Facts about Jerry Spinelli’s “Maniac Magee”

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When children’s author Jerry Spinelli first delivered the manuscript of his sixth novel, about a big-hearted and athletic-gifted orphan known as “Maniac” Magee, he did not think he was onto something special. It wasn’t until the publisher’s marketing director read the book on a flight to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair that Little, Brown Books for Young Readers realized he had potential success in his hands. Maniac mage was published with great success in 1990, and in 1991 it was awarded the American Library Association’s Newbery Medal, an honor Reserve for “the author of the most distinguished contribution to American children’s literature” each year.

Decades later Maniac mage is a beloved modern classic and a staple on school reading lists. By 2015, the book had sold 3.3 million copies, and that was before Little, Brown published a 25e anniversary edition with an introduction by The one and only Ivan author Katherine Applegate. Thirty years after sprinting the bestseller list and winning the most prestigious kidlit honor, here are seven things you might not know. Maniac mage.

1. Maniac mage was partially inspired by a Motown song.

Spinelli took elements of Maniac mage from so many sources – ranging from a photograph to a newspaper column to his own childhood experiences – than in a 1991 article for The reading teacher he described the inspiration for the book as “a patchwork quilt” that “would cover about half an acre.” In 2015, Spinelli declared Editors Weekly that a key part of that inspiration was the 1964 Martha and the Vandellas song “Dancing in the streets“, which Spinelli said he liked first as a catchy pop number and then as a” take on the way things could be. “

2. Jerry Spinelli rejected two first attempts at Maniac mage before landing on the version that blocked.

Spinelli, who writes his first drafts by hand, struggled to find the voice of Maniacal mage. He rejected his first attempt after 80 pages when he realized he didn’t have much history and maybe made his child hero a little too heroic. He tried again but gave up this attempt after 100 pages – he still had not found a point of view that worked for the story of Jeffrey Lionel Magee, better known as “Maniac”, which goes from temporary house to temporary house, to looking for a place to belong. Spinelli took a few days off before finally landing on nine words that changed everything: “They say Maniac Magee was born in a dump.” This line, which would become the famous first line of the book, took it in a new direction and helped him identify the distinctive voice of the book: that of a local legend evoked from collective memory.

3. Maniac mageThe main character of is mentioned in a previous book by Jerry Spinelli.

Fifth novel by Spinelli, 1988 Dump days, includes a one-sentence reference to Maniac Magee, describing him as “some sort of orphan child, sleeping at the console”.

4. According to Jerry Spinelli, the South African government has purchased several hundred copies of Maniacal mage promote anti-apartheid efforts.

Maniac mage, whose white hero crosses racial divisions in a Pennsylvania town and finds a home with a black family, hit bookstores in 1990, the same year as the South African government meet with the African National Congress to begin the long process of negotiating an end to apartheid. Spinelli reminded Editors Weekly that one of his proudest moments was when, in the early 1990s, the South African government purchased and distributed 600 copies of Maniac mage to ease the transition. It’s hard not to see a little fairness in the government’s use of a book to help end its brutal segregation policy. Throughout the apartheid era, books deemed offensive or threatening were regularly collected and burnt by government officials across the country.

5. Maniac mage is on the American Library Association’s list of frequently disputed books with diverse content.

Maniac mage is regularly awarded to primary, secondary and even high school students. It often receives a warm welcome from children and parents alike, but numerous attempts to remove it from school curricula have placed it on the list of frequently disputed books. Some parents have complained about Maniac magemild profanity and his hero’s habit of running away from home, while other critics have challenged his portrayals of racism and even accused it’s anti-Catholic bias. Spinelli is in great company: the same list includes books by Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Anne Frank.

6. There is a film adaptation of Maniacal mage– and Jerry Spinelli is not a fan.

In 1993, Elijah Wood, who was 12 at the time, expressed interest in playing Maniac Magee in a big screen adaptation. Wood’s representatives would have secured the rights to the film in the name of the young actor, but the project never saw the light of day. Ten years later, a Maniac mage the film is released on small screen courtesy of Nickelodeon and A Christmas story director Bob Clark, with a cast including Michael Angarano, Orlando Brown and Jada Pinkett Smith. Although he praised the performance of the film, Spinelli was not impressed with Clark’s interpretation of his book. “The film stank”, the author Told the Time Herald newspaper from Montgomery County, Pa., in 2018. “It was so bad that’s why you can’t buy it.”

7. A Maniacal mage-An inspired charity run in Jerry Spinelli’s hometown raised over $ 100,000 for those in need.

For 22 consecutive years, The Salvation Army of Norristown organized an annual Maniac Magee Run for the Homeless to support his shelter, local food banks and other community action groups. Spinelli, who is famous for his fans, would sometimes attend the race to pose for photos and present medals at the finish line. Last year’s event went virtual, requiring attendees to run, walk or cycle a three-kilometer stretch for a ten-day period at the end of May. As of this writing, no 2021 events have been announced, virtual or otherwise.

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