Use in education and research Maniac Magee is popular in elementary school curricula. Many study units and teaching guides are available, including a study guide by the author. The novel has been used as a tool in scholarly work on childhood education and development. Fondrie cites it as an example in a discussion of how to bring up and discuss issues of race and class among young students McGinley and Kamberlis use it in a study of how children use reading and writing as “vehicles for personal, social, and political exploration. Along the same lines, Lehr and Thompson examine classroom discussions as a re? ection of the teacher’s role as cultural mediator and the response of children to moral dilemmas, and Enesco studies expressions of social identity in the responses of children to Maniac Magee. The Story behind the book The imaginary town of Two Mills is based on Jerry Spinelli’s childhood town of Norristown, PA. Spinelli has said that material from the story was inspired by his childhood experiences there, and a number of geographical correspondences con? rm this.
Norristown, like Two Mills, is across the Schuylkill River from Bridgeport, and neighboring towns include Conshohocken, Jeffersonville and Worcester, all of which are mentioned in the novel In fact, Conshohocken has a Hector street, which historically served as a boundary between African American and White residents The Elmwood Park Zoo is in Norristown, and Valley Forge, where Maniac wanders after the death of Grayson,is nearby as well Major characters Jeffrey Lionel “Maniac” Magee is the book’s protagonist and titular character. Jeffrey is orphaned and ? ds himself in Two Mills, where he becomes a local legend while trying to ? nd a home. He has astonishing athletic abilities, runs everywhere he goes, can untie any knot, is allergic to pizza, and crosses the barrier between East End and West End as if blind to racial distinction. Amanda Beale is the ? rst person Maniac meets in Two Mills. Amanda carries her library in a suitcase so her books aren’t ruined by her younger siblings, Hester and Lester. She defends Maniac (whom she always calls Jeffrey) from Mars Bar the bully, and eventually provides him with a home.
Mars Bar Thompson, the “baddest” kid in the East End and antagonist to Maniac, is nicknamed for the chocolate bars he eats constantly. He resents Maniac’s presence in the East End, which is exacerbated when Maniac beats him in a race. Mars Bar eventually rescues Russel McNab from the trolley truss, and offers Maniac a place to stay. John McNab is infuriated when he can’t strike out Maniac with his fastball. After acting as a bully, he welcomes Maniac into his home when Maniac brings back John’s younger brothers Piper and Russell after their attempt to run away to Mexico.
He remains convinced that the black East Enders are planning a rebellion. Piper and Russell McNab are younger brothers of John McNab who play hookey, steal, and constantly try to run away from home. In their house, they use toy machine guns to shoot the “rebels” from the East End. Earl Grayson is the groundskeeper at the zoo and resident of the YMCA, though he was once a minor league baseball pitcher who struck out Willie Mays. He becomes friends with Maniac, who listens to his stories and teaches him to read. Mrs. Beale is the kind & caring mother of Amanda, Hester, & Lester. Very sweet and thoughtful to Maniac as well.