A Teaching Guide to:
Written by Jackie McKim
FOR THE TEACHER
Large chart paper, butcher paper, construction paper, washable markers, yellow highlighters, glue, scissors, cotton, yarn or string, sand colored water colors, paint brushes, tape, small sponges.
Sleep Device directions copied out of book and printed on large chart paper.
Map of Rem World on large classroom white board. Characters on each side of map.
Banner announcing "Welcome to REM World."
Workbench with tools, and sleep device
Feast of the Frog People---Crayola Colored Model Magic for food. Napkins made of construction paper. Set up on table.
Frog Ancestor portraits--sponge paintings mounted on construction paper
Large three-dimensional Oreo cookies made out of construction paper
"My Favorite Things About The Book" bulletin board
Construction paper green clouds w/cotton taped on and hung from ceiling
Fish bowel chandeliers made on art paper and colored with markers--use bright yellow highlighter for fish
Large paper bell to signal high tide
Vydels mouth. Open cubby area-- make black paper cones for teeth 3-dimensional crows handing from ceiling. Boron eggs in cubbies
Cardboard box with note and snake on it
Arthur's father's head set up on top of box
Boron Bulletin board with eggs and borons all over
DOOR decorated with sea creatures
Door decorated with flowers and bees
Picture of castle above door
Sign over classroom door:
WELCOME TO REM WORLD
Bulletin board with rectangular pictures of favorite part and one sentence to describe each picture.
Each child makes a character to put on chair. Child has a friend trace her body. After having his body traced, child then creates his character by using markers. Students tape character to chair for special time. Frog People Feast, Author visit, etc.
Extra life-size characters in room as room allows
Bulkhead doors on inside room door
VOCABULARY BY CHAPTER
A Teaching Guide to: "Freak the Mighty"
See Also: Max The Mighty Guide || Study Guide by Dr. Alexa Sandmann || The Mighty Film Study Guide
"I wrote Freak the Mighty because Max, the mighty half of Freak the Mighty, insisted and he's bigger than I am." - Rodman Philbrick
To the Teacher
"Freak the Mighty" is an unusual, well-written young adult novel. Although likely to be classified as realistic fiction, it has many elements of fantasy and fairy tale: the handicapped hero who is bigger than life, exciting quests, events that have numerous levels of meaning, and magical moments. Philbrick's novel of two handicapped and troubled young men, one smaller than a yardstick and the other outgrowing size thirteen shoes, is about the strength of friendship, family, intelligence, and life. The poignant story is told from the perspective of Max, who through the life and death of his friend Kevin, learns to respect his own intelligence and endure his own frightening heritage.
Philbrick's novel, most appropriate for middle school readers, has won significant critical acclaim and is an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. It is an excellent book to teach and to discuss. Not only will adolescent readers devour it and rejoice in the victories of Max and Kevin, but teachers will love all its teachable themes.
The novel's plot is circular. In the first two sentences Max states, "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." But it is not until the novel's final page that we learn why and how Max wrote a book about the adventures of Freak the Mighty.
In the first chapter, we meet the cast of characters: learning disabled and very large Max, severely handicapped and incredibly intelligent Kevin, Gram, and appropriately named Grim, Max's grandfather. We learn that there is a Him in Max's life, someone his grandparents fear and someone Max resembles.
Max and Kevin had known each other in day care, but do not meet again until the summer before eighth grade, when Max, who is so big he is exploding out of his clothes, places Kevin, whose body is too small for his growing organs, on his shoulders and walks into a pond to out wit Tony D. and his punkster pals. From that moment, with Kevin providing the directions and Max the mobility and strength, they are known as Freak the Mighty. All summer they rescue fair maidens and slay dragons. Loretta, one of the maidens, turns out to be a friend of Kenny Kane, Max's father who is imprisoned for murdering Max's mother.
That Christmas, Kenny Kane, newly released from prison, kidnaps Max, and drags him bound and gagged to the basement of a burned-out building. Suddenly, Freak rolls down through a basement window holding a big blaster squirt gun he claims is filled with sulfuric acid. He squirts it in Kenny's eyes. Max puts Freak on his shoulders, and they run for their lives.
