“When reading, we don’t fall in love with the character’s appearance. We fall in love with their words, their thoughts, and their hearts. We fall in love with their souls.” —unknown
It’s official: I fell in love with Maniac Magee’s heart. Apparently, I’m not the only one. Winner of the Newberry Medal, this book has universal appeal because the boy in it is nothing short of legendary. Jeffrey (nicknamed Maniac) can outrun dogs, soothe Bison, crack homers off an otherwise perfect hurler, and untie knots of gargantuan proportion. That’s not what makes him a superstar in my book though. Any orphaned boy who can survive on the streets is undoubtedly admirable. More impressive is his sensitivity to a small community divided by deep prejudice. The color-blind boy quietly tries to patch up a splintered town.
My boys love Maniac too. Luke asked me if I wouldn’t read Spinelli’s winner to him again? (His 4th grade teacher read it in class, years back.) I’m glad he did. The timing felt right. In the wake of protests and divides, I feel lucky to have met a boy “who couldn’t see it, this color business. He didn’t figure he was white any more than the East Enders were black. He looked himself over pretty hard and came up with at least seven different shades and colors right on his own skin, not one of them being what he would call white (except for his eyeballs, which weren’t any whiter than the eyeballs of the kids in the East End).” What do you think? Maybe we all need a little more Maniac in our lives.