Freak the Mighty (1993), by Rodman Philbrick

Max is obviously from a problematic union: his mother was murdered by his father, who is not a nice person…  In fact, the boys’ lives are far from the stable, safe environment many readers of the book will be familiar with. As such, Freak the Mighty is both an eye-opener from readers as well as potentially providing a sense of recognition for readers from inner-city schools or less-fortunate family situations themselves. Philbrick creates a balance in the text that allows it to work for both these audiences. Freak and Max are both outsiders, but they find each other and form a friendship that helps them to survive the harshness of their school and home lives.  The slight implication is that both boys’ mothers were into the drug scene during pregnancy, or something similar.  Freak ends up with birth defects, and Max probably suffers from foetal alcohol syndrome.  There are interesting tie-ins for teaching this text at the grade 6 or 7 level: one could, for example, look at how the system works to protect people, given Killer Kane’s pending release on bail and how worried Max’s grandparents are. One could also reveal to students the statistic that 2/3 of child abductions in Canada are by parents (Statistics Canada Report on Canadian Child Abduction).  The legal aspects and issues of safety could be fascinating for this age group.

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