Freak the Mighty By Rodman Philbrick
There’s Max, and there’s Freak, Max’s friend who moves into the house next door. Freak is brilliant. He is very interested in stuff about King Arthur, science, architecture... he teaches max about everything. Freak is only 2 feet tall due to a life-threatening disease, and by the way, Freak isn’t his real name. Max, only being in the 8th grade, is said to have grown an inch every day, and towers more than a head over every other kid. Max lives in his grandparent’s basement, which he calls the down under; he lives with them because his mom was murdered by his dad who is now in jail!
Not convinced yet?
The story is told in present and past and flows easily.
There’s really good contrast between characters.
Recommended for 7tth grade and up.
When I was 8 years old my older sister read most of Charlotte's Web to me. I say most, because so long after the fact I can't really remember if we finished it together. But I know it was a book we shared, because I can still hear her saying "Some pig," in her twelve year old's voice. It was a special book to me, and still is. Not only because we shared it, but because Charlotte's Web covers so many important themes to a child: belonging, injustice, friendship and love.
Now, as a grown-up, trying my best to keep up with the best that children's literature has to offer, I am pleased to say that Wilbur has found a rightful heir in Ivan the gorilla. Ivan, who is based on a real gorilla, has spent the last 27 years without any other gorillas around. As a silverback, this is very confusing. Ivan knows his job as a silverback is to protect his troop, but with no troop to protect, Ivan is robbed of a central part of his identity. However, when a baby elephant is introduced onto the scene, Ivan finds his purpose, with resonating results.
Simply and elegantly told, The One and Only Ivan is the kind of book that I hope families will share. Kids will like the humor, as well as the unique setting and cast of characters, while adults can relate to Ivan's longing to protect the baby elephant. Bringing together that wide range of ages is no easy feat, and Applegate (who is a Northern California local) does so with fabulous result. And while I could not help but compare Ivan to Charlotte's Web, the title is apt: there is One and Only Ivan.
--Maggie from the office
Usually I write reviews in a sort of "royal-Books-Inc.-we" kind of voice. But this time, I had such a personal reaction to the book that I felt like I owed it to the content to write a personal review. Hi, I'm Maggie, and if you come to the NYMBC events you know me as the rambling, babbling emcee who usually doesn't say the right thing before the authors start being awesome. I run NYMBC because I love YA, and this new novel from John Green is exactly why. I loved The Fault in Our Stars. Sixteen year old me is PISSED that grownup me got to the be the one to read it first.
Rather than explaining what this book is about, I'd rather tell you why it's worth reading. Again and again. And then passing to a friend, and telling strangers to read, and then giving it as a gift to all the cool people you know.
In a genre that is currently pretty light on realism, John Green presents the reader with a story that is so unflinchingly real that it left me bawling. On a plane. On the flight home from New Orleans. With a bunch of hungover people who really didn't care that the crazy lady next to them was bawling. My boyfriend and supplyer of tissues was concerned. "Are you ok?" he asked. And I didn't know what to say.
In the novel, the two main characters are obsessed with a fictional book called An Imperial Ailment. It's so formative for both of them, that they feel as though it predicts the way they feel, that it is somehow speaking only to them. I remember reading Slaughterhouse Five when I was that age and feeling the exact same way. There is, incidentally, a "So it goes" in the narration, much to my delight. What is amazing about this book, is that I imagine it will do for many readers what Slaughterhouse Five did for me, what An Imperial Ailment did for these characters. It will pull back the curtain of consciousness, which can be so isolating, and remind us: You are and you are not alone. Life is cruel and beautiful, and then it is over. I kept thinking of Billy Pilgrim's headstone as I read this book:
Everything was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt.
So go read The Fault in Our Stars. Then share it with someone who matters to you.