The Book Reviews – Website

August 11, 2008

Freak the Mighty

Freak the Mighty

Author: Rodman Philbrick          

Page Length: 169

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction        

PLOT SUMMARY: Max is a learning disabled student with no friends who has just finished seventh grade and is very large for his age. Max becomes friends with his new neighbor, Kevin, a boy the same age who has a health impairment, which has stopped his growth at about the height of three feet.  Kevin is very intelligent and quotes large words and their meanings to Max on a routine basis. Kevin lives with his mother, The Fair Gwen, next door to Max and his grandparents. Although the two boys are extreme opposites they bond and become know as “Freak the Mighty.”

During the summer, they spend hours together as Kevin shares his knowledge and imagination with Max.  They have several encounters with some adverse people who help build their reputation as “Freak the Mighty.”  The first boy they encounter is Tony D., the local gang leader. Then Kevin and Max come in contact with Loretta Lee and Iggy, who live in the “testaments”.  Next, they must work with Ms. Donelli, the English teacher; and last but not least, they meet Killer Kane, Max’s dad who has been in jail and just released on parole.

Kevin or Freak, as Max calls him, helps Max see that he is not as “dumb” as he thinks he is.  They convince the school principal that Kevin needs Max in his classes in the fall and the two become inseparable.  Together, they experience friendship accompanied by heartache, hurtful truths and a little bit of magic.

REVIEW:  This is a wonderful story of two quite different boys.  Although, they both have experienced a lot of heartache, together they find a life filled with magic and adventure.  It is a story of the underdog overcoming extreme odds or two underdogs who become one mighty force.

At the end of the book, the author gives tips to young writers on how to get started in writing.  Also, listed is an interview with the author and a list of Kevin’s dictionary.

This book is different from most books written for young adults in that it covers several issues that most of the public has trouble accepting.  And, he author does it in a humorous way. I think anyone above the age of twelve would enjoy this book. It would be especially good for anyone who is mentally or physically challenged.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Character, Sequence of Events, Compare/Contrast, and Cause/Effect

RELATED BOOKS: Max the Mighty, Tangerine, The Outsiders

MOVIE CONNECTIONS:The Mighty” (1998)

RELATED WEBSITES:

www.rodmanphilbrick.com/teaching.html

www.ducation.pitt.edu/library/Clusters/Freak.html

www.en-herrick.k12.il.us/staff/…/ftm/activities/quest01-02.ht

www.seacoastnh.com/film/mighty.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner

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July 1, 2008

Somewhere in the Darkness

Somewhere in the Darkness

Author: Walter Dean Myers

Page Length: 168

Reading Level: 5

Genre: Fiction, Adventure

PLOT SUMMARY: Jimmy Little is a 14 year old living in Harlem. Mama Jean and Jimmy live together in a small but cozy apartment. Mama Jean leaves for work before Jimmy leaves for school. Even though Jimmy knows he should be in school, daydreams fill his mind and he often ends up wandering around. Jimmy’s unlocking the apartment door one afternoon, when a stranger approaches. That stranger is Jimmy’s father, and he’s just been released from prison.

Crab, Jimmy’s father, wants to take Jimmy with him to start a new life. Jimmy is afraid and part of him wants desperately to stay with Mama Jean and the life he knows. Yet, the other part of him wants to discover more about who he is, and he figures that his father just might have some insight. They set off on a strange and unpredictable journey from one place to another. Jimmy discovers parts of his past and the life his mother and father shared. Jimmy’s adventures along the way teach him to have strength and courage. As his father’s illness worsens, Jimmy is faced with a difficult decision. Does he stay by Crab’s side or return to Mama Jean? Can he connect with Crab and discover the truth about the father he has always longed for?

REVIEW: Myers writes a moving story about the struggles of a young boy and his father. The reader gets a sense of Jimmy’s depression and a potential learning disability. The narrator tells us that Jimmy scored high on the tests and the school officials can’t figure out why someone as smart as he is doesn’t do better in school. Jimmy’s daydreams are portrayed and explain why he can’t always concentrate.

Once Jimmy’s father arrives, the reader understands why Jimmy fears the unknown but also longs for a relationship. Crab’s disoriented behavior and his terminal illness only compound matters. Their erratic journey across America to find the truth isn’t always logical. This is an unusual story filled with strange twists and turns. I did not finish it with a sense of completeness – only a sense that Jimmy had learned more about his father and become strengthened by his trials. The one truly beautiful moment from the book is when Jimmy talks about one day when he becomes a father; he plans to share something with his child every day and to really know his child. Jimmy realizes that moments together are fleeting and he plans to make the most of them. On the end note alone, the novel is worth teaching students about.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: context clues, tone, author’s purpose, conclusions, generalizations, and predictions, mood, characters, setting, conflict and resolution

TOUCHY AREAS-PAGES: drinking, criminal behavior, stealing

RELATED BOOKS: Slam!, Fallen Angels, Monster, The Beast

RELATED WEBSITES:

http://www.maslibraries.org/infolit/samplers/somewhere.html

http://www.webenglishteacher.com/myers.html

http://bookwizard.scholastic.com/tbw/viewWorkDetail.do?workId=860&

http://www.mhhe.com/socscience/education/kidlit/aom/nov2000_aom.htm

http://www.tpronline.org/issue.cfm/Adolescents_with_Incarcerated_Parents?gclid=CICk-r3ajZQCFSBciAodDRRGWQ

REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor

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