Jerry Spinelli

All posts tagged Jerry Spinelli

Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli

Published October 20, 2014 by Dagmar

ManiacMagee1This book may be my favorite book of the year.  Written by the author of one of my recent favorites for middle and high school, Stargirl, was recommended to me by the students in one of my third grade classes.  They’d been read the book by their teacher.  I’d been given all sorts of recommendations, Captain Underpants, among them.  This one stuck in my mind, because I knew it had won the 1991 Newbery Medal and because I’d always meant to read it.

Jeffrey Magee was orphaned at the age of three when his parents’ trolley went off the tracks of the P & W Trestle into the Schuylkill River.  Jeffrey moved in with his aunt and uncle who always fought. One day, he ran away, literally.  He ran all the way to a town called Two Mills.  Two Mills was split by Hector Street.  The West End of town was reserved for whites.  The East End of town was for blacks.  The two populations didn’t mix at all.  In fact, no one who was white dared come into East End.  Likewise, no one who was black purposely went into the West End of town.  Until Maniac Magee, unaware of the rules, showed up in the East End of town.  He met a girl named Amanda Beale, a great lover of books.  He managed, unbelievably, to borrow a book from her, a girl who did not, as a rule, lend her books.  He promised to return it and ended up living in Amanda Beale’s house.  There, he had two little brothers, a sister and a mother and father – a home.  Maniac Magee was fearless.  He could do extraordinary things.  He hit home runs off a star pitcher, ran touch downs on the football field, untangled complicated knots, ran on a single rail of a railroad line and actually sat on the Finsterwald’s front steps to read a book. He never went to school but loved to read.  He was a maniac.  He was legend.  All was going well until one day someone pointed out that he was white.  Maniac, didn’t even realize it himself.  Things changed after that day.  People didn’t like that the Beale’s were sheltering him.  So, Maniac ran.  He ran and found a home at the local zoo, in the buffalo pen.  There, he met a true friend, Grayson, who would make him another home in the park.  Soon, Maniac had to run again, this time, to the West End and a house where two small boys needed someone who would keep them safe.  He was fine there, taking care of those two boys who needed him and for whom he would do anything.  Until the day they asked him to do something he absolutely could not do, and he ran again.

Like my students, I became completely absorbed in Maniac Magee’s story.  I hope you will too.

 

 

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli

Published April 26, 2013 by Dagmar

stargirlStargirl is magical, just like Stargirl herself. What happens when you meet someone completely different —  someone who does things that no one would ever do, things that draw a lot of attention.  What if that someone doesn’t even care that they’re different?  Would you have the courage to be that person’s friend?  I loved this book and so did my students.

Leo Burlock is in high school.  He’s just like any other kid.  He’s kind of popular, a nice guy.  But, when a new girl, Stargirl, arrives at school, she changes things for him and for everyone.  She brings her ukelele to the cafeteria and serenades people on their birthdays.  She sits down in class and puts a curtain and a vase of flowers on her desk.  She joins the cheerleading squad and cheers for both teams.  Stargirl’s complete innocence catches him by surprise and makes him fall in love with her.  For a time, the entire student body falls in love with her too.  But, then, Stargirl makes a big mistake, and the penalty is huge.  She is shunned by the entire school, and Leo, as her boyfriend, is shunned too.  “And the shunning — it was clear now — had come to me.  It was less absolute for me than for her, but it was there.  I saw it in the eyes that shifted away from mine, the shoulders that turned, the chatter that seemed less loud around me now than before.  I fought it.  I tested its limits.  In the courtyard, between classes, in the lunchroom, I called out to others just to see if they would respond. When someone turned and nodded, I felt grateful.” In desperation, Leo asks Stargirl to change, to be normal.  “She constantly quizzed me about what other kids would do, would buy, would think.”  Stargirl does her best to change for Leo.  “In our minds we tried to pin her to a corkboard like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.”