Book Discussion Series: Maniac Magee

***JUST SO YOU KNOW*** All of the posts in our book discussion series contain questions and reviews that could possibly reveal parts of the plot you may rather discover by reading the book.  Proceed with caution!***

The Book Discussion Series enhances the reading experience by providing a list of interpretive questions compiled by librarians of the Cleveland Heights University Heights Public Library.

Maniac Magee won the Newbery Medal in 1991.  In a poll of best children’s novels going on at Fuse #8’s blog, Maniac represented at number 17.

He wasn’t born with the name Maniac Magee. He came into this world named Jeffrey Lionel Magee, but when his parents died and his life changed, so did his name. And Maniac Magee became a legend. Even today kids talk about how fast he could run; about how he hit an inside-the-park frog homer; how no knot, no matter how snarled, would stay that way once he began to untie it. But the thing Maniac Magee is best known for is what he did for the kids from the East Side and those from the West Side.

It’s also available on CD.

  • How would you describe the style of this book?  How is it different than other books that you have read?  Did this make the book easier to read? Harder? Or didn’t it affect your ability to get into the story?
  • Why do you think the book is broken into four sections (three parts and the before the story)?  How are they different?  How does Maniac change from the beginning to the end?
  • How is Maniac just a regular kid?  How is he a larger than life character?
  • What are some of the legendary things that Maniac does?  Which was your favorite?
  • Why do you think Maniac does so much running?
  • Why doesn’t Maniac go to school if he obviously thinks it is so important?  (He teaches Grayson to read, he bargains with the McNab boys to get them to go to school).  Do you think he will start going to school when the book is over?
  • What families does Maniac encounter during this story?  Which ones did you like best? (Maniac’s Aunt and Uncle, the Pickwells, the Beales, Grayson, the McNabs).  How are some of them different?  How are they the same?  How does Maniac fit in?
  • What did you think of the racism involved in the story?  Why is the town divided by race?  Why does Maniac not realize this division in the beginning?  Later in the book, he brings Mars Bar to the McNab’s party.  Why do you think he did this?
  • Have you ever experienced racial prejudice?  Have you ever been discriminated against for other reasons (age, religion, etc.)?  Have you encountered people with misconceptions about others who are different (ex. When Grayson asks Maniac about the Beales at home, do they have toothbrushes, etc.)?
  • Why do you think that Maniac stays with the McNabs for as long as he does?
  • Why did Maniac start sleeping in people’s backyards and why do you think he stopped?
  • Homes and homelessness are important in the novel.  Why is an address so important to Maniac  Why does he paint a one at the band shell?  Why does he paint over it when he leaves?
  • How would you describe the relationship between Maniac and Mars Bar?  How does it change from when they first encounter each other until the end?  Why do you think this change occurs?
  • Wh do you think Amanda is able to get Maniac to come home?  Why does he leave and why doesn’t he want to come back?
  • There are a lot of nasty characters in the book.  Which do you dislike the most?  Why?