Slice Of Life Story- Travelling With A Mentor

Today finds me reading Jerry Spinelli’s ‘Maniac Magee.’ Not for The first time, I might add. This book is beginning to show the obvious signs of significant handling. It has that warn,yet loved look about it -for this book is clearly a personal treasure –a mentor text.

The front cover has a burn seared into it because on one occasion I unwittingly used it to block a projector screen and the heat was too intense. Consequently, the book incurred third degree burns. It has become a talking point among the students with whom I work.

I have lost count of the number of times I have read extracts from this text in celebration of the writing craft. Jerry and his words go with me to all the schools I visit. He is a fellow teacher of writing; a friend I turn towards constantly for support. He frequently assists me to make a point about what makes writing so wonderful, so empowering. I love his use of repetition, his short punchy sentences, his evocative use of show, don’t tell. I love the way I develop strong visual images when I read his words, and the ease of connection I make with the characters and their foibles; the strengths and failings.

I discovered the writing of Jerry Spinelli when I first arrived to work in New York in 2001. Before that time I had not heard of him. A fellow education consultant. Michael Collins informed me that I would be doing myself a great favour if I started reading a book called ‘Maniac Magee’. I took his advice and have purchased and read numerous Spinelli texts since that time. ‘Maniac Magee,’ remains my all time favourite though. I use it for so many literacy related lessons.

Today Jerry Spinelli will help me teach a demonstration lesson to Grade 3 teachers using the writing craft strategy ‘inside/outside. I will highlight the way Spinelli writes about the physical and the emotional world to assist the reader to make stronger connections with the text. I will show students how I also use this strategy to help me in my writing. I will ask them to share with me what they notice. Then I will invite them to try it out for themselves in the independent phase of the lesson.

So as I pack my bag and head to the car, my friend and mentor, Jerry Spinelli is sharing the journey, sharing the teaching load. I always drive though…


  1. Jerry Spinelli is always a big hit, and rightly so. It is posts like these that make me miss the classroom! I hope you'll share how the lesson went.

  2. Thanks for introducing me to a new teaching text. I've never heard of Spinelli or Maniac Magee, but your great description/review compels me to check this one out.

  3. I love Jerry Spinelli and Maniac Magee is one of my favourites too. You have made me miss teaching the older students for whom Spinelli is best. I may have to do one as a read aloud with my class later this year.


Post a Comment

Popular With Other Visitors

Launching Your Writing Program With Bold Intent in 2018

Helping Student Writers Find That Vital Spark of Inspiration

Slice Of Life Story Challenge March 18 - Writing Under The Influence

Slice Of Life Story Challenge March 16 -A Name Means Everything

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 24 Spine Poetry