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Freak the Mighty: Reviewed

Author:Rodman Philbrick
Reading Level (Conceptual):Children 8 and up
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 8 and up
Year of publication:1993

When I was young and feeling lonely, isolated, ridiculed by my fellow students, my father, one of those hugely gifted people who thrives with little interaction with other people because he is constantly obsessed by projects of his own, would suggest that I reach out to "other lonely children" and make friends with them. I never really found that forging alliances with other "outcasts" made me feel better when those in the "In Group" made fun of my clothes, hair, etc. Freak the Mighty is one of those novels in which the alliance of the weak prevails.

And, Sad Ending Alert. The foreshadowing is quite subtle, so it might come as a shock to young readers.

In Freak the Mighty, the physically imposing narrator is living with his grandparents who fear that he has inherited the evil nature of his father, who is in prison. The narrator befriends an intellectually gifted but physically frail neighbor. By combining their gifts, they can travel far and not get lost; they can find proper placement in the school's advanced classes. And together, they triumph over bullies adolescent and grown, the narrator's learning disability is diagnosed, and he learns to appreciate dictionaries, reading, and learning.

As with Hoot, the plot is involving, but, as with Hoot, I felt as if the novel's promise that adults and peers will eventually come to their senses and recognize/honor the child's worth and Do the Right Thing(s) may not jibe with how the world usually works. (For example, even if their test scores don't reflect it, let them participate in the gifted program even though that might "not be fair" to other students.)

-- Emily Berk

Other reviews: Freak the Mighty
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