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Themes

Family: you can't live with them, and you really can't live without them. Maniac Magee is a love letter to families. Jeffrey Lionel becomes Maniac because he lacks a family, and throughout the book Maniac is searching for a family. But he's not just searching for a physical family; he's also looking for what family means. Do they have to be related to each other? Have the same color skin? Live in the same house? By trying different families on for size, he's eventually able to answer these questions—at least for himself. Here's the real question: do you agree?

Questions About Family

  1. How are Aunt Dot and Uncle Dan Maniac's family? How are they not?
  2. How do you think Maniac would define a family at the beginning of his journey? How does the answer to this question change throughout the book?
  3. Do the McNabs have any chance of being a real family to each other?
  4. Why does it take Maniac so long to work his way back to the Beales?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Staying with the awful McNabs is necessary for Maniac to figure out what family is and the work required by an individual to maintain it.

Maniac might not ever stay in one place permanently, because he's found not one but several families.

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