By Spinnelli Jerry
By Spinnelli Jerry
Jerry Spinelli was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania in February 1941. Spinelli realized that he wanted to be a writer at the age of sixteen when he penned a poem about his love for football and his father went behind his back to have it published in their local paper. Spinelli attended Gettysburg College where he worked as the editor of the school newspaper and spent his free time writing short stories. Upon his graduation from Gettysburg and subsequent MA from John’s Hopkins, Spinelli worked as editor of a small department store magazine and found himself writing on his breaks and in the evenings. Spinelli intended to write for adults, though his first four attempts at adult novels were rejected by publishers. Spinelli finally had success with his fifth novel, Space Station Seventh Grade (1981), which was originally intended for adults but was published for children.
Over the course of his career Spinelli has been published more than twenty times. Spinelli’s two most well-known novels for children are Wringer (1997), which is a Newbery Honor book, and Maniac Magee (1990), which won the Newbery Award in 1991. Maniac Magee has been a popular teaching tool in elementary schools because it deals with issues such as homelessness and racism in a way that children can understand. The main character rises above his hardships in life and becomes a bit of a legend in his town; he is determined, fearless, and ambitious beyond his years and means. A film adaptation of Maniac Magee was released in 2003 by Nickelodeon.
Jeffrey Lionel Magee is an orphan who lost his parents in a train wreck when he was only a few years old. After his parents’ death, Magee went to live with his Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan, but they did not pay much attention to him as they were always fighting with one another. After many years of listening to the fighting Magee runs away and eventually finds himself in a town called Two Mills. Magee immediately meets a girl named Amanda Beale whom he takes a liking to because she is kind and lets him borrow a book. Magee quickly becomes a thing of legend in Two Mills because he is capable of impressive athletic feats that everyone is in awe of; some people like Magee right away and others do not, mostly because they are jealous.
Magee quickly learns that there is a racial divide in Two Mills; the black people live in the West End and the white people live in the East End with Hector Street acting as the barrier. Magee does not understand the racial divide and wishes everyone would get along. Magee sometimes sleeps with the animals in the zoo or in the park, and for a time he stays with the Beale family until he feels he is becoming a burden. While on his own again Magee, meets a man named Grayson who becomes a father figure to him and when Grayson dies Magee fears more than ever losing those he cares about. Magee makes it his mission to influence others for the better and somehow manages to blur the racial lines in Two Mills and find a home with the Beales.
Racial prejudice is something that Magee does not understand and has never dealt with before coming to Two Mills. As Magee has had experiences with people from both Ends of Two Mills he knows that the people are not all that different from one another, though they would never believe it. When Magee tells Grayson about the people he met even Grayson is surprised that the assumptions he had made over the years prove to be false. Grayson’s comments inspire Magee to bring the two Ends together and stop the assumptions and prejudice that have been going on.
Family is something that means a lot to Magee because it is something that he has been missing and desperately wants back. Magee left the home of his aunt and uncle because he could not stand their constant bickering. Magee truly enjoyed living with the Beale family because he felt included and loved; he also valued the friendship he had with Grayson as Grayson became a sort of father figure to Magee. After he loses Grayson, Magee tries to avoid becoming part of a family with anyone because he fears he will only lose them.
Fear is ironic in the context of this novel because to others it seems as though Magee fears nothing when actually it is Magee’s fear that drives him completely. Magee travels alone, lives alone, and even likes being awake when everyone else is sleeping because as long as he is alone there is not anyone for him to lose. Magee’s fear becomes obvious when he will not go out onto the bridge to save Russell because it reminds him of the death of his family. Magee tries to push away everyone who gets close to him for fear that he will lose them as he did his family and Grayson.
Home is a notion that is important to Magee, as he has not had a home that he has genuinely called his own since his parents died. When Magee started staying with the Beale family he snuck down in the middle of the night to see their house number so he could remember where his home was. Also, when Magee and Grayson started living in the equipment room, Magee painted the number “101” on the door so that he would have an address. Despite his fear, Magee eventually realizes that the Beales are his family and their home is his, as well.
Friendship is something that does not seem particularly important to Magee, as he spends a lot of time alone and he does not care what others think of him, but it is important. Magee spends his time trying to bring out the best in other people through his own kindness and generosity, despite having remarkably little. Magee spends his time trying to get the McNab boys to go to school, teaching Grayson to read, and doing chores around the homes that he visits. While he may not be actively trying to make friends himself he does, and he also helps break down racial barriers so others can be friends too.
Magee becomes a thing of legend in Two Mills, as we learn from the narrator, and he builds a legacy for his friends, as well. Magee quickly becomes known as “Maniac” when he outperforms all of the other kids in town when it comes to athletics and when he unties the impossible Cobble’s Knot. Magee does not ask for the legacy, but he does his best to uphold it. Magee even brings out the best in others and helps them to become a thing of legends as well, such as the time Mars Bar stopped thirty cars at once and when McNab supposedly struck him out with a stopball.
Despite Magee’s infamy and popularity, he enjoys spending time alone. Magee spent a long time on the run before he came to Two Mills and preferred to sleep in places where there were no other humans, only animals. Magee’s favorite time of day is the very early morning when he can wake up and go for a run without seeing another living soul; it makes him feel like he is the only person in the whole world. The reader learns that Magee’s love of solitude comes from his fear of becoming close to a person and then losing them, as he did with his family and with Grayson.
Literacy is important within this novel because it is the foundation for Magee’s two most influential relationships, and also because Magee loves to read. The very day that Magee met Amanda Beale he was impressed that she carried so many books with her at all times and appreciated her generosity with allowing him to borrow a book. Living with the Beales Magee could read as often as he wanted and soon he joined the library, as well. Magee and Grayson became especially close when Magee taught the old man to read; Magee was proud and decided to help others achieve extraordinary things, as well.
