Freak the Mighty
by Philbrick, W. R.

At the beginning of eighth grade, learning disabled Max and his new friend Freak, whose birth defect has affected his body but not his brilliant mind, find that when they combine forces they make a powerful team

Rodman Philbrick is the author of six award-winning novels for young readers. His first novel, Freak the Mighty, won the California Young Reader Medal. It was received with great acclaim and has sold more than a million copies. The sequel, Max the Mighty, received starred reviews, and his novel The Fire Pony was named a 1996 Capital Choice. His more recent books for the Blue Sky Press are REM World; The Last Book in the Universe, which was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults; and The Young Man and the Sea, which received a starred review from School Library Journal. He and his wife live in Maine and the Florida Keys.

``The unvanquished truth'' concerning the extraordinary friendship between Kevin (``Freak''), a brilliant 12-year-old whose birth defect prevents growth, and gigantic Max, who recognizes in his new two-foot-tall neighbor the feisty kid with crutches he knew in daycare years ago. Meanwhile, Max has his own troubles; he can barely read, making school an ordeal, and since his dad's in jail for killing his mother, he lives with gentle Gram and the aptly named Grim in a fairly rough neighborhood. As ``Freak the Mighty''-as they call themselves when Freak perches on Max's shoulders, guiding him like a horse and issuing instructions-the two have much to give each other. With Freak's quick wits and Max's long legs, they explore the neighborhood and best a gang of bullies on July 4. Freak, with his vast vocabularyand imagination to match, is uncondescending but uncompromising. He gets Max involved in his elaborate fantasy games and lures him into reading; when school starts, Max (somewhat implausibly) is placed in the gifted class to help his friend. When Max's father gets out on parole at Christmas, a mesmerizingly suspenseful sequence echoing the earlier rout of the bullies ensues. Max's description of their friendship-ostensibly written, after Freak's death, in the blank book Freak had given him-is gritty, unsentimental, sparked with Freak's wry verbal wit and Max's earthier humor, and ultimately poignant. Easily read but compelling: an intriguing and unusual story. (Fiction. 10-14) # Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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