Philbrick, R. (1993). Freak the Mighty. New York: Scholastic.
Bigger than anyone else his age and struggling to find his voice, Max deals with being feared by almost everyone, including his grandparents who he lives with. But once a boy, Kevin, who is dealing with his own medical condition, moves back into town, they form a strange friendship that helps both of them to rise above the world to become “Freak the Mighty.”
Freak’s quick thinking and imagination allow him and Max to deal with bullies, school lessons and even Max’s paroled father who has reentered Max’s life.
Freak the Mighty can show the power of friendship, the difficulty of making assumptions about people, and the pain of loss.
It's been my experience that every time this book is shared, a large bunch of students fall in love with this story. I always feel a little worried when students begin to recommend the book to everyone they've ever met when they're only one-third through the story, since the second half of the book takes some unexpected (although foreshadowed) turns.
A teacher could also share the movie version, The Mighty as a treat for students after they finish the book. There is also a sequel, Max the Mighty that is a natural recommendation for students who enjoyed the book.
Activities to do with the book:
Freak the Mighty is a great conversation starter for all kinds of topics: Bullying, friendship, making assumptions about people based on their appearances, the criminal justice system, truth and lies, dealing with loss, hope, and the list could go on. A teacher could lead secondary lessons on Arthurian legend, mechanical engineering, the Ice Age, etc.
Since there is a lot of potential for a reader’s perception about some of the characters could change as students read, it lends itself to discussing the book or journaling as they read. Students could also learn about memoir and write their own stories of friendships and family.
Since Freak created his own dictionary, students could follow his example and have fun defining words in ways that are relevant to them or that incorporate humor.
“I never had a brain until Freak came along and let me borrow his for a while, and that’s the truth, the whole truth. The unvanquished truth, is how Freak would say it, and for a long time it was him who did the talking. Except I had a way of saying things with my fists and my feet even before we became Freak the Mighty, slaying dragons and fools and walking high above the world” (p. 1).
“…It was Freak himself who taught me that remembering is a great invention of the mind, and if you try hard enough you can remember anything, whether it really happened or not” (p. 2).
“Books are like truth serum—if you don’t read, you can’t figure out what’s real” (p. 19).
“Sometimes we’re nine feet tall, and strong enough to walk through walls. Sometimes we fight gangs. Sometimes we find treasure. Sometimes we slay dragons and drink from the Holy Grail” (p. 78).