Homelessness is an fascinating thing to ponder in this novel because most people are homeless by chance, but Magee is homeless by choice. It was Magee who left the home of his aunt and uncle, content to wander the streets rather than listen to the fighting. While in Two Mills Magee had invitations from the Beales as well as Mars Bar’s family to live with them but he opted to live on his own instead. Magee enjoyed the solitude because it meant not losing any more family; though Amanda soon convinced him that he was her family and her home was his, as well.
Acceptance is something that is important to Magee because he does not understand segregation nor does he understand how a person can hate another person they do not even know. Magee acts like it is unimportant for him to be accepted by the people of Two Mills, but he finds that he enjoys the feeling that people care for him. It is most important to Magee that both Ends of Two Mills merge together and accept one another despite their racial differences.
Magee is a young teenage boy who lost his parents when he was small. He lived with his aunt and uncle for many years but ran away when their fighting became too much. Magee is quite athletically gifted and enjoys impressing people with his abilities, mostly because he likes to see other people happy. Though he seems fearless, deep down Magee is sad about his parents’ death and scared of losing others that he cares about. It is Magee’s mission to bring out the best in everyone and to create an environment of acceptance.
Amanda Beale is a young black girl who lives in the East End of Two Mills; she is the first person that Magee meets in town. Amanda carries all of her books with her every day, including the “A” volume of the encyclopedia, so her twin younger siblings do not destroy them. Amanda and Magee quickly become friends, and she brings him into her home so he does not have to stay on the streets. Amanda is head-strong and is not afraid to tell Magee exactly how it is. Eventually, Amanda insists that Magee is part of her family and tells him that he is living at her home, period.
Mars Bar Thompson –Mars Bar is a tough black kid from the East End who is athletic and quite arrogant. At first Mars Bar does not like Magee because Magee is even better at sports, including foot races, than Mars Bar is. After a while, Mars Bar respects the fact that Magee is not scared of him and stands up to him; they soon become good friends. When Magee introduces Mars Bar to racism as he sees it Mars Bar starts looking at life in a different way and eventually becomes a better person for it.
Grayson –Grayson is the old man who saves Magee when he falls from a fence at the zoo. Grayson is a maintenance man who lives at the YMCA and he helps Magee make a home in an old sports equipment room. Grayson used to play minor league baseball and Magee loves hearing his stories from that time. Magee teaches Grayson to read and tells him what the East End is actually like. After spending Christmas together and gifting Magee his own baseball glove, Grayson dies in his sleep. Magee is majorly affected by the death of Grayson, who had become a sort of father figure to him.
John is a twelve-year-old boy from the West End who is exceptionally good at baseball and belongs to a gang called the Cobras. John immediately dislikes Magee because he is the only one who has ever been able to hit a homerun off John and he hits several of them. John begins to like Magee a little when he returns John’s brothers to their home, though they never quite become friends. John is terribly racist, just like his father, and he and the other Cobras are not welcoming to Mars Bar when Magee brings him to the McNab house.
Russell and Piper are the younger brothers of John McNab. They first encounter Magee when they are in the process of running away from home and Magee tricks them into going back. Magee is determined to make the boys do good things with their lives and starts by bribing them into attending school. Russell and Piper tire of Magee’s game after a short time and start acting out again; eventually they tell Magee to leave them alone. One day Russell gets stuck on the trolley bridge out of fear and Mars Bar has to rescue him because Magee runs off.
Mrs. Beale is the mother of Amanda, Hester, and Lester. She is a kind woman who welcomes Magee into her home as though he has been a part of the family all the while. Mrs. Beale is happy to have Magee around because he helps with chores and also keeps the twins entertained so she can get things done around the house. From the moment, she meets him Mrs. Beale treats Magee as though he is one of her own children and Magee loves her immediately.
Hester and Lester are the four-year-old twin siblings of Amanda. The twins are terrors and wreck everything that they come into contact with; they are the reason that Amanda carries all of her books with her in a suitcase every day for fear they will be destroyed. After Magee moves into the Beale home the twins are enamored with him and calm down considerably; they even help to keep the house clean sometimes.
Hands Down is a popular boy in Two Mills who happens to be an outstanding football player. Magee meets Hands Down when he walks through the football field during a game and intercepts a pass that was meant for Hands. Hands is impressed with Magee’s athleticism and respects him immediately. Hands Down also teaches Magee how to trash-talk people because he is too nice. This gets Magee into trouble with Mrs. Beale, though, when he decides to trash-talk her. Hands Down always stands up for Magee when there is trouble.
The Pickwells are a family in the West End who Magee sometimes has dinner with. Mrs. Pickwell has ten children and knows how to whistle long enough for the entire town to hear; this is how she informs all of her children that dinner is ready. The Pickwells often welcome random people into their home for meals and Magee is no exception. One night Magee even brings Mars Bar with him to dinner and he is welcomed despite being from the East End.
The Cobras are a gang in the West End led by John McNab. The Cobras are known bullies and Magee had a run-in with them not long after he first came to town. Magee and the Cobras never get along, despite John McNab’s tolerance of him. Like McNab and a lot of other West End people, the Cobras are quite racist. When Magee brings Mars Bar to Piper’s birthday party, the Cobras make him feel uncomfortable.
Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan are Magee’s aunt and uncle whom he lives with after his family is killed in a train accident. Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan despise one another, but they will not get a divorce because they are Catholic and it is against their religion. Every time they speak to one another they fight, so they opt to not speak, or even sit anywhere near one another whenever it’s possible to avoid. Magee tires of this behavior and leaves their home to be on his own.
Mr. Cobble is the owner of the local grocery store, which also becomes a pizza restaurant. Mr. Cobble discovered a tricky looking knot one day that he could not undo so he decided to drum up business he would host a contest; the person who could untie the knot would get one free pizza every week for a year. No one was ever able untie the knot until the day that Amanda convinced Magee to try in the hopes that it would make him a hero.
