Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

From amazon: Maxwell Kane, a lumbering eighth grader who describes himself as a "butthead goon," has lived with grandparents Grim and Gram ever since his father was imprisoned for murdering his mother. Mean-spirited schoolmates and special ed (for an undetermined learning disability) haven't improved his self-image, so he is totally unprepared for a friendship with Kevin, aka Freak, a veritable genius with a serious birth defect that's left him in braces and using crutches. Max is uplifted by Freak's imagination and booming confidence, while Freak gets a literal boost--hoisted onto Max's shoulders, he shares Max's mobility. Together they become Freak the Mighty, an invincible duo.

I loved the characters in this book. I admired how smart Kevin was—it seemed like he knew everything. But I liked how he was such a normal kid at the same time. It was exceptional in the way he was so well-rounded. Several things he said made me laugh, like, “Of course I have a television. How else could I watch Star Trek? Matter of fact, I watch tons of tube, but I also read tons of books so I can figure out what’s true and what’s fake, which isn’t always easy. Books are like truth serum—if you don’t read, you can’t figure out what’s real.” I loved that he carried around a dictionary everywhere he went. It seems like all kids have an obsession with things. The dictionary was definitely his, along with robots.

As a reader, I could feel Max’s gentleness. He was a physically and emotionally strong character to witness such a violent act as a child and not be completely traumatized by the event. He’s a person who isn’t completely satisfied with the hand he’s been dealt with, but is trying to make the best of it.

When Max and Kevin became friends, and became Freak the Mighty, they added richness to the other’s lives. It was refreshing to see that the boys could overlook each other’s disabilities. Max gave Kevin legs, strength, and a fellow knight to go on quests with. Kevin gave Max confidence to learn. Teachers were surprised to see that Max wasn’t really learning disabled. I love how he puts it: “The reading stuff Freak helped me figure out by showing how words are just voices on paper…and reading is just a way of listening.” This is a story that anyone can connect with through its diverse themes of family, violence, learning and physical disabilities, and death.

Rating: 3.5 stars
Ages 10+

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