Nancy Keane's Booktalks -- Quick and Simple

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Spinelli, Jerry
New York : HarperCollins, 1992.
IL 3-6 RL 5.4
ISBN 0316807222

(5 booktalks)

Booktalk #1

Jeffrey Lionel Magee's parents died when he was young, and one day he decides he can no longer stand to live with his aunt and uncle and runs away. He keeps running, performing amazing sports feats along the way that earn him the legendary name "Maniac." When runs into Amanda Beale and is taken into the Beale home and treated as one of the family. For a while, all is well; Jeffrey has a loving family and a real address. The problem, however, is that Jeffrey is white, and he has been taken in by a black family in a town that is very racially divided. While most people don't mind his being with the Beales, a few begin to cause trouble, so Jeffrey leaves. He lives for a while in a baseball equipment room with an old man, and then with a dysfunctional white family, but he only really feels at home with the Beales. Jeffrey takes all of his surroundings in stride and believes wholeheartedly that people are people regardless of the shade of their skin. Eventually, he becomes friends with the black boy who caused the trouble with the Beales and brings about the most change in racial attitudes that the town has seen in a long time.
(Linda Wolfgram,, Middle/High School Media Specialist, Benton Community Schools, Van Horne, IA)

Booktalk #2

            Jeffrey Magee was a legend in the town of Two Mills at the tender age of 12.  There he became Maniac Magee, and not just because he befriended Amanda Beale, who lived on the East End, where people who looked like him never went.  Nor was it because he braved Mr. Finsterwald’s West End backyard, where kids who did look like him never dared to tread.  Jeffrey was a legend mostly for his ability to catch impossible passes, hit impossible pitches, and because he ran continuously though both neighborhoods in search of something.

                    No one in Two Mills had known Jeffrey when his parents left him an orphan in the care of his Uncle Dan and Aunt Dot, whose bizarre behavior had motivated him to run.  But what was he looking for?  Find out, as you watch Jeffrey Maniac Magee run in and out of the lives of people who will be forever changed because they met him; and who will change him forever as well.  Read Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.  (Gail King,, USC - SLIS)

Booktalk #3

Maniac Magee is a young boy, who takes an interest in people. When he comes to a racially divided town, he is overwhelmed.  How can he get the town to live as friends?  This is a story of humor, emotion, and friendship.  You will be overwhelmed by joy when you read this book.  I know I was.  After this book, you’ll set your differences behind you.  Maniac Magee is a funny and interesting book.  You will love Maniac.  I really liked Maniac.  I hope you read and enjoy this book.  (Rachel W.,   student)

Booktalk #4

Jeffrey Magee is not a normal boy. In fact, he is so NOT normal that an entire town has taken to calling him a legend. Jeffrey "Maniac" Magee sleeps with buffaloes at the local zoo, runs faster than anyone, and isn't afraid to cross any town barriers, no matter how dangerous. When it comes down to it, Maniac isn't afraid of much of anything-- except a trolley in Bridgeport. He doesn't go to school, he can un-tie any size knot you might have, and he has a weakness for Butterscotch Krumpets. What is Maniac's only problem? Some people dislike him due to jealousy, or even fear. But Maniac never gives up on anyone-- except will he give up on himself? He can't find a family, or a home. To find out if Maniac ever finds a place to live and a family to call his own, read Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. (Danielle Stogenson,, college student)

Booktalk #5

My name is Amanda Beale. I’m from a town called Two Mills. I want to tell you about a white boy I met named Jeffrey Lionel Magee. Well to most people around here he was known as Maniac Magee His parents died when he was young and was then sent to live with his aunt and uncle. When he decided he could no longer deal with their bizarre behavior he began to literally run everywhere until one day he met me. I thought how strange it was for this white boy to be on the East end of town where most of the folks like me are all black. Soon after I met Jeffrey my family took him in and fed and clothed him as if he were their own. The thing about Jeffrey you see is that he never saw a difference between the colors. People were just people. That was until a mean old man called him “whitey” and told him to go home to his kind. Poor Jeffrey was stunned at this man’s words. He gathered a few of his things and he quickly left our home. I heard rumors about him living with animals and all the interesting things he did including tackling Cobbler’s knot but mostly he just ran everywhere. To find out what happens to Jeffrey read the contemporary realistic fiction novel called Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.  (Nicole Mason,, college student)

SUBJECTS:     Death  -- Fiction


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