Mr. McNab is the father of John, Russell, and Piper. When Magee first visited the McNab home, he found it a mess and parentless. Mr. McNab only stopped by the home to give his children some fast food and tell them to do their homework, and then he left again. Mr. McNab is racist and passes this idea on to his children; he and John build a pillbox together to defend against the East Ender should there be a revolt. When Mars Bar comes to his home, Mr. McNab leaves the room.
Finsterwald is a thing of legend in Two Mills. He (or she) is feared by all of the children of Two Mills, though no one actually knows why. Kids dare one another to stand in his yard for minutes at a time or to knock on his door, but they are always too scared. At the prompting of Piper and Russell Magee not only stands in Finsterwald’s yard but knocks on the door and talks to whoever answers it for several minutes before leaving.
Jeffrey Lionel Magee was born in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania where he lived with his parents and sister until one day when he was three years old. On the day in question Jeffrey’s parents and sister were killed when their trolley crashed because of a drunk driver. After the death of his family, Jeffrey moved in with his Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan, but life was not all roses there; Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan were always fighting but would not divorce for religious reasons. One day during a musical Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan were avoiding one another as always, and Jeffrey lost it; he started yelling at them to “Talk! Talk!” during a song and when the song ended he could not stop yelling it. That night he ran from the school, and from his aunt and uncle, and never looked back.
Jeffrey Magee’s story continues in a town called Two Mills, two-hundred miles away from his hometown of Bridgeport. It is a seemingly random town for him to end up in, though it is just across the river from where he came. A lot of the people in Two Mills think they recall seeing Magee on his first day in their town, but it is unlikely. Some people did see him, surely, and of this day they would recall the young boy saying hello to them as he passed. This was certainly behavior that the folks would remember, is it is unusual for a child to be so friendly toward strangers.
Amanda Beale is the first person to speak to Magee when he arrives in Two Mills. She thought it weird that a white boy would be on the East End; the East End of Two Mills was inhabited by black citizens while the West End was where white people lived. Magee seems unconcerned with where he is and only wonders why Amanda is carrying a large suitcase to school. She explains that it is full of her beloved books, and she must take them with her so her siblings do not destroy them. Magee wants to borrow a book and Amanda hesitates because she is not sure whether she should trust this white boy with her things. Eventually, Amanda allows him one and heads off to school as she is late.
The next group of people who remember seeing Magee on that first day is the boys’ gym class at the school. Magee runs through their football game and intercepts a throw from Brian Denehy, the quarterback, to James “Hands” Down, the receiver. Magee punts the ball right to “Hands” and then runs off the field like it was nothing. The boys are amazed; not just because their game was interrupted by a mysterious stranger but because he did all of this with only one hand as Amanda’s book was in the other one.
The next place where Magee is spotted is at the home of an old man named Finsterwald whom all of the local kids are terrified of. One young boy by the name of Arnold Jones is thrown over Finsterwald’s fence and into his yard by some older bullies. Arnold Jones is so scared that Finsterwald is going to come out of his house that he stands frozen in place with his teeth chattering. Arnold passes out from fear when Magee comes into the yard to help him. Magee brings Arnold to the front porch and as soon as Arnold wakes he runs off. Magee, however, is perfectly content sitting on the porch and reading Amanda’s book.
Mrs. Pickwell always gives a whistle outside when dinner is ready, so her children know it is time to come home. The Pickwell family consists of Mr. and Mrs. Pickwell, ten children, and several grandparents and great-grandparents. The Pickwells often had random guests over for dinner, even people that they were not familiar with. On this particular night, Magee came in for dinner, though he said nothing to anyone and left as soon as he was done eating. After dinner, the children see Magee running down a thin rail on the tracks and are amazed at his abilities.
Magee makes his next appearance at the Little League field where a large, arrogant twelve-year-old boy called John McNab is going for the record of “most strikeouts”. The game is long over, but he is still throwing fastballs at waiting batters and tallying up his total; he is at thirty-five strikeouts when Magee stops by and insists on getting a turn. At first McNab does not want Magee to play because he is not a part of their team but when Magee puts on one of the boys’ hats and stands at home plate McNab pitches to him. On the first pitch, Magee hits a homerun, and he continues to hit every single pitch after that, both balls and strikes. McNab even throws a frog at Magee, but Magee does not miss a beat; he bunts the frog and runs the bases even as McNab tries to throw the frog at him again. This time when Magee hits home plate he just picks up Amanda’s book and keeps on running off the field.
As word spreads around town of the mysterious boy who is incredibly good at everything, he earns the nickname “Maniac”. People assume Magee must be a maniac because a normal boy would not be able to accomplish such things. Magee has nowhere to live but needs a place to stay, so he heads to the zoo where he makes himself at home in the buffalo pen. To kill time Magee reads the book that he got from Amanda, and he enjoys it so much he reads it over and over. Even when Magee is not reading he is carrying the book with him to keep it safe.
The pitcher John McNab is not happy with Magee at all because he feels that Magee made him look like a fool. McNab happens to be part of a group called the Cobras who are known to cause ruckus in the town. One day McNab and the Cobras find Magee walking on the railroad tracks and chase after him while throwing rocks in his direction. The Cobras suddenly stop chase when they see that Magee has crossed over Hector Street into the East End. The boys think this is funny because they feel the East End is going to be brutal for Magee.
As Magee walks through the East End, he sees children all over the streets playing with one another. A boy who thinks he is tough called Mars Bar Thompson gets in Magee’s face as he is passing through. Magee is not scared, and when Mars Bar asks a bit menacingly if Magee wants a bite of his candy bar he surprises everyone by actually taking a bite of it. Mars Bar tells Magee that he is “bad”, as in tough, but Magee takes it at face value and argues with Mars Bar that he is not bad at all. When Mars Bar sees the book Magee is carrying he tries to take it, but Magee wrestles it back; in the scuffle one of the pages is ripped. When one of the neighboring ladies breaks up the fight she warns Magee that he should leave the East End.
