How does Rodman Philbrick create tone in his novel Freak the Mighty?

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lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dealing as it does with serious issues such as physical disability, child and spousal abuse and murder, this novel could have been maudlin, depressing, or even inappropriate for children, but Philbrick managed to keep the tone lighthearted in places, sometimes even downright funny.  For example, when Kevin and Max become friends, Max is a very unhappy young man, withdrawn from the world, living in the basement of his grandparents' home because his father is in prison for killing his mother.  As Kevin and Max spend more time together, Max gets out more--taking Kevin, who is severely handicapped, around town on his shoulders--and even experiences fun and laughter.  One day, Max gets choked on something he has eaten for lunch, leading to this suggestion from Kevin: 

"Expel the object!" Freak shouts. "Regurgitate, you big moron!" and he gives me another thump and I cough up this yucky mess, but I'm still laughing so hard my nose is running.

Max hasn't had a lot to laugh about in his life, and there are plenty of serious moments in the novel, but it is one of the lovelier things about this book that Philbrick managed to create some happy moments and entertaining scenes.