After the recapture of Killer Kane, life becomes quieter for both boys. On his birthday, Kevin suffers a seizure and is rushed to the hospital. He gives Max a blank book asking him to fill it up with their adventures. When Max learns the next day that Kevin has died, he lashes out at Kevin's doctor, but she explains that no surgery was ever possible and that Kevin knew it. At first Max hides from his friend's death in his room down under. Finally, after many months he begins to write the story of Freak the Mighty on the pages of the book Kevin had given him.
Thinking About the Book
1. Why is Max convinced he does not have a brain? Is his assessment of himself as a "butthead" correct? Do our opinions of ourselves affect what others think of us? Do others' opinions of us affect how we feel about ourselves?
2. How does Kevin prove to Max he is not a "butthead"? How does Kevin help Max learn how to read and write?
3. Why is Freak's Christmas gift of the pyramid shaped box and handwritten dictionary so important to Max?
4. Why does Max call the first chapter of his book, "The Unvanquished Truth"?
5. Why do we care about what happens to Max and Kevin? How does the author make us care about them?
6. How does the location of Max's room "down under" relate to how he feels about himself?
7. How does Freak get Max out of his room? What is "magic" about their quests?
8. Does Freak really believe that he will be "the first bionically improved human" by having a body transplant? What does Freak mean when he says "you can remember anything, whether it happened or not"?
9. Why does Max agree with his father, who says, "I, Kenneth David Kane, do swear by all that's Holy that I did not murder this boy's mother"? What does the story Kenny tells about the "injustice" that was done him, tell us about him?
10. How are Kevin and Kenny similar in how they deal with the world? How are they different?
11. What is the irony in calling the tenements the New Testaments? What is ironic about Killer Kane posing as the Reverend Kenneth David Kane? Why is Kenny's remark that you should never trust a cripple ironic?
12. Why does Loretta try to save Max? What does this tell us about her? Why is Max not surprised when he sees her drunk at the end of the novel? How does she finally save Max?
13. Why is the scene with Kevin and the squirt gun funny? Does Kevin recognize the humor? Does Max?
14. With whom is Max angry when he realizes that Kevin is dead? Why? What helps him get over his anger?
1. Help students search for aspects of the novel that make it fantasy-like: the bigger-than-life hero, the quests, the magical moments, and meanings beyond actual words on the page.
2. Discuss with students the meaning of the word "sobriquet." Identify the sobriquets used in the book. Suggest that students write a sobriquet for a partner reflecting a positive quality in that per son.
3. Each day, write one of the many interesting quotes from the book on the chalkboard. Have students write about what they think the quote means, write a poem that includes the quote or helps explain the quote, or tell a story that incorporates the quote or uses the quote as a moral.
4. Explore some of the novel's themes: the importance of friendship and family, the difference between myth and reality, recognizing the worth in all humans, the importance of positive self concept, and dealing with death.
About Rodman Philbrick
William Rodman Philbrick has used the name W. R. Philbrick for eight detective novels and mysteries and the name William Dantz for four medical and technical thrillers, all for adult readers. Freak the Mighty is his first young adult novel. According to Rod, the name to which he answers, he wrote the novel "because Max, the mighty half of Freak the MIghty, insisted and he's bigger than I am."
Rod had no intention or inclination to write a young adult novel until an editor asked him if he had any stories for young readers. At first he said "no," but on the ride back from Manhattan to Maine, the voice, story, and plot for Freak the Mighty unrolled in his head.
The inspiration for Kevin was his son's close friend who had died tragically the previous year. According to Rod, "It was my way of dealing with the loss." The real Kevin had the same medical condition as Freak in the novel, but a very different personality. His mother was the inspiration for Gwen. Once he had the story in his head, Rod wrote the entire novel in one draft in about six weeks.
Rod's second young adult novel, The Fire Pony, will be published by Scholastic in 1996. He and his wife, Lynn Harnett, have collaborated on a mass-market paperback, haunted house series in three-volumes called The House on Cherry Street. It is clear that Rodman Philbrick has many young adult voices inside his head and they will appear in numerous future novels.
