Maniac Magee


Critical reviews

The book was well-received upon publication, variously lauded in reviews as "always affecting," [4] having "broad appeal," and being full of "pathos and compassion." [5] Booklist reviewer Deborah Abbot says, "...this unusual novel magically weaves timely issues of homelessness, racial prejudice, and illiteracy into a complicated story rich in characters and energetic piece of writing that bursts with creativity, enthusiasm, and hope." [6]

Reviewers noted that the theme of racism was uncommon for "middle readers".[7] Criticism concentrated on Spinelli's choice of framing it as a legend, which Shoemaker calls a "cop-out," [5] which frees him from having to make it real or possible. It has also been called "long-winded," and seeming like a "chalkboard lesson."[4]

Awards and honors

Awards and honors for the book include:

  • 1990: Boston Globe/Horn Book Award[8]
  • 1991: Carolyn Field Award,[9] Newbery Medal (American Library Association)[10]
  • 1992: Charlotte Award,[11] Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award,[12] Flicker Tale Award,[13] Indian Paintbrush Book Award,[14] Rhode Island Children's Book Award[15]
  • 1993: Buckeye Children's Book Award,[16] Land of Enchantment Award,[17] Mark Twain Award,[18] Massachusetts Children's Book Award,[19] Nevada Young Readers' Award,[20] Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader's Choice Award,[21] Rebecca Caudill Young Reader's Book Award,[22] West Virginia Children's Book Award,[19] William Allen White Award[23]

The U.S. National Education Association named Maniac Magee one of "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children" based on a 2007 online poll.[24] In 2012 it was ranked number 40 among all-time children's novels in a survey published by School Library Journal, a monthly with primarilyi U.S. audience.[25]

Use for educational and research purposes

The book is popular in elementary schools as a historical-fiction novel. Many study units and teaching guides are available.[26] including a study guide by the author.[27] It 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.[28] McGinley and Kamberlis use it in a study of how children use reading and writing as “vehicles for personal, social, and political exploration.” [29] Along the same lines, Lehr and Thompson examine classroom discussions as a reflection of the teacher’s role as cultural mediator and the response of children to moral dilemmas,[30] and Enciso studies expressions of social identity in the responses of children to Maniac Magee.[31]

In a less pedagogical vein, Roberts uses the character of Amanda Beale as an archetypical "female rescuer" in a study of Newbery books,[32] and Sullivan suggests the book as being useful in discussions of reading attitudes and difficulties.[33]

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