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Grade 8 Up–Luther T. Farrell is not like most other 15-year-olds living in Flint, Michigan. While he's working hard to win the school science fair for the third year, he is also in charge of one of his mother's group homes and that includes driving the men to rehab and cleaning them up after bathroom accidents. Luther and his mom, a.k.a. Sarge, are financially well off because she's also a slumlord and a loan shark, but the eighth grader is uncomfortable with his life. Christopher Paul Curtis's novel (Wendy Lamb Books, 2004) recounts how this often philosophical youth decides to do what's right and turns the tables on his mother. Luther's best friend Sparky, Shayala his heart's desire, and a wise elderly resident of the group home add humor, wisdom, and a bit of romance to this story that mixes comedy and questions about morality. Michael Boatman's narration has the breezy bounce of inner-city youth, but he also captures the serious undertone of the story. The sound quality is good, and a bit of music adds a hip beat to the opening and closing of the recording. There are a few wacky subplots and some funky characters, but both urban and suburban listeners will connect with the teen appropriate dialogue and admire the way Luther emerges victorious after making tough choices.–Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*Starred Review* Gr. 5-9. Curtis moves from the historical fiction of The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 (1995) and his Newbery Medal-winner Bud, Not Buddy (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 (not 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
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