Written by Arthea J. S. Reed, Ph.D., Professor and Chairperson of Education, University of North Carolina at Asheville, Asheville, NC
'Max The Mighty' Study Guide
Exploring the Works of Author
Ideas for Using Them with Middle Graders
Dr. Alexa L. Sandmann
The University of Toledo, College of Education
2801 W. Bancroft Street, Toledo, CH 43606
(419) 530-2614 and (419) 530-2466 FAX
Each of the activity ideas below is written with students as the intended reading/choosing audience, based on the belief (Rosenblatt, 1978) that students' responses will be richer and deeper if student-driven, not teacher-directed.
Thus, this handout also is "teacher-friendly." You can easily implement a Rodman Philbrick author unit by making these books available to students and asking them to fulfill a specified number of activities by simply providing them with these options.
Freak the Mighty (1993, Scholastic)
Reading: Read the sequel, Max the Mighty (1998, Scholastic). Which one did you like better? Do a booktalk about both books for your classmates--without giving away the ending of either! OR Read more about King Arthur and the Roundtable. Share what you find with your classmates. OR Choose five of your favorite words and their definitions from Freak's Dictionary. Explain why you like them so much. With the help of your friends, create at least two new words and redefine two existing words each and add an "Addendum" to the dictionary.
Writing: Do you think Philbrick might write a third book about Max? What might it be called? What might happen? Write a brief synopsis of a possible third book. OR Consider how Grim defines lies and tales, that "lies are mean things, and tales are meant to entertain." Decide whether you agree or disagree with him and then write a paragraph with examples from your own life that support your position.
Science: Kevin told Max that he was going to get a bionic body. Research the current state of bionics. Then create a poster and share your findings with the class. OR Extend what Kevin says during the Fourth of July celebration and find out more about how fireworks are made and which chemicals combine to make the various colors. Create a chart to display your conclusions.
Social Studies: Kevin says that "Books are like truth serum--if you don't read, you can't figure out what's real." Do you agree with Kevin--or not? OR think about how Max's father describes people in general: "You know what I think of when I see a neighborhood like this? Hamsters, is what I think. That's how these people live, like hamsters in cages. They have their little wheels to run on and that's what they do for the whole of their lives, they run and getnowhere. They just spin." Do you think that's a fair assessment? Why or why not? Find someone who disagrees with you and each of you prepare a statement for the class to consider.
Health: Research and then write a short report about the kind of disease that Kevin might have had.
Art: Kevin says that "Remembering is just an invention of the mind." Paint, draw, or create a collage of something you want to remember. OR Watch the film version, The Mighty. Compare one scene in the film with the mental image you had of that incident before viewing the film, Which do you like better? Lead a discussion of this topic for your class.
The Journal of Douglas Allen Deeds: The Donner Party Expedition, 1846 (2001, Scholastic)
Reading: Read another journal from the "My Name Is America" series. Compare and contrast this book with the new one you read by filling in a Venn diagram.
Writing: Create a list of characteristics that would apply to Deeds. Would he be a good model for students today? Which "Character Counts" characteristics would apply to him? Write an editorial honoring him and his accomplishments.
Science: What survival tips might have been helpful to those in the Donner party? How might they have been better prepared for this possibility, and when it did happen, was there anything else they could have done to survive? Then, write a contemporary survival guide for someone camping in the Sierra Nevadas in this century.
Math: The map of Deeds' journey in the back of the novel is not to scale. Create a new map which is to scale and discover how many miles Deeds actually traveled.
Social Studies: Choose the ten most significant events on Deeds' journey. Create a vertical numberline with brief descriptions of each event next to the day being highlighted. OR Do a little research and find out how much the Native Americans were paid for Manhattan. OR With three classmates, each of you choosing one tribe that the expedition encountered, the Pawnee, the Sioux, the Snake or the Payhoots, put together a panel presentation.
Health: Research the effects of starvation on both one's mental and physical condition. Music: Find CD or audiocassette recordings of the songs mentioned in the novel to play for your classmates. What other songs might those in the expedition have sung or played? Share these as well.
The Last Book in the Universe (2000, Scholastic)
Reading: Create an alphabetical glossary of all the futuristic words in the text OR Read Robert Frost's "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" for your class and explain what you think it means. OR Read Homer's The Odyssey and do a brief retelling of the story for your classmates. OR Find out who the original Furies were in mythology and compare them with the Furies in the novel. OR Find a story, one that ends "happily ever after" that Spaz might have told Bean before she fell asleep and read it to a younger class. OR Find out what the original Eden was and explain it to your classmates. lives.
