“The book follows the life of Jeffrey Lionel Magee. When he was very little, his parents died in a tragic trolley accident. After living with his aunt and uncle for awhile, Jeffrey gets fed up with their entirely loveless relationship and he runs away. For the rest of the book he is homeless and bounces around in the racially segregated community of Two Mills, PA. He lives with a black family in East End for a little while, but leaves when the family is given grief for having a white kid in their home. He then lives with an old man who dreamed of playing in the Major Leagues and a white trash family in West End. By the end of the book, Jeffrey (who is nicknamed Maniac by the community) ends up breaking down some racial barriers between West and East End and finding a family to live with.
I thought this book was incredible. It was a children's book that actually had quite a bit of depth. Not only was it fun to read about all of Maniac's adventures, but the book explored racial tension, loneliness, and other serious issues. The dialog was great, sometimes serious and usually hysterical. The characters were also great. Maniac is a completely over-the-top hero while still managing to be human and completely believable.
This is definitely a book I would like to read to my kids someday. It manages to be a pretty fun book while still providing the opportunity for serious discussions about the state of the world. ”