Friday, September 03, 2010

Maniac Magee

"Maniac" Magee was orphaned at a young age, and forced to live with relatives in a dysfunctional marriage. He eventually runs away. He has near super-human athletic and knot-untangling abilities. He also has the naivety and willingness to do just about anything that suits him. He is perfectly comfortable hanging out with bison and eating their vegetables as he is joining random families for dinner.

He finds himself in a town with a heavy black/white segregation. However, he is oblivious to it. He borrows a book from a black girl, and becomes "adopted" by their family as he returns it. He gets along great with the younger siblings, and does a great job doing chores there. However, some old-timers are not comfortable with a white guy in their part of town. So, he goes back to the zoo, and eventually helps an old former-minor leaguer learn how to read. After he dies, he ends up staying with a "white-trash" family, cajoling the kids to go to school. This family thinks the blacks are out to get them. However, he manages to get the black and white families to finally come to peace with each other - in part by setting up the situation where a former black "bully" could save a white boy from a dangerous situation.

In the end, the town is more at peace with each other, though not necessarily "happily ever after". The theme of race relations is fairly blatant, though more subtle is the general theme that it is easy to "hate" somebody you don't know (and much harder to hate them once you know them well.) This was fairly well written, and manages to be fairly serious, while still being somewhat light-hearted, though not quite as light as Spinelli's other books.

No comments:

Post a Comment