Magee is not upset by his altercation with Mars Bar, but he is upset that one of the pages in Amanda’s book was damaged. Once again Magee finds himself facing Mars Bar but this time Mars Bar has brought several friends with him to take the book. As Magee’s back is up against a wall, Amanda appears and asks what happened to her book. Mars Bar blames the damage on Magee, but Amanda knows that he is lying to her. After Amanda stomps all over Mars Bar’s sneakers, she takes the book and Magee back to her house.
Mrs. Beale is excited to meet Magee, the boy Amanda had lent one of her precious books to. Amanda’s twin siblings, Hester and Lester, make a big mess which their mother cleans up without a fuss while the kids all play together. Magee has dinner with the Beale family and afterward Mr. Beale offers Magee a ride home. After a few minutes, Magee chooses a random house to call his own but Mr. Beale knows he is lying because there are no white families in the East End. Mr. Beale brings Magee back to stay with them; he will stay in Amanda’s room, and she will stay with Hester and Lester. That night Magee looks at the number on the front of the house so he can be sure he knows his new address.
Amanda is perfectly fine bunking with her siblings while Magee stays in her room. The Beale home has become a better place since Magee has been staying with them; he helps with chores, the younger children behave around him, and he has a good time with the whole family. Mrs. Beale feels bad one night when she sees that Magee has been sleeping on the floor rather than in the bed; he tells her that the bed is too comfortable, and he is not used to it. Magee develops itchy, red blotches all over his whole body one day and when the Beale’s bring him to the doctor they discover that he has an allergy to pizza; he had never realized it before because he had never had pizza.
Magee is reveling in his life with the Beale family. He truly enjoys having a family to spend time with, and he also enjoys going to church. Magee’s favorite part of the life he is now living is the diversity around him, as he has never lived in an area with non-white people before. Magee sees Hands Down when he is playing one day and the two boys start throwing a football back and forth. Magee never misses a catch, and everyone becomes increasingly impressed with his athletic abilities. Magee starts to become quite popular among kids and adults alike and almost everyone calls him Maniac, including the Beales.
Word spreads quickly of Magee’s athletic prowess. Magee and Hands Down play football together often and everyone watches as Hands Down throws touchdowns to Magee all day long. Magee finds it fascinating that Hands Down is always trash-talking the teams that they play against, as he has never experienced anything like it before. Magee makes the mistake of trash-talking Mrs. Beale one night and he does not stop until she slaps him across his face. Mrs. Beale is upset after she slaps Magee and sees him crying, but he just hugs her tight around her waist and tells her that he loves her. Magee’s favorite time of day is late at night because he has time to read. What Magee actually wants to read is Volume A of the encyclopedia because he sees Amanda reading it all the time, but he only has a chance early in the mornings because she carries it with her everywhere.
There are some people who are not in awe of Magee; in fact some people don’t like him at all. Magee does not seem to realize some people do not like him or if he does, he does not pay it any mind. Most of the people who have a problem with Magee are just jealous of him, like Mars Bar who dislikes Magee because he is better at sports. Some people also think that Magee is too different to fit in with them, especially because he is white and living in an all-black neighborhood. Magee does not understand why skin color matters because they are all just different shades of one color, not distinctly different colors.
One day Magee heads out to play with the other kids at the fire hydrant. There is a man there who gets in Magee’s face and tells him to go back where he belongs. Magee does not understand where the man wants him to go because to Magee he is where he belongs. It is obvious, however, that the man thinks Magee belongs at the West End with the other white people. When the other kids stick up for Magee, the man tells them that they should spend time with “their own kind” and not a “whitey” like Magee. After this confrontation, Magee has a hard time sleeping at night so he starts running early in the morning before anyone else is awake. One morning he runs by the house and sees Mrs. Beale washing writing off the front of the house; the writing says, “Fishbelly go home”.
Magee makes the decision to leave the Beale home because his presence is causing problems for them, but Amanda tries to assure him that the writing on the house and the ranting of the old man mean nothing to them. Amanda worries that Magee will have no food, nowhere to sleep, and will not be able to bathe, but Magee tells her that he was doing fine before he moved in with them and he would do fine again on his own. Amanda hopes that Magee will stay just for the access to all of her books, but he tells her that he plans to get a library card. Magee leaves but he does not stay away for long; he returns later that night and Amanda has a plan to keep him around and to make everyone like him.
Amanda wants Magee to untie the seemingly impossible knot that Mr. Cobble has in his store. Mr. Cobble owns the grocery store, and there is an extremely complicated knot the size of a volleyball in his store. Mr. Cobble could not untie the knot and has started a contest offering one free pizza a week to the person who can untie it. So far, no one has been able to untie the knot so Mr. Cobble gave up the contest and put the knot away. Amanda thinks that Magee could untie the knot, and she thinks that if he does everyone in town will respect him and want to be his friend.
Amanda and Magee head to Mr. Cobble’s store and bring the knot outside where they hang it from the flagpole to give Magee easier access to it. A table is brought over for Magee to stand on while he works, and people slowly start to gather around to watch him attempt the impossible. Magee plays around with the knot trying to find the end and seems to make the ball even bigger at first. A child gives Magee some butterscotch and Magee realizes that he will need all of his mental and physical endurance to achieve his task so he takes a nap right there on the table. When Magee wakes he goes to work on the knot; by the end of the afternoon Magee has reduced the knot to only a piece of string.
The whole town has begun to celebrate the knot being untied; the string that it was tied with is the length of four blocks. There is confetti floating through the air, and Amanda is horrified when she realizes that the confetti was made from her favorite encyclopedia. Magee follows Amanda back to her house, but he can see that she is clearly upset about what has happened so he decides that it is time for him to leave. As Magee heads toward the West End, he sees the Cobras waiting for him on the other side of Hector Street, but when he turns back he sees Mars Bar and the others from the East End. Magee walks directly down the center of Hector Street, flanked on both sides by his nemeses, until he leaves the town behind him.
Magee heads to the zoo where he sleeps with the buffalo. One day Magee has an accident and falls from the fence that encases the buffalo. Magee lays on the ground unmoving until an old man scoops him up and takes him to a place where baseball equipment is stored. The old man is named Grayson, and he wonders why Magee was staying in the buffalo pen. Magee tells Grayson his story as he eats the food that the old man provided him with. Afterward, Magee asks Grayson to bring him somewhere where he can get some of the delicious butterscotch krimpets that the small boy had given him when he was untying the knot.
Grayson buys Magee the krimpets and then they head to the YMCA; this is where Grayson lives. Magee is able to shower there, and he is given clean clothes to wear. Grayson questions why Magee does not go to school and Magee, clearly uncomfortable with the question, tells him that he simply does not want to. The reader learns that Magee does not like school because all of the other kids have a home to return to after school and he does not. Magee gets defensive with Grayson and says that he will run off again if Grayson tries to make him attend school. Grayson does not push the topic of school with Magee, and he realizes that he likes the boy quite a bit and feels remarkably comfortable around him.
Magee and Grayson head back to the equipment room and then decide to go to the diner to get some food. While Magee eats he answers all of Grayson’s questions about the East End and what it is actually like there. Grayson is surprised to learn that the East End seems to be a lot like the West End, and many of the assumptions he had about life on the East End are not true at all. Grayson thinks about bringing Magee to stay at the YMCA, but Magee insists on staying in the equipment room instead. Magee gets comfortable on a pile of chest protectors and asks Grayson to tell him a story. Grayson does not know any stories to tell Magee so Magee only asks Grayson what his childhood dream was; Grayson tells Magee he wanted to be a baseball player and then he leaves.
Grayson comes to see Magee in the morning and brings him some food. Magee asks Grayson about his baseball dream and learns that Grayson used to be a minor league pitcher. When Grayson first began playing in the minor leagues, he recalls going to a restaurant and eating a huge meal because the others guys had told him that the restaurant offered a free meal to new players. At the end of the meal, Grayson got stuck washing dishes to pay for it because his teammate had been lying; because of this Grayson missed his very first game. Magee starts helping Grayson at his maintenance job, posing at Grayson’s nephew, and though he cannot be paid for his work he enjoys helping. Grayson tells Magee more stories about baseball, including the time a scout came to see him pitch, and it was the worst game he had ever played. After playing in Mexico for a short time, Grayson retired and became a maintenance worker.
All the stories from Grayson make Magee want to play, and soon the two are playing catch with the equipment in the room. Grayson often gives Magee pointers on his game and teaches him special pitches. One pitch that Grayson shows Magee is called the stopball; even Magee cannot hit the stopball. Grayson brings up school again one day, and Magee tells him that he does attend school; what he means is that he reads a lot and learns from the books. A couple of days later Grayson asks Magee if he will teach him how to read.
Grayson starts telling Magee more about his life, aside from his baseball career. Grayson’s parents were alcoholics, and he did not do well in school. Grayson was placed in remedial classes, but the teachers gave up on him easily. When Grayson was fifteen-years-old, he dropped out of school and ran away, leaving everyone behind him. Grayson decides to drop to part-time work so he can spend more time with Magee learning how to read. Grayson is a fast learner and has no trouble learning the alphabet or most of the letter sounds, though vowels are a bit difficult for him. Magee proves to be an excellent teacher and very patient; it is not long before Grayson is able to read his very first sentence, “I see the ball”.
Soon Grayson is able to read his very first book, The Little Engine That Could. Magee is proud of Grayson, and when he is done reading Magee says “Amen”; this is something he has heard people say at church when they are fond of something that another person does. The equipment room has become a more livable space, thanks to Grayson; it now has a toaster oven, space heater, sleeping mat, refrigerator, and dresser. Magee appreciates everything that Grayson does for him, though he does not sleep on the mat. One night after they are done eating Magee gets Grayson to stay the night there with him.
It is Thanksgiving and Magee and Grayson head to the football field to see Hands Down play. After the game, they head back to the equipment room where they prepare a large Thanksgiving meal. Magee gives thanks for Grayson’s ability to read thirteen books now, for the delicious meal they have eaten, and he also prays that all is well with the Beales. After dinner, Magee and Grayson listen to polka music and dance and are soon all tired out. Magee asks Grayson to get him some paint, and he does; Magee uses the paint to write the number “101” on the door of the equipment room so he has an official address.
It is not long before Grayson decides to leave the YMCA and live at “101” with Magee permanently; this happens just before Christmas. Getting in the Christmas spirit Magee and Grayson decorate their home with a tree, a wreath hanging on the front door, and a reindeer that Grayson fashioned out of some sticks he found in the woods. The reindeer is something extraordinarily special; it is so big that Magee could ride it if it were real. They also go out into the woods and decorate a pine tree with other things that they have found outdoors.
Grayson and Magee have a nice Christmas day. In the morning, they head to the zoo where they visit the buffalo and then out into the woods where they see the pine tree they decorated; Magee even gives a scarf to the baby buffalo. Back at home, Magee and Grayson eat a nice meal and then exchange the gifts they got one another. Magee gives Grayson a hat and gloves and also a book that he wrote by himself; the book tells a story about Grayson striking out the one and only Willie Mays. Grayson also gives Magee some gloves, as well as butterscotch krimpets and a baseball. The final gift Grayson gives Magee is truly special: it is the glove that he used when he played in the minor leagues. Magee loves the gift very much; the reader learns that the gift is extra special because Grayson will not live another week.
One morning Grayson is still in bed when Magee wakes, though he is always the first one up. Magee knows that Grayson has died, but he does not tell anyone right away; instead he sits by Grayson’s side all day and reads to him. When night comes Magee lies there alone and cries. It is another week before Grayson’s funeral and other than the pallbearers, gravediggers, and the man who works at the funeral home, Magee is the only one in attendance. The minister is late and it is cold out, which causes the other men to complain. They are asked to wait two more minutes; Magee runs off before the men get a chance to leave.
It is bitter cold out, but Magee does not stop moving after he leaves the funeral. He swings by the equipment room to grab some things and to cross the “101” off the front door because he knows he will not stay there anymore. Magee keep moving and spends the night in random places. One night he stays in a replica cabin at the Valley Forge National Park. In the cabin, Magee thinks about how many people he has lost in his life and how sad it has made him. Magee does not think he can handle getting close to anyone else and then losing them so he decides he will stay in the cabin until he dies of cold or hunger.
On the second night that Magee is in the cabin, he hears arguing outside. He enters the second cabin where the voices are coming from and sees two boys who have run away from their home. The two boys tease Magee and brag about the things they have stolen. At first they think that he is a police officer but he tells them that he is just a pizza delivery guy, and he has come to tell them they won a free pizza. Magee takes the boys into town to get their pizza and when they are done they all run into John McNab. Magee makes no moves to run away from John though he is frightened. It come out that the two boys he had bought a pizza for are John’s younger brothers.
John thinks that Magee kidnapped Russell and Piper, his brothers, but soon learns that is not the case. He is embarrassed and angry when he finds out his brothers had heard stories about Maniac Magee until Magee tells them another story. Magee tells Russell and Piper that once, after the homerun, John managed to strike Magee out by throwing the infamous stopball. John is noticeably less embarrassed, and the boys are impressed. Magee is invited back to their house, and he is appalled by how filthy it is. Mr. McNab comes to the house to drop off some fast food and then leaves again. Magee tries to clean but gives up because it is obviously pointless. The Cobras show up and cause even more ruckus as there are no adults and, therefore, no rules. That night Magee sleeps between the two younger boys and wonders what he is doing at the McNab house.
Magee starts making deals with Russell and Piper to get them to attend school. At first he tells them he will fill them in on a shortcut to Mexico, where they were going to run away to, if they went to school for a whole week. He is able to keep adding extra weeks onto this time for a short while before the boys start making their own deals. They decide that if Magee will stand in the yard of the scary Finsterwald for ten minutes they will go to school for another week. After Magee does this with no issues, he convinces they to go for yet another week if he knocks on the door. The boys agree and are amazed when Magee knocks on the door, talks to the owner of the house, and walks away with no harm done.
Russell and Piper keep thinking of challenges for Magee to complete in return for them attending school. Most kids would never take on some of the challenges that the boys think up but as Magee is Maniac Magee he has no problems with any of the tasks set before him. If anything, the tasks only add to Magee’s legacy and popularity. The boys are only going to school because of Magee, which makes him happy, and in return they become more well-known around town because they associate themselves with the legend. The next challenge Russell and Piper think of is one that they believe to be the most difficult: they want Magee to go to the East End.
Many kids gather to watch Magee enter the East End; while Magee seems to have no qualms about crossing the street Piper is scared for him. Magee encounters Mars Bar first who challenges Magee by telling him he is “badder” than ever before while Magee tells Mars Bar that he is also “badder” than before and must be “half-black” by now. Mars Bar cracks up laughing and challenges Magee to a foot race. Magee considers losing the race just to make Mars Bar feel better, but his body has different ideas and Magee wins; not only does he win, but he wins running backward. Magee feels bad for showing off and thinks he should not have done that. Magee continues to walk through the East End and finds himself at the Beale house. The twins run over to Magee, very excited to see him, as Amanda and Mrs. Beale wait on the front porch.
Magee stays at the Beale house but sneaks out early one day to visit the McNabs. Piper and Russell seem genuinely shocked that Magee is still alive. Magee finds John and Mr. McNab building a pillbox (a guard post of sorts) in the living room. They are convinced that people from the East End will try to invade the West End eventually, and they want to be prepared. Magee thinks this is silly as he has not heard about anyone else preparing for a revolt or building guard posts in their own homes, but they are convinced that once everyone hears about their pillbox they will want to build their own.
One day while Magee is running he stops at the Pickwells’ for dinner. Afterward Magee heads to see the McNabs; he has had a difficult time getting the boys to go to school lately. Russell and Piper have been getting into a lot of trouble lately and still want to run away to Mexico. Magee wants to give up, but he thinks the boys will never be good if he isn’t there to make them. Magee loses his temper with the boys on the day he finds them using Grayson’s baseball glove as a football. Magee tells the boys that they will listen to everything that he says from now on, no questions asked. It is only a few days before the boys revert to their old ways and tell Magee to leave them alone. After two days of sleeping in the park, the boys come looking for Magee to invite him to Piper’s birthday party. Magee agrees to attend but only if he can bring a guest.
Piper is shocked when Magee shows up with Mars Bar. Magee had thought about how Grayson knew so little about the East End and decided the reason the two Ends hated one another so much is because they did not know each other. Mars Bar did not want to come to the party at first, but Magee convinced him by saying that he wasn’t really that “bad” if he was too scared to cross Hector Street. Mars Bar crosses the street out of pride and goes with Magee to have lunch at the Pickwells’. Mars Bar is welcomed with open arms and, to be a braggart, impresses everyone by stopping thirty cars all at once (according to legend). The McNabs are not quite as impressed or welcoming.
