15 May 2010


Locus Focus: First Post!

Welcome to the very first Locus Focus linkup! =D

We all know of books that make their settings come alive, and this meme is a chance to write about them and share them with others. This week, I am rereading a childhood favourite with my younger brothers (who need to read it for school) and finding myself wishing that I could step into the world being described in the pages.

Two Mills
Maniac Magee
by Jerry Spinelli

Grade school girls in Two Mills still jump rope and chant:

Ma-niac, Ma-niac/ He's so cool
Ma-niac, Ma-niac/ Don't go to school
Runs all night/ Runs all right
Ma-niac, Ma-niac/ Kissed a bull!

And sometimes the girl holding one end of the rope is from the West side of Hector, and the girl from the other end is from the East side; and if you're looking for Maniac Magee's legacy, or monument, that's as good as any . . .

Two Mills, Pennsylvania may be a fictional town, but I feel as if I could hop on a plane tomorrow, land in Philadelphia, and try to get from there to the land of Jeffrey "Maniac" Magee, his friends, and his family. I'd take a ride into town on the P&W trolley. Then I'd walk along Hector Street looking for Cobble's Corner, so I could ask to look at the string that was once Cobble's Knot and maybe order a pizza. I know I'd like to sit on the front steps of the house at 803 Oriole Street and try to hear Mrs. Pickwell's lunch whistle from there. And I'd love to sneak into the Elmwood Park band stand, looking for the door on which Maniac once painted a number--an address--only to paint over it again. Maybe I'd even buy a package of butterscotch Krimpets to munch while I take it all in.

Jerry Spinelli writes with a real sense of urban geography--which totally suits this novel about a boy who is a walking urban legend. Indeed, there is something mythical about someone who is at home in both the West End, the white part of town, and the East End, the black part of town. Yet perhaps this is because, for the greater part of the novel, Jeffrey Magee doesn't have a real home.

My brothers and I are a few chapters away from the end, so I asked them to name all the places where Maniac has lived. They mentioned the house of a nice family on the East End and a not-so-nice family on the West End--but those are just the houses. Maniac has slept in the park, in zoo pens, in a baseball equipment room, in unsuspecting people's backyards and kitchens, and in a replica of a revolutionary war cabin in Valley Forge. And when he jokes about finding a nice prairie dog town that will take him, it is clear that all he really wants is a place to belong.

The most poignant thing about Spinelli's storytelling is that he very sparingly uses the "homeless" to describe his young hero; he just writes of places that could almost be homes, of people who could almost be family and animals who could almost be pets, and we understand completely. We don't need to be hit over the head with such a politicised term. And we cheer at the end when he finally finds a place to call home. (That word never grows old!)

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

EDIT: I can put up only one linky at a time, so I am saving these precious links in the post itself. Here are the participants of the first ever Locus Focus Saturday:

The Book Mole (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 221B Baker Street)

Spike Is Best ( Thomas Hardy's Egdon Heath)

Pearls Cast Before a McPig (H.P. Lovecraft's R'lyeh)

The Introverted Reader (Louisa Maud Montgomery's Prince Edward Island)

Random Ramblings (Frances Hodgson Burnett's India and Misselthwaite Manor)

Breaking the Curve (J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth)


Jillian said...

Oh I love Jerry Spinelli. Have you ever read Stargirl?
And I am excited that Locus Focus is finally here -- love the badge!

Enbrethiliel said...


I've only read Stargirl once, many years ago, but now that I'm finding a deeper appreciation of Spinelli's writing, I'd love to read it again!

And I can't wait to read your first Locus Pocus post, too, Jillian. =D

Sullivan McPig said...

wow, you're early!
great post, I really start to get a feel for this story.
I will post my first locs focus tomorrow

The Book Mole said...

Very nice post - it is good to see that you are continuing with the theme you had for Character Connection.

I'll have mine up tomorrow too, hope the link works then!

The Book Mole said...

Sorry, I meant later today!

Jillian said...

Oh and E! This is the Mr. Linky one that erases the links if you put another one :/

Also quick question: Does the book for the week's Locus Focus have to be the one that we are currently reading? Or could it be any pick at all?

Paul Stilwell said...

Thanks for bringing back memories of grade six.

I must re-read this book.

Sullivan McPig said...

Just left my linky!

Enbrethiliel said...


Sully: Living in Southeast Asia means I'll always be "early." ;-) I was really late with this week's round in the Arnold Schwarzenegger Movie Smackdown . . . and nobody noticed! Phew!

But you guys can take your time, of course. The linky will be up all week. =)

Book Mole: Thanks! Maniac Magee is the kind of multi-faceted book that I could write about all week.

Jillian: Don't worry, sweetie! I know. =P I'm just really vain and like the look of the linky. Before I put up next week's Locus Focus post, I'll go through this one and archive all the links in the post itself, so they won't get lost. =)

You can pick any book for this meme, not just your current read. I'm just lucky at the moment because the book I'm reading with my brothers is really good. I can't wait to read your post!

Paul: You're welcome! When you do reread Maniac Magee, I hope you'll let me know what you think of it this time around.

Belfry Bat said...

If you'll excuse me for a day or two, I must find some passages on the dwelling place of the Dukes of Beacon. Mark's Godfather no doubt would beat me to all points, but if perhaps he doesn't know it's all going on... !

Jen G. said...

I do love fictional places that become so real that I even know the street names and the neighborhoods. I'm really going to have to pick up Stargirl soon and see what Spinelli is all about. You have me intrigued.

Enbrethiliel said...


Bat: Great! I'm looking forward to it.

Jen: Before I did my research I thought that Two Mills was real, with a couple of fictional streets and establishments just for the story. I knew that I wouldn't get to see, say, Finsterwald's house, but I had hoped that the "common" places like the park, the zoo, and the baseball field would be there. =(

iolanthe95 said...

My post is pretty short. I'll do better next time.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks for playing, too, Iolanthe! =D

Bobbie said...

Hello! This was featured at Friday Bloggy Happenings here:

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks a lot, Bobbie! =) This linky is closed, but the next one is up now. If you have a post on a favourite setting, I hope you link it up. =D