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Maniac Magee

Last updated Monday, July 25, 2005

Author: Jerry Spinelli
Date of Publication:
ISBN: 0316807222
Grade Level: 5th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Aug. 2005

Synopsis: Maniac Magee is a folk story about a boy, a very excitable boy. One that can outrun dogs, hit a home run off the best pitcher in the neighborhood, tie a knot no one can undo. "Kid's gotta be a maniac," is what the folks in Two Mills say. It's also the story of how this boy, Jeffrey Lionel "Maniac" Magee, confronts racism in a small town, tries to find a home where there is none and attempts to soothe tensions between rival factions on the tough side of town. Presented as a folk tale, it's the stuff of storytelling. "The history of a kid," says Jerry Spinelli, "is one part fact, two parts legend, and three parts snowball." And for this kid, four parts of fun.

Note to readers:
•  This is a chapter book that you won?t be able to finish. Aim to read through the end of chapter 8 (although you do not need to reach that point, and you may skip certain chapters to reach chapters seven and eight), and tell the children that the book will be placed into their library if they would like to check it out and read the rest. *Also there will be copies of the chapters to be read for the fifth graders to follow along while you are reading - this may help them to remain focused and interested. Remember that the children are not to do the read-aloud, however.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Based on the cover, what do you think this story is about?
•  What do you think of when you hear the word ?maniac??
•  What do you do when you feel overwhelmed? What do you think Maniac does based on the cover?
•  What would you do if you were all on your own with no one to take care of you?
•  What is a myth? A legand? What are tall tales?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  ?Before the Story?
•  Read the passage at the end - how can the facts be different from the truth?
•  Who is ?they?
•  How does this part set up the story to be about an amazing kid? What do you think this kid has done? ?Chapter One?
•  Why did Jeffrey run away from home?
•  Where do you think he went? ?Chapter Two?
•  What made Jeffrey different from other people?
•  How did people treat Jeffrey? Did they accept him or dislike him?
•  What would you do if you saw a boy running around in the street like that? ?Chapter Three?
•  Who lived in the East End? in the West End?
•  Describe Jeffrey's first friend.
•  If you had a suitcase to carry all of your most important belongings, what would you carry? What books would be in there - any? ?Chapter Four?
•  Who else did Jeffrey meet and what else did he do? ?Chapter Five?
•  What happened to kids who go on Finsterwald's property?
•  Have you ever made a verb or a noun out of a proper noun, like having the ?finsterwallies? ? Or If one were made out of your name, what would it be?
•  What happened to Arnold Jones?
•  Based on what you read so far, what kind of kid is Jeffrey Magee? Would you want to be friends with him? Why or why not?
•  Do you think Jeffery will change West End and East End? How?
•  If you had to survive on your own, how would you do it? What does Maniac do?

Craft ideas:
•  You can tell a lot about a person from his/her shoes. Draw an outline of a shoe, and inside, draw some of your favorite or important memories in your life?maybe losing a tooth, or when your baby sister or brother was born, or a fun trip you took somewhere. Or create your dream shoes: what would it contain about your life in 20 years?
•  What do you think Finsterwald?s house looked like? Skip ahead to page 129 and read the description. Draw the house. Bring ahead option: The description includes that the wall felt like cornflakes and there were raisins that moved on the floor - bring in cornflakes and raisins to re-create.

Special activities:
•  Come up with a nickname for yourself, and create a acrostic poem (one where the letters of the word are written down the side of the page, and becomes first letter of each line) based on the nickname.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!