BookBrowse Reviews Bucking The Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis

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Bucking The Sarge

by Christopher Paul Curtis

Bucking The Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis X
Bucking The Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2004, 272 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2006, 144 pages

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Told in Luther's jivey, colloquial voice, enriched by Curtis's cast of large-hearted survivors. Ages 12+

From the book jacket: 15 year old Luther T. Farrell lives in Flint Michigan, and is determined to get out. His mother, known as 'the Sarge', has milked the system to build an empire of slum housing and group homes, and Luther is just one of the many people trapped in her Evil Empire. If he can just win 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; but he's also got to contend with 'the Sarge' and her right hand thug, Darnell Dixon.

Comment: My children (then 9 and 11) and I listened to Bucking The Sarge together in the car. I must admit that after the first page or two I was wishing that I wasn't listening to it with my 4th grader, and not at all sure that I wanted my 6th grade listening to it either, but I'd hoisted myself on my own petard, so to speak, as I'd promised them a new book for a longish journey and this was it, and when I tried to turn it off I was met by a chorus of complaints from the backseat!

My concern was that the story was a bit too "raw" for the little darlings.  I was wrong, not only were they and I gripped by the story, but it made me realize that they're ready for stories that have a little more grit in them.  There were a few parts that they didn't totally understand, usually because they didn't understand the colloquial language (but that didn't bother them), and an occasional place where I exercised some hastily improvised parental control by talking loudly over a few short sections!

Some reviewers rate Bucking The Sarge as suitable for Grades 5 and up, others suggest Grade 8.

"Starred Review. Gr. 5-9. The narrator is smart, desperate 15-year-old Luther (not Loser, as some call him) Farrell, who speaks with wit, wisdom, and heartbreaking realism about family, work, school, friends, and enemies....His schemes of revenge and escape are barely credible, but the farce and the failure tell the truth in this gripping story." - Booklist.

"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.'" - Kirkus.

This review first ran in the May 22, 2006 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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