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Freak the Mighty [Audio]
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About the Author

Rodman Philbrick published more than fifteen adult mystery and suspense novels before writing Freak the Mighty. He and his wife, novelist Lynn Harnett, divide their time between Maine and the Florida Keys.

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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. Philbrick's first YA novel, already implausible, becomes choked with cliches and stereotypes as Max and Freak mix with B-movie lowlifes, a newly paroled Killer Kane kidnaps his son and Freak himself meets a cloyingly articulated fate. Contrived and unappetizing. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)

Gr 5-8-Rodman Philbrick's compelling novel (Scholastic, 1993) about a learning disabled teenage giant named Maxwell who befriends the tiny and wildly intelligent Kevin receives an adequate yet lackluster aural interpretation. Boys will surely relate to the tale of loner Maxwell, a troubled kid plagued by unsettling memories of his allegedly murderous father, known as Killer Kane. Kevin, who is called Freak because he wears leg braces, liberates our hero by introducing him to books, language, and the Knights of the Round Table. Together they go on treasure hunts and share adventures. Elden Henson, who will play Maxwell in the upcoming film version, narrates. Henson possesses a certain relaxed charm, and youngsters will enjoy listening to him. Henson is at times too laid back in telling this first person story. As it spirals into melodrama after we learn the truth about Maxwell's father and are given an obligatory death scene, Henson's tone remains on an even keel. Every scene, whether humorous or suspenseful, sounds very much the same. This works against Philbrick's story with its puns and love for language. Still, since there are too few titles with real appeal to boys, Freak the Mighty will find an audience.-Brian E. Wilson, Oak Lawn Public Library, IL

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