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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Maniac Magee

My 10-year-old son is always pestering me to read some of his favorite books. It is one of the downsides to instilling a love for reading to your children.

I got them into it at an early age. As the stay-at-home-parent, I became an avid reader. It's not only good to read books to your children about green eggs and ham or toads and frogs (or about frogs that sing), but it is also good for your children to see you read.

And my kids have seen me reading a lot.

One of the things we have carved out over the years as a father-and-sons tradition is going to the local library book sales. Early on they'd get coffee table-sized sports books on how to pitch a baseball or kick a soccer ball. But by the time they both had entered into elementary school, young adult fiction became all the rage. Of course everybody remembers the Harry Potter craze. But I never had an interest in reading any of those books. I mean there are plenty of books on my must-read list that will get tackled before I ever crack a Potter book. But I admired my son's desire to have me read one of them.

This was followed up by the Percy Jackson series, which seemed slightly more interesting yet still not compelling enough for me to want to pick up.

Then one time at a book sale he got Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee.

"This is one of my favorite books," he said.

"You've already read it?" I asked.

"Yes," he said. "It's awesome."

For weeks after he got the book he would nudge me to read it. Then one day he said, "Just read the first page."

I did.

"Is it good?" he asked.

"My interest is piqued," I said.

And before you knew it, I was knee deep in the book. It is, in my humble opinion, the Catcher in the Rye for middler schoolers. Both share similar themes. Social Misfits. Homelessness. Loneliness. Children living in an adult worlds etc. etc.

I had asked my nephew, now toiling away in his mid-twenties as a frustrated grad student, if he ever read the book.

He texted me back some questions.

"Does he run on the rails of train tracks?"


"Does he sleep in a zoo?"


"Hits a frogball?"


He then confided to me that he is shocked he remembers more about a book he read in middle school some 15 years ago than he does from any textbook from the last five years.

Maniac Magee - a timeless book for all ages that I highly recommend.

But please avoid the movie version at all costs...