Mr. McNab goes upstairs until “it” (Mars Bar) leaves. Magee tries to get everyone to socialize and play a game which Mars Bar even goes along with, though the Cobras do not. The McNabs decide it’s time to play a game with the pillbox where the white people hide inside away from the black people, “the rebels”; Magee and Mars Bar are the only ones standing outside the box. As Magee and Mars Bar leave the Cobras heckle them out the door. Mars Bar is upset with Magee and feels like he was set up, which Magee feels bad about. Magee is proud of Mars Bar for keeping his cool in such an awkward situation. After Mars Bar goes home Magee, starts to head home before he realizes that he does not live anywhere.
Magee reverts to his life of sleeping with the animals or in the park and eating whatever food he can come across in his travels. He spends his free time playing in ball games with the kids around town or reading at the library. Magee’s favorite time of day is when he first wakes up in the morning before anyone else is awake so he can be alone and feels anonymous once again, without the pressures or racial lines. In those early morning hours, Magee is so comfortable with life that he sleeps on people’s porches or even once in a kitchen after finding someone left their door unlocked.
Magee starts to feel like he is being followed when he is running in the mornings, and one day he runs into Mars Bar. The boys do not say anything to one another, they just run. One morning when they are running the boys hear Piper McNab screaming and follow him to bridge where the trolley runs. Russell is standing in the middle of the bridge and will not move out of fear. Piper begs Magee to run out onto the bridge to save him, but Magee runs in the opposite direction and does not look back.
Mars Bar finds Magee in the buffalo pen one day; Amanda had told him where Magee would likely be. Mars Bar is curious as to why Magee ran from the trolley bridge. Magee does not want to answer at first but eventually tells Mars Bar about his parents and their death, which he still has a hard time dealing with. Mars Bar is glad that Magee was not scared of the bridge; he rescued Russell himself after Magee had left. Russell clung to Mars Bar even after getting off the bridge so Mars Bar brought both boys to his house and they slept there. The boys were welcomed by Mars Bar’s mother, and it seems the tension between the boys and Mars Bar was gone. Mars Bar tells Magee that his mother has invited Magee to live with them, but Magee only tells Mars Bar that he cannot come and then runs off.
Magee is woken by what he assumes is a buffalo kicking him in the ear, but it is Amanda. Mars Bar has told Amanda that Magee ran off after he was offered a place to live and Amanda is angry with him for turning it down. Amanda tells Magee to come home with her and he tries to turn her down, but she interrupts and insists that her home is his home as well and she will not hear another word about it; Amanda tells Magee that he is not to be sleeping with animals anymore. Magee follows Amanda back to her home and realizes that for the first time in a terribly long time he has a home of his own.
Sazed calls a meeting with the members of the crew: Dockson, Breeze, Ham, and Clubs. He doesn’t invite Elend, Vin, or Spook. They talk about how the city is sure to fall. Straff apparently is in no hurry to take Luthadel. Instead, he’ll back off and let the koloss attack the city first. The koloss will win and enter the city, pillaging as they go. Then, with the koloss weakened and tired from the fight, Venture will ride in like a hero and save the city, defeating the koloss and taking Luthadel for himself. Sazed says that Elend and Vin need to get out of the city before these things happen. He wants Spook and Tindwyl to go with them. The rest of the group will have to stay and fight and die. Meanwhile, Vin feels she must follow the drumming she hears all the time. In Straff’s camp, Zane is attacked by his father’s men. He defeats them, but spares his father. He leaves, saying that tonight he will take Vin with him and leave Luthadel. He tells Straff that he should wait for the koloss to attack and then take the city.
Vin is in her room with OreSeur when Zane visits. He wants her to come with him, but she says she can’t because she doesn’t want to leave Elend. When Zane sees that she won’t go, he attacks her. They fight. When Zane starts to burn atium, Vin asks OreSeur for the large bead, a bead Zan had given her before. OreSeur doesn’t respond to her command. Vin discovers that OreSeur is not OreSeur. He is TenSoon, Zane’s kandra. Of course! There was no other spy. The bones they found were TenSoon’s and he had killed OreSeur! Zane corners Vin, but Vin uses a massive soothing to take control of OreSeur/TenSoon and attack Zane from behind. She then cuts the bead of atium fro TenSoon. But this is another trick. The bead is lead, with only a thin layer of atium. Soon, Vin is left helpless against a Mistborn killer with atium. Vin decides that Zane can see what she’s about to do, or, rather, what she plans on doing. If she attacks without thinking, though, she can, see in Zane’s reaction what she is going to do, only to change it at the last possible second. The trick works, and Vin defeats Zane. After Zane dies, she thanks OreSeur/TenSoon for helping her win. His contract is void, and he must return to his people. Vin goes to find Elend.
Elend is in his study when Vin comes in, bloody from her fight with Zane. She tells him that she killed him. He calls for Sazed, who comes to help with the wounds. While she is there, on the ground, she asks Sazed if he knows any wedding ceremonies. Of course, he knows hundreds. Vin asks which one is the shortest, and Sazed recalls one that only requires a declaration of love between the bride and groom before an ordained witness. Vin and Elend both say that they love each other, and Sazed declares them married. The wounds are clean, and Sazed sends Vin to get some rest. He also gives them a fake map to find the Well of Ascension. If the couple follows the map, they’ll be gone from Luthadel for a long time.
Elend and Vin prepare to ride out of the city. Tindwyl decides to stay in Luthadel. Spooks gets ready to go, and Allrianne will ride out, at Breeze’s insistence. So the four of them ride out, Vin quickly having to fight pursuers from Straff’s army. Once they are free, Allrianne breaks off to find her father’s army. Meanwhile, some of the crew watch as the escape, now sure of their own coming doom. Straff Venture hears of the escapes, but he has problems of his own now. He’s getting sick, which he knows is the result of poisoning from his son, Zane. He sends for his mistress, Amaranta, to fix him an antidote, but he discovers that she isn’t preparing what she normally does. She is actually killing, as she has for a long time. There never was any poison. Zane never tried to kill his father. But Amaranta, in her constant fixing of teas for Straff, has been causing him to become addicted to a rare drug. Without that drug, Straff will die. Straff, in a rage, kills Amaranta and then swallows as much powder from her medicine cabnet as he can, hoping to accidentally swallow some of the drug he needs before he loses consciousness.
