinelli kick lately and he gets a fair amount of good press from those "in the know" about what kids are reading. However, so do the Lemony Snicket books and I have yet to come up with any meaningful dialogue based on them. I read one and it bored me to tears. The nice thing about Spinelli books is that with adequate reading skills, you can read and digest one in about 2 hours. And this one, at least, gave me some fodder for discussion.

First of all, Maniac, the main character, is a homeless kid. His parents are dead and he's run away from his horrid Aunt and Uncle. Second, the themes in the book like bullying, racism, homelessness and the meaning of community are treated lightly enough to be manageable for children and completely enough to raise some thought provoking questions. I mentally made a list of all the ways things in the book are divided into pairs or separated and that alone could keep me chatting for quite awhile.

Is it deathless prose? No. But it is a pretty good read and it has a happy ending. That's always nice.

Posted by Deb English at September 22, 2003 05:27 PM

Kierstyn said: