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

The Wonder of Wordplay

Launching Your Writing Program With Bold Intent in 2018

Learning How to 'Zoom In' When Writing

Helping Student Writers Find That Vital Spark of Inspiration

The Quest For Independence Among Student Writers