In Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick, how does Kevin help Max in school?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Max is the narrator in Rodman Philbrick's novel Freak the Mighty and a self-professed struggling learner. He has a learning disability and has been in remedial classes up until the summer he meets Kevin. After a summer of bonding in which the boys go on quests with Max carrying Kevin around on his shoulders, Kevin asks his mom to talk the school into letting Max attend the same classes that Kevin attends, which are accelerated courses Max would never have qualified for on his own. Max's grandmother is reluctant to sign him out of special education at first, but Grim talks her into it.

But one night I come up the stairs real slow and quiet and Grim is saying "Let's give it a try, nothing else has worked, maybe what he needs is a friend, that's the one thing he's never had with all those special teachers." And the next morning she signs the papers, and when we get to school the first day, Freak helps me find my name on the list and it's true, we're in all the same classes.

Freak, also known as Kevin, teaches Max to read by allowing him to look at reading in a completely different way.

The reading stuff Freak helped me figure out by showing how words are just voices on paper. . . . Like Freak says, reading is just a way of listening, and I could always listen.

Another way Kevin helps Max is by giving him a dictionary he created himself as a Christmas book, and on another occasion, he gives him an empty book to write down all their adventures. Max is resistant at first. He feels that his hands are too big and clumsy for him to be able to write. He does it for his friend because Kevin tells him he will not have time to do it. Shortly thereafter, Kevin dies, and after a period of grieving, Max begins to write their story in the empty book, which tells "the unvanquished truth."

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Kevin is amazing because he doesn't believe that his friend Max can't learn. In an effort to help Max to believe in himself, Kevin appoints himself as Max's tutor. First, Kevin introduces Max to the dictionary and shows him how to look up words that he doesn't understand. Then, because Maxwell helps Kevin by traveling on his shoulders, they are allowed to go to the smart classes together. Max is excited to get out of the learning disabled classes and Kevin promises to help him as well. Next, Kevin makes Max his own personal dictionary for Christmas, which is original and unique only for him. Finally, Kevin gets Max a journal to write down all of their adventures together. When Max says that he knows he can't write, Kevin says the following:

"I won't have the time, so you'll have to do it. Just write it all down like you're talking. Put in all the fun we had, the cool things we did. Our adventures" (151).

All of these things inspire Max to write down the boys' stories together, even though he doesn't feel sure of himself. All that Max needed was to have confidence in himself and a little direction as to how to tackle reading and writing. Kevin does this for him. By the time Max finishes writing the book, he feels so much better about his learning abilities and he says that he will pick up more books to read in the future. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial