What Makes Good Writing?

ManiacMagee5One of my cardinal rules of reading as a class is:

Don’t go ahead of the assigned reading.

When kids read ahead, it’s nearly impossible not to blurt out a newfound answer to a question we’ve been wondering about since the beginning of the book.  Such outbursts, while not intentional, can spoil the story for everyone else.  Never has this rule been so hard to obey as with Maniac Magee.  Inspired author Jerry Spinelli is taking us for a wild run with his protagonist, Jeffrey Lionel (a.k.a. Maniac) Magee, and many of us want to keep pace with the boy who can run the length of a football and soccer field  in the time it takes the pigskin to spiral 60 yards.

But I want us to go S-L-O-W-L-Y.  There is so much to digest in this book, including Butterscotch Krimpets and Mars Bars.  I love the language of the story, and we are having fun chasing down all the figures of speech, vivid verbs, invented language, and crazy insults that makes Mr. Spinelli a modern day Shakespeare, in our humble opinion.

Chapter 7 is one of my favorites, and while it’s difficult to settle on only one favorite sentence, this is in the Top Ten Club.

“He was so busy laughing at the runt, he lobbed him a lollipop and the runt got lucky and poled it.” 

That’s Mr. Spinelli’s way of saying, The pitcher was so busy laughing at the little batter that he lobbed him an easy pitch, and the batter hit a homerun.

I love that sentence for the alliteration, the metaphor, and the verb.  That is one high impact sentence.

We made a list of awesome verbs just in this chapter, and we came up with over twenty-five.  That’s an impressive list for a five page chapter.  Here are a few of our favorite verbs:

windmilled          pinwheeling          croaking         jolted        chucking

chickening        yelped                    slithered        swooping     zoomed

This chapter also has the memorable word, “Unbefroggable!”

We invite you to nominate or vote on an “awesome” sentence (check out this post on Huzzah! while you are at it!) for our Top Ten Club.  We’ll tally the results and let you know next week!

What sentence or sentences do you love from a book you are reading?  What makes the writing so good?