9.22.2010

Book Club Bloggers: September


September's book of choice for the Book Club Bloggers was one that I didn't think I had heard of (after I saw it I realized I had at least picked up a copy before) and was certain I had not read (and I had not). It took me a little over an hour to read Maniac Magee, and when I was finished I wondered why I had never read it before. Last time I didn't quite follow the "rules" of the book club, so this time I'll try to stick to the questions Charlotte asked and no more.

Maniac Magee

What was your overall reaction: Happy? Sad? Hopeful? Resigned? Confused?
Overall reaction - perhaps a tad bit confused. I only say that because when I was trying to describe the book to Peter, the only word I could find that fit the story was "interesting" - in neither a good nor bad way. Spinelli certainly touches on lots of aspects of society - the good, the bad, and the humorous - and he doesn't shy away from racial aspects that are the proverbial giant elephant in the room. Overall I liked the book, but I left with a tinge of sadness and confusion.

When do you think this story is set? could it be possible today? If so, where?
I would say anywhere from the 1970's to present day. Where? Anywhere there are humans one will find injustice, sadness, ignorance, and a disbelief in racial blindness.

Are any themes or social contexts familiar to your life, or do you identify with any of the characters? If so, how?
This is a "sort-of" answer for me. In college I took a class where I was racially profiled for being white-skinned. It was my first experience with someone assuming I thought a certain way because of the color of my skin. Later, as we lived all over the world, I had many opportunities to be the one who stood out because my skin was a different color. In some ways I felt similar to Maniac Magee when we spent time in South Africa - I didn't fit in with the black African population (who, themselves, were set apart by tribe and/or country of origin) nor did I fit with the white Afrikaners (I didn't speak Afrikaans, I hadn't grown up in the culture or lived through the break-up of the Apartheid). It was an interesting in-between world - much like the place where Magee finds himself in the book.

How do you think the framing of Maniac Magee as a "legend" (in character and/or in storyline) enhances the story and its message(s)? How does it hinder them? Do you see it as more archetypical or realistic? How? Why?
I don't feel like I have a very good answer to these questions quite honestly. Overall, I liked the idea that Magee was bigger than life. In his legend form he reminded me of Paul Bunyan or Casey Jones, his daily feats grew into Tall Tales. He could run faster then everyone, excelled in all sports, and was a favorite with young children - bigger, better, badder. And yet the reality was that he desired something as simple as a family and an address (as any child wants to have - a sense of security and belonging). I think it was realistic in the meat and potatoes portion of the book - when Magee was truthful about who he was, what he wanted, and what caused him the most worry and fear.  

What is your favorite part of the book?
I would have to say the top two were:
1) When Jeffery teaches Grayson to read (and page 116 - when Maniac has just read to the body of Grayson and then curls up with him and cries is the closest I got to crying while reading this book).
2) The ending, starting with Mars Bar running with Magee each day and then the scene at the track (pulling the kid off the rail), Jeffery/Maniac telling MB about his parent's death, and MB be-friending Jeffery/Maniac.

All Amazon links are part of the Amazon Associates program, but all opinions are my own.

5 comments:

  1. I'm going to save my comments on your thoughts until I post my book review, but I wanted to let you know you certainly don't have to respond to the questions I ask! They are just to get you thinking; you can write about whatever you want in your review. I certainly didn't stick to my own questions when I wrote for "The Giver". :D

    Thanks again for participating!

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  2. Girl, I've had to stay away from your blog for a couple days because I didn't want your review to write mine ;)

    I totally agree that I put the book down a bit confused. I EVEN WROTE THAT! (We're review twins)

    Your answer to the "legend" question is SPOT ON. Not something I had considered and so, so true.

    Reading a book in community is so much better. It's awesome to get others points of view!

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  3. echoing charlotte (since i came up with the questions for this one): there are no "rules"! the questions are just prompts to get you thinking about the book in an analytical kind of way, rather than just writing a summary, book-report style. =)

    i like your favorite parts, too. when i was younger, i thought the part of the book involving grayson was boring; now, i see it as maniac's profound desire to have a home and someone to love, not prejudiced about what form it takes, and to share that with someone who needs it as desperately as he does.

    thanks for playing along! it's fun to read everyone's perspectives. =)

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  4. I'm glad that we can agree on the character of Mars Bar, but I disagree with Greyson. I wrote this on Molly's post, but I'm going to post it again here: Initially, I enjoyed Maniac's relationship with Greyson, but then, as I thought about it more, it bothered me. It seemed the most unrealistic part of the book, and thrown in just to pull the rug out from underneath Maniac yet again. Yes, it was sweet, but almost overpoweringly so.

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  5. Thanks for entering such a thoughtful and wellwritten review, it was again a completely different approach on the book for me.

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There are more than 400,000 words in the English language. My only request of you is this: Use them wisely.

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