Slice of Life Story - A Maniac Mentor

Today I was conducting a read aloud using a trusted mentor text, Jerry Spinelli’s ‘Maniac Magee.’ The focus of the lesson was ‘readers generate their own questions. I was using the think aloud strategy to reveal my thinking and locating the evidence from the text that was supporting my thinking. My copy of this book is looking a bit tired. The pages have yellowed, and dog eared at the edges. The front cover is scarred with a burn mark where I left it in front of a data projector that proved way too hot. It has travelled to many school locations stuffed in my bag. Despite its ragged façade, it has served me well. I have used it so many times to teach aspects of writing and reading across the nine years that I first purchased it. Jerry Spinelli is a trusted writer. He shares the task of teaching with me and has never failed to support me.

Before I bought this book, I had no prior knowledge of Spinelli’s writing. I now own several of his books. We have become a team., Spinelli and I. In his writing Spinelli makes liberal use of repetition. He assists the reader to develop strong visual images through his use of the strategy ‘show don’t tell’ and his sentences are often short and punchy. Above all, he tells a great story.

It was back in 2001 that a colleague in New York ( a fellow Aussie) alerted me to the works of Jerry Spinelli. He suggested I would be doing myself a favour if I read a book titled ‘Maniac Magee’ and because I trusted his judgment, I duly bought it. Readers make recommendations to fellow readers all the time. This was a significant recommendation. I have thanked my friend on numerous occasions since that time.

Following the lesson a student approached me informing me how much he enjoyed the demonstration and then told me he wanted to read ‘Maniac Magee.’ Another convert perhaps?


  1. I love the Jerry Spinnelli books, but my students are a bit young. I have just replaced several other books that have been loved and used and look it...just as you described!

  2. I think it's wonderful when we find that mentor text that speaks to us, and we know we can share it over and over and over. Good writing is truly timeless.

  3. Spinelli! One of our class favorites. Finding those perfect mentor texts is an art form.

  4. I concur and I love this quote, "We have become a team, Spinelli and I."

    Cythnia Rylant is another of my favorite teammates!


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