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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.
Gr 4-7‘There ought to be a law against churning out thoughtless sequels to great books. Max, introduced in Freak the Mighty (Scholastic, 1993), reluctantly runs away with Worm, the 11-year-old stepdaughter of a delusional and abusive street character he calls "the Undertaker." Hitchhiking west in search of Worm's real father, thought to be living in Chivalry, Montana, they are picked up by a widowed ex-teacher called "Hippy-Dippy," who is traveling in a `70s-style, reconditioned school bus. Their ride is interrupted by a chance meeting with an unsavory pair of con artists who recognize Max as the young teen kidnapper for whom a $10,000 bounty is being offered; the youngsters then take off and continue their journey by hopping trains. With "the Undertaker" in hot pursuit, they make it to their destination, a ghost town haunted by a catastrophic mine cave-in. There, the police, the Undertaker, Hippy-Dippy, and Max's grandfather are waiting for them. Enormous caverns of logic exist with the most obvious ones jumping out: where could the Undertaker come up with $10,000 reward money, who would take him seriously, wouldn't his checkered past spring to fluorescent light, and why would he seriously pursue this child in the first place? The emotional center‘the gripping relationship between Max and Freak‘is sorely missing here; readers are unlikely to connect with any of the cartoonlike characters assembled. The Hollywood ending is also lacking any semblance of credibility. Instead of this title, purchase an additional copy of the first book.‘Marilyn Payne Phillips, University City Public Library, MO