Freak the Mighty
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that one main character has a learning disability and lives with his grandparents because his father was put in prison for murdering his mother. He and his best friend, who is disabled and uses crutches to walk, also endure cruel and emotionally painful treatment at school from their fellow students for being "different." Despite the inherent seriousness of these themes, kids will enjoy the funny writing, quirky and likable characters, high imagination, and suspense. The book also includes a humorous dictionary.
What's the story?
A hulking "retard" and a brilliant, crippled boy become strong as they undertake imaginary quests and fight all-too-real criminals. The only thing they can't conquer is time. Max knows that people -- even his own grandparents -- fear him because he looks just like his imprisoned father, who's known as Killer Kane. He's huge, he can hardly read or write, and he lives in his grandparents' basement.
But his new neighbor, Kevin, in his tiny, deformed body, seems willing to accept him. The two become close friends, assuming a new identity when Max begins carrying Kevin on his shoulders. Kevin dubs them Freak the Mighty, and they wander their town using Max's mobility and Kevin's brain to conjure up exciting quests. With Kevin's help, Max learns to read and is allowed out of his special-education classes to join Max in his honors courses. But when Max's father is paroled, Max relives the horrors of his past, while Kevin tries to rescue him.
Is it any good?
Funny, scary, suspenseful, and wise, this book can help young readers accept kids who seem different from them. When you don't fit in, and you're a kid, what do you do? Max just suffers alone, compressing his emotions inside his massive body. Kevin fights back by letting his intelligence and his imagination soar beyond his deformed body. Even if he can't save himself, Kevin can save Max. He teaches Max how to use his imagination to create exciting adventures: Houses become castles, swimming pools become moats, and a hardboiled motorcycle mama becomes a damsel in distress. And he teaches readers compassion and that everyone is valuable and has something to contribute.
Through Kevin's courage in the face of his illness, readers learn the importance of not giving up when faced with difficulty, and they witness how Kevin inspires Max's progress. Kevin uses his vocabulary as a weapon and teaches Max how to use the dictionary, his favorite book. Max says that Kevin "pulls it out like Arnold Schwarzenegger pulling out a machine gun or something." Thus the character instills in real kids the power of words.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how Max and Freak have been affected by cruel and relentless teasing from their classmates.
Are Max's criticisms about his brain accurate?
How does Freak help him see himself in a different light?
For kids, have you ever teased someone who was different?
If so, did you feel bad about it later -- and what did you do to make it right?