An occasionally long-winded, but always affecting, parable-like story about racism and ignorance. Jeffrey Magee is twice homeless--once involuntarily, at age three, when his parents plunge with a high-speed trolley off a bridge; the second time eight years later, when he voluntarily leaves the troubled home of his aunt and uncle. Jeffrey's subsequent yearlong flight generates a host of legends:, his sudden appearances and astonishing athletic prowess earn him the name "Maniac," and his just-as-sudden disappearances ensure his fame. Innocently, he crosses between two strictly segregated parts of town, the white East End and the black West End, making friends and enemies in both camps and managing to soften the lines of segregation; later, he finds a new home in the West. If this is sometimes a bit like a chalkboard lesson, it may be because racism is still a volatile subject that is more comfortably dealt with in parable form. The metaphorical style is a brave change from the realism of Spinelli's other books, while fans of his earlier, tongue-in-cheek, streetwise tone will find it also an integral part of this story--ballast for the mythic, shifting picture of Maniac's year on the run.