Maniac Magee is a great unit for teaching both theme and character
change. Jeffrey Magee, later nicknamed Maniac, goes to live with Aunt
Dot and Uncle Dan after his parents die in a trolley accident. After
years of living with his aunt and uncle, who hate each other, Jeffrey
decides he has had enough. Jeffrey simply runs away.
After a year of running, Jeffrey ends up in a fictional town called Two
Mills. In this town, Hector Street divides the town between the East
Side where the African Americans live and West side where the White
At first Jeffrey doesn't see any differences between the two groups. He
simply sees people as people. Jeffery makes many friends and soon
becomes tagged with the nickname Maniac because he accomplishes several
feats including intercepting a football pass intended for the star
quarterback, hitting a homerun from John McNab's fastball, and going
into the spooky Finsterwald's backyard. Unfortunately, as the story
progresses, Maniac is called names and told to go home when he is with
the East Enders. When Maniac travels to the West End, he sees the fear
the population has of the East Enders. Maniac is awakened to the idea of
On the anchor chart below, students select two themes from the book.
Prejudice and courage are two obvious choices, but other minor themes
are present in Maniac Magee as well. I like to use sticky notes for
students to complete the anchor chart. This way the anchor chart may be
used with different groups of students.