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A blonde small boy sits on the shoulders of a large brown haired boy. They think about King Arthur. This is Freak and Max from Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Freak the Mighty is a popular novel written in 1993. It tells the story of Max Kane, a seventh grader who is formidable in stature but struggles with an undiagnosed learning disability and the trauma of losing his mother to violence at a young age. Max's new neighbor Kevin "Freak" Avery appears to be the polar opposite. Freak is extremely small and has a voracious love of learning coupled with an impressive vocabulary that stumps even their teachers! Freak's size is due to a rare genetic disorder that makes it difficult for him to walk. After striking up a friendship, Max takes to carrying Freak up on his shoulders and thus, "Freak the Mighty" is born: ready to embark on quests, slay dragons, aid damsels in distress, and navigate the ever treacherous world of middle school!

Student Activities for Freak the Mighty

Essential Questions for Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

  1. Who are the main characters in Freak the Mighty and what challenges do they face?
  2. What are some of the symbols and motifs present in the novel? How does the symbolism help you better understand the characters and their motivations?
  3. What are some of the themes present in the novel and what lessons does the author try to impart to the reader?
  4. What are some examples of courage and compassion shown in the novel?

Freak the Mighty Summary

Freak the Mighty is the story of Max Kane, a seventh grader who takes after his father in that he is very large in stature. Despite looking the size of an adult, Max has trouble in school and has difficulty passing every grade. He has an undiagnosed learning disability coupled with trauma from losing his mother to violence at a young age. However, when Max meets Kevin "Freak" Avery, his life begins to change.

Kevin, nicknamed Freak, is extremely small for his age at only about three feet tall in 7th grade. He suffers from a rare genetic disorder that makes it difficult to walk and he has leg braces and crutches. However, despite his size, Freak is extremely well-read and has an astounding vocabulary. Freak seems to know everything about everything! He is especially fond of literature and adventure stories such as those about "King Arthur". Both boys have difficulty navigating the world of middle school and strike up an unlikely friendship.

Max and Freak form a close bond and go on many adventures together. Max often carries Freak up on his shoulders which earns them the nickname "Freak the Mighty" because together they are unstoppable. They outsmart bullies and attend all their classes together with Freak helping Max finally learn to read and write. Freak tells Max that one day he will get a "Bionic" body to help with his condition. One of Max and Freak's adventures leads them to the home of Iggy and Loretta Lee, two ex criminals who reveal to Freak (and the reader) for the first time that Max's dad is Kenny "Killer" Kane, and is in jail for murder.

Max's father killed his mother when Max was only four years old. Kane has been in prison ever since but is up for parole despite the protests of Max's grandparents. One night while Max is sleeping, Kane kidnaps him and forces him to come with him to Iggy and Loretta's apartment building in a row of rundown tenements. Kane ties up his son telling him that all these years he was unjustly imprisoned and that he never murdered anyone. When Max tells his father that he knows he killed his mother, that he remembers it vividly, Kane goes into a rage. Kane is about to kill both Max and Loretta, who tried to come to his aid. In a shocking twist, Freak crashes through the window coming to the rescue just in time by outsmarting Kenny with a water gun!

The police arrive and Max's father is sent back to jail. However, their relief is short lived when a short time later, Freak suffers a seizure and is rushed to the hospital. It is at the hospital that Max learns that Freak's story about a "Bionic" body was just that - a story. He knew that he would not survive his condition, which is called Morquio syndrome, but wanted to give Max something to hope for. Before Freak passes away, he gives Max a blank notebook telling him to write about all their adventures together.

Max takes Freak's passing very hard. He is depressed for about a year before he finally summons the courage to take out the blank notebook that Freak gave him and begin to write. It is here when the reader realizes that the book we've been reading is just that: Max finally channeling his grief into writing about his and Freak's "unvanquished" friendship and their epic adventures.

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How To Facilitate a Discussion on Freak The Mighty in Class


Read the Story Carefully

Encourage the students to read the story carefully and highlight any important details that they can find the first time. When students are reading the story the second time, advise them to focus on the highlighted parts and why they are important to the narrative and how they can be used for discussion.


Consider the Central Idea and Lesson

Discuss with the students the central idea and the intended lesson by the author for the readers. Ask the students to note down any central ideas they can think of and back their analysis with the help of facts from the text. For example, friendship might be the central idea of the story but there are many other minor themes present such as depression, sacrifice, crime, etc.


Discuss Open- Ended Questions

Start off the discussion by posing general inquiries that promote critical thought, such as "What do you think the author is trying to convey through the characters?" or "How does the setting impact the story?" Give students some time to collect their thoughts and propose a well-rounded answer.


Encourage Participation in Discussion and Activities

Make sure that each student gets an equal chance to speak and participate. Before the class discussion, teachers can employ techniques like think-pair-share or small group conversations. Teachers can also propose individual activities for students and give individual feedback so no student feels left out.


Review and Synthesize

Summarize the discussion's main points before asking students to consider what they learned or gained from it. Encourage the students to actively listen and participate in class and make a habit of taking notes.

Frequently Asked Questions About Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Who are the primary characters of the story?

Kevin and Max who are the completely polar opposites of each other yet have a common bond of friendship are the primary characters of the story. Grim, Max's grandfather, and Gwen, Max's mother, are other significant characters.

Why is the story named “Freak the Mighty”?

The title "Freak the Mighty" refers to the special bond that Kevin and Max share. It focuses on their unique assets and how, when united, they constitute a powerful force. Kevin and Max were also given this title because Max used to carry Kevin on his shoulders because of his physical condition.

Does the book have any sequels or adaptations?

Yes, "Freak the Mighty" was turned into a movie in 1998 called "The Mighty." "Max the Mighty," another book by Rodman Philbrick, is a continuation of Max's narrative.

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