Literary criteria provides an accessible way to understand and consider the quality of children's books. Plot, setting, theme, characterization, style, and point of view, are essential elements for evaluating stories. In 1991, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli received the Newbury Award and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi was named as an honor book. Based on the literary criteria, these books should be considered as "distinguished," as well as appeal to children.
The Newbery Award winner, Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli, tells a fascinating story while weaving in important themes through the unique characters in the book. Maniac Magee has an interesting and intriguing plot. Jeffrey (Maniac) Magee's time spent in various locations brings the reader into the lives of differing characters and show us their own environments and perspectives. The book leads us through Maniac's personal evolution of understanding and later helping to defy uneasy racial relations in the town of Two Mills. The setting is an essential aspect of this book because it lays the groundwork for the entire plot. The town of Two Mills is segregated and the characters from both the East and West End of the town deal with this societal issue throughout the book. Spinelli maps out the places where Maniac resides at different points throughout the book and through the detailed and creative writing, the reader is able to imagine a vivid setting in which these larger themes take place. Spinelli presents major themes that carry depth and add dimension to the story. Primarily, the story deals with the race and segregation. When Maniac is first introduced to the idea that black and white people don't interact with each other in this town, he is a bit unaware of the reasons why the groups feel this way. This problem causes conflict for Maniac's living situation that he tries to remedy. .
The characterization in Maniac Magee is captivating and relatable.