Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Summary (from Amazon): Maniac Magee is a folk story about a boy, a very excitable boy. One that can outrun dogs, hit a home run off the best pitcher in the neighborhood, tie a knot no one can undo. "Kid's gotta be a maniac," is what the folks in Two Mills say. It's also the story of how this boy, Jeffrey Lionel "Maniac" Magee, confronts racism in a small town, tries to find a home where there is none and attempts to soothe tensions between rival factions on the tough side of town.
My thoughts: This was my final book for the Newbery Challenge. I've always meant to read it - it's one of those fairly rare books that's an award-winner and also actually popular with kids. I can see why, it's a great story and one that would appeal to both boys and girls (especially boys, which is always welcome!). It had a lot packed into its short length - humour, fun, sadness, joy... Maniac is one of the most interesting kids' book characters I've come across in quite a while - smart, athletic, funny, resourceful, rather naive and very kind.
The only thing I didn't quite get is when it was supposed to be set - like Shiloh (which also confused me on the time front), it was published in the early nineties and appears to be set in that time, but the small-townness and the racism seems to belong to the 60's or 70's.