by Jerry Spinelli
The author of Loser
triumphs in yet another heartwarming study of
a lonely child who has issues. This book won the 1991 Newbery Medal award for American childrens literature.
Maniac, of course, isnt his first name--its actually Jeffrey. Orphaned at age three, his dreams are haunted by images of
his parents plunging to their deaths from a railroad bridge. Then he spent awhile with an aunt and uncle who were not
speaking to each other--each pretending the other wasnt there--until their silence drove young Jeffrey to run for it.
Round about age 12, Jeffrey comes in for a landing in the city of Two Mills, where Hector Street is the line of demarcation
between the strictly white West End and the black East End. And being the fearless, colorblind, and completely footloose
child he is, Jeffrey sets both sides of Hector topsy-turvy. His exploits become the stuff of legend--on the athletic field
and off. But his greatest achievement--to find a home of his own--continues to elude him.
Maniacs search for a place to belong is full of excitement, humor, and sadness. He sees people at their best on both sides
of the racial divide. He also sees some people at their worst...and little by little, begins to bring out the best in them as well.
Before anything changes for Maniac, he makes a difference for a lot of people. And as Spinelli points out, its not because
hes an especially good person himself. Hes simply blind to what certain things mean. And no matter who you are, you will
find yourself praying that he wises the world up before the world wises him up.
This is a painful book to read at times; but it is also very satisfying, and at times breaks out into unexpected moments of
poetry. I urge you to find it and read it. But brace yourself, you may get to the end of it a changed person.
Recommended Age: 10+
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