Allrianne has made her way to her father’s camp, with the help of some bandits she’s tamed with her rioting. Her father, Cett, is not happy to see her. She convinces him to go back and join the winning party in the battle that is to come, although Cett promises that will likely be Straff. Meanwhile, Elend wakes up on the third morning out of Luthadel. He and Vin share a tent now, and he finds himself surprisingly comfortable on the hard ground, with Vin next to him. They get up and prepare the fire. It’s just the three of them: Elend, Vin, and Spook. Meanwhile Straff wakes up in bed. His men have taken care of him, and they’ve isolated the plant he needs to stay alive. When he hears that Vin and Elend have left the city, the men ask if they should attack now. Straff says no; they should pull back and wait for the koloss. Sazed meets with the others to plan a strategy for when the koloss attack. They plan to have a group of men at each gate. Saze and Tindwyl get a little time together, but then the warning drums begin to beat.
Vin is thinking about how the mist is staying later and later every day, instead of just disappearing with dawn, when she feels the pulsing of the mist spirit coming from Elend’s tent. She runs in, just in time to see the outline of that spirit lift some kind of knife to attack Elend, who is sleeping on the ground. She attacks the spirit and it disappears. Elend wakes up and never knows what was happening. She leaves Elend to sleep a little more and goes out to speak with Spook. He thinks someone is following them. Meanwhile, Sazed and the crew get ready, since it looks like the Koloss are about to attack. Men are at each gate, with one crewmember there to help. Straff sees that the koloss are attacking, but he tells his men to wait. Vin and Elend attack the camp of people that have been following them. It turns out to be Jastes. He’s lost control of the koloss, so he just left them. Elend kills Jastes because of his crimes against Luthadel. Vin discovers that the drumming sounds are getting softer, meaning the well is to the south, in Luthadel, and not in the Terris mountains.
Breeze works at his assigned gate, soothing soldiers by the dozen, helping them to be brave and fight well. The koloss pound at the door, while men atop the wall rain arrows down on the attackers. The koloss throw rocks up in return, smashing archers. Meanwhile, Vin runs towards Luthadel, burning pewter. She knows she will run out of pewter long before reaching Luthadel, and she wonders if the effect will kill her. But still she keeps running. Breeze and Clubs talk while the koloss continue to beat the gate. They blame themselves for being stupid enough to be in this mess, and they blame Kelsier for getting them into such responsibilities. Just then, the gates burst open. Meanwhile, Sazed gets word that Breeze’s gate had fallen. He doesn’t think he can really help. He notices that there is a crowd of skaa standing behind the defense force. When Sazed confronts them, telling them that they should flee to safety inside the city, the skaa answer that they are there to witness the fall of the koloss at the hands of Vin, who they are sure will return and make her appearance at Sazed’s gate. Then the gate breaks. Sazed musters his stored strength, growing in size, and faces the lead koloss, shouting for the men to fight. Vin, half collapsing and out of pewter, reaching a small village. At first she thinks to ask for pewter, but then she remembers how she used to travel with Kelsier on a path of metal bars in the ground. She asks for horseshoes, using them to “walk” by leaping, placing horseshoes ahead of her and pulling the ones behind to place further. In this way, she uses the horseshoes like stilts to help her travel in the air.
Outside Luthadel, Straff Venture sees that the koloss have now broken into the city gates. His men are ready to attack the koloss from the rear, but Straff decides to wait longer. Sazed, fighting the koloss, realizes that they need to get the gate closed again in order to survive. Using strength and weight, he manages to fight off the koloss and get the gate closed again. While getting a little break, a messenger comes and says that Tindwyl’s gate fell over an hour ago. Meanwhile, Clubs and Breeze are attacked and forced to run. Clubs is killed, while Breeze hides in a building. Dockson contemplates the root of their failure. He attacks a koloss, only to be cut down. Straff decides not to swoop in a save the city while the koloss are weak. Instead, he’d rather wait for the koloss to kill everyone and burn the city. Then Straff will move in. Meanwhile, Sazed fights on, wondering what happened to Tindwyl. He feels he is going to die, but then Vin arrives and starts killing koloss. Breeze is found by Ham and some others. They want to try to escape.
Vin continues killing koloss, several at a time. Sazed, outside Lord Penrod’s keep, begs the newly appointed king to go with them as they try to escape. Penrod insists on staying inside his keep. Vin continues to fight the koloss, but now she is almost completely out of pewter, steel, and almost every other metal. In desperation, to save some skaa from certain death, she super-soothes them, like she’d done to TenSoon, controlling the koloss with her mind. Sazed is standing outside Penrod’s keep when Vin walks up with koloss in tow. She orders Penrod to gather his men and put out the fires in Luthadel. Vin will take care of the koloss throughout the city. Later, Sazed finds Tindwyl’s dead body among the slain soldiers. He feels that all the faith, all the religions, he has always treasured is now useless. His life, he believes, has been a sham.
Straff wakes up and takes a sample of the drug he needs to stay alive. He gathers his men, expecting to be able to take the city now. But the koloss come out with the remaining soldiers of Luthadel. Vin jumps from among the koloss, sailing through the sky with a giant sword, cleaving Straff and his horse in half on impact. Allrianne watches these events from her father’s camp. She charges after them to help Luthadel’s army, forcing her father and his men to ride after her. Straff’s army surrenders, and Janarle, Straff’s general, is named the new Lord of the Venture army. Janarle, Penrod, and Cett all swear loyalty to Elend as their Emperor. Vin, needing rest, leaves Sazed in charge of the Empire until Elend can return to Luthadel.