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Bucking the Sarge
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Trade Reviews

  Booklist Review

Gr. 5-9. Curtis moves from the historical fiction of The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963 0 (1995) and his Newbery Medal-winner Bud, Not Buddy 0 (1999) to the contemporary scene in this hilarious, anguished novel set in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. The narrator is smart, desperate 15-year-old Luther ( not0 Loser, as some call him) Farrell, who speaks with wit, wisdom, and heartbreaking realism about family, work, school, friends, and enemies. He hates his vicious mom (the "Sarge"), who has made herself rich by milking the system, including evicting poor families from slum housing. Luther's job is to care for four men in Sarge's Adult Rehab Center, another scam. At school he wants to win the science fair medal again, even if his rival is the girl he has loved since kindergarten. Bits of philosophy from Luther's various mentors, who range from Socrates to Judge Judy, blend with the comedy and sorrow. There are some real surprises in plot and character, including a substitute parent Luther finds in an unexpected place and a science project that does change the world. His schemes of revenge and escape are barely credible, but the farce and the failure tell the truth in this gripping story. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2004 Booklist

  Kirkus Review

Luther's hard-driving mother, "Sarge," has built personal life and financial empire (slum housing, group homes, loan sharking business) through belief in two things: herself and money. Luther is exploited no less than her "clients." At 13, he got a forged driver's license and the responsibility for running The Happy Neighbor Group Home for Men. Years later, Luther's life is a grind of responsibility at the home and striving at school. When Luther's science fair project--on the dangers of lead paint--promises to cost Sarge (whose apartments are painted with it) money and jail time, she ruthlessly cuts him adrift. In a conclusion that avoids contrivance through his comic use of organizational list-making, Luther, who is thoroughly decent despite everything, shrewdly gets all he's owed and declares his independence. In Curtis's hands, this is darkly funny as he deftly paints his Runyonesque cast of characters as broadly as the side of the Buick Riviera driven by Darnell, Sarge's "rent-a-thug." Told in Luther's jivey, colloquial voice, enriched by Curtis's cast of large-hearted survivors, and enlivened by his coruscating style, this is another winner--or, as Luther might say, a "three-peat." (Fiction. 10-16) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Luther T. Farrell has got to get out of Flint, Michigan. As his best friend Sparky says, "Flint's nothing but the Titanic." And his mother, a.k.a. the Sarge, says, "Take my advice and stay off the sucker path." The Sarge milked the system to build an empire of slum housing and group homes. Luther's just one of the many people trapped in the Sarge's Evil Empire--but he's about to bust out. If Luther wins the science fair this year, he'll be on track for college and a future as America's best-known and best-loved philosopher. All he's got to do is beat his arch rival Shayla Patrick, the beautiful daughter of Flint's finest undertaker--and the love of Luther's life. Sparky's escape plans involve a pit bull named Poofy and the world's scariest rat. Oh, and Luther. Add to the mix Chester X., Luther's mysterious roommate; Dontay Gaddy, a lawyer whose phone number is 1-800-SUE'M ALL; and Darnell Dixon, the Sarge's go-to guy who knows how to break all the rules. Bucking the Sargeis a story that only Christopher Paul Curtis could tell. Once again the Newbery Award--winning author ofBud, Not BuddyandThe Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963gives us a whole new angle on life and a world full of unforgettable and hilarious characters. Readers will root for Luther and Sparky every step of the way. Praise forThe Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963: "An exceptional first novel."--Publishers Weekly, Starred "Ribald humor . . . and a totally believable child's view of the world will make this book an instant hit."--School Library Journal, Starred Praise forBud, Not Buddy: "Curtis has given a fresh, new look to a traditional orphan-finds-a-home story that would be a crackerjack read-aloud." --School Library Journal, Starred
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