Writing: Ryter says that "The only real treasure is inside your head. Memories are better than diamonds, and nobody can steal them from you." Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not? OR Write about where you would like to go and why if you had a chance to be in the "thinkspace." OR Play chess, walk on grass, stroll by a brook, climb a tree, eat an apple, or count clouds and then write a poem about any or all of these experiences.
Science: What is genetic programming? In what ways have scientists already used these principles? What evidence do we have that such technology already exists? Write a report and then create a poster in order to share your findings.
Math: The world almost ended because of nuclear war. Explain the effect of nuclear waste and the concept of "half-life." From your analysis of the problem of radioactivity, how many years later would it have to be for life to have continued? In other words, in what year is this story set?
Social Studies: From Spaz's point of view, write the history of his world, between now and the world he lives in. Fill in the "gaps" as best as you can with details from the novel, what you know about problems on the earth, and your imagination.
Health: Research epilepsy. Find out what it is, its past and current treatment options, and famous persons who suffered with it. Share what you discover with your class. OR Research leukemia and what the current treatments options are.
Art: Create a model of where Spaz lives. OR Create a model of Eden where Lanaya lives.
Music: What music would exist in this world? Either find or create the music indicative of this future world. Would the music be different in Eden from that of the Urb?
Rem World (2000, Scholastic) Reading: Make a case for always reading ALL the directions. OR Create a list of all the different beings Arthur encounters and write character sketches of each. OR Read about another friendly giant, Roald Dahl's BFG.
Writing: The Cloud Master defines legends as the "keys to the truths we know." Create a legend for a truth you know. OR Write a poem celebrating morning.
Science: Study flight in the natural world, as in updrafts and wind currents. Create a Power Point presentation to share your understandings.
Math: Create a monetary system unique to your school--something that is valued instead of money.
Social Studies: Arthur wakes up in an entirely new world. Create a topographical map showing his new surroundings.
Health: Is Arthur alone in his obesity? What percentage of adolescents and children are overweight? What actual solutions are there to this problem? Art: Draw a picture of what you think Mud City looks like.
The Fire Pony (1996, Scholastic)
Reading: This book's dedication is "For everybody who's ever been thrown from a horse and got back on." Before reading the book, take an index card and write down what you think this dedication means. After reading the book, reread your prediction and, if need be, revise what your believe it means now, Then, do a book talk for your classmates, inviting them to read the book.
Writing: The second fire is intense. Capture it in a poem.
Science: Research the science of fighting fires. How do strategies change when the fire is on a plain versus a forest or a mountain range? Do a 2- or 3-circle Venn diagram to explore the similarities and differences.
Math: Mr. Jessup has at least two hundred horses, many of them Arabians. Research the value of these horses and then compute a "best guess" as to their value. Similarly, research the value of Mr. Jessup's land, making an educated guess as to its size and location in the West. Add the value of his barns, house, and vehicles, and decide how much insurance coverage he might need.
Social Studies: Cowboys played a significant part of the development of the West. With three or four friends, research the role that cowboys played in the past along with their current role. Make a presentation for your class.
Music: Joe keeps singing "old" songs. Find recordings of the songs mentioned in the book, as well as some others you think Joe might have known, and play them for your class.
Art: When Roy and Joe are on the mountain, feeling like kings and princes, they survey the land surrounding them. Illustrate what they saw. OR Draw the sunrise Roy enjoyed when he took Lady Luck on her first trail ride.
other books by Rodman Philbrick and Lynn Harnett:
Abduction (1998, Scholastic)
Book 1: Strange Invaders, 1997, Apple
Book 2: Things, 1997
Book 3: Brain Stealers
THE WEREWOLF CHRONICLES
Book 1: Night Creature, 1997, Apple
Book 2: Children of the Wolf
Book 3: The Wereing
THE HOUSE ON
Book 1: The Haunting
Book 2: The Horror
Book 3: The Final Nightmare
The Last Book in the Universe
by James Peralta
Chose any one project. You may have a partner if you wish. I will not be responsible for your group's work. You may work alone. Each project should be two hundred words minimum.
All quotes need to have page citations.