Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $4.04 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
Bucking the Sarge Hardcover – September 14, 2004
|New from||Used from|
From timeless classics to new favorites, find children's books for every age and stage. See more
Customers who bought this item also bought
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Fifteen-year-old wannabe philosopher Luther T. Farrell knows a few things about life. He knows the Sarge (his rich, shrewd, slumlord mom) is tougher than nails and that he better not cross her. He knows his chances of using Chauncey, the ancient condom in his wallet, are slim to none. And, he knows that despite his goal to attend Harvard, he may end up stuck in Flint, Michigan, cleaning toilets in his mom's loathsome empire. Luther spends much of his time helping the Sarge run "Happy Neighbor Group Homes" around the city, including shaving and bathing elderly men and driving residents around with an illegal license. In spare moments he tries to win first place in the science fair at school and hang out with his best friend Sparky, all the while fantasizing mightily about his one true love, the beautiful Shayla.
Readers will be moved as Luther, a thoroughly decent if sometimes naive boy, rails against his mother's cold, ruthless notions of what it takes to get ahead in the world. Up-to-the-minute slang and pop culture references will resonate with teen readers, as will the funny, first-person narrative; crisp, often hilarious dialogue; and wonderfully vivid characters. Christopher Paul Curtis, winner of the Newbery Medal for Bud Not Buddy tells a warm, witty, heart wrenching story where the good guy gets his due. (Ages 12 and older) --Karin Snelson
From School Library Journal
Grade 8 Up–Luther's mother, "the Sarge," runs an empire of Flint, MI, slums and halfway houses, and has a loan-sharking business. At age 15, Luther manages one of her halfway houses, drives the residents around in a van with an illegal license, and readies the homes of evicted tenants for the Sarge's next desperate victims. In exchange, she puts his earnings in a college fund, threatens him into submission, and primes him to take over the business. All Luther wants to do is win the school science fair, think deep thoughts, find some action for the vintage condom in his wallet, and do something honest with his life. Curtis tells the teen's story with his usual combination of goofy humor, tongue-in-cheek corniness, and honest emotion. Accordingly, Luther narrates the absurd, embarrassing details of his life with both adult sensitivity and teen crassness. The dialogue between Luther and Sparky, his "womb to tomb" best friend, is at turns hilarious and touching. The Sarge herself is so convincingly sharp-tongued, shrewd, and despicable that she's the novel's juiciest character. The plot unfolds slowly at first, and teens may lose patience with Luther's tendency to feel sorry for himself. However, once his confidence begins to build, the story keeps a quickening pace with his character arc. His final revenge on the Sarge is so deftly constructed and the novel's resolution so satisfying that it makes up for the occasional lag in the lead-up. Any teen who's ever wanted to stick it to the man (or woman) will love this story.–Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
With his best friend Sparky, his love for philosophy, and his hatred for Flint, Michigan, Luther gets promoted to head of the Sarge's group home. At the same time, he's trying to think up the kind of idea that will win him 1st prize in the school's science fair for the third year in a year, an unprecedented feat. The problem is that the ordained-in-the-stars love of his life that he never talks to, Shayla Patrick, is his greatest competition, having nearly defeated him the year before.
While Luther's working his tail off for the Sarge, Sparky is scheming up ways to get rich quick, searching for the perfect case to take to Dontay Gaddy, the Big D.O.G. lawyer at 1-800-SUE-EM-ALL. Luther has a different plan. For a couple more years, he's going to keep working for the Sarge because she's loading up his education fund and that's the only real way to climb the ladder.
However, his new promotion at the group home gives him access to information he wishes he'd never found, the kind that changes your life forever, for better or for worse. With Sparky and Shayla still doing their things, Luther's going to have to figure out who the Sarge really is, what he's going to do about her, and how in the world he's ever going to make it out of Flint.
Reviewed by Jonathan Stephens
But those of us who spend most of our time in the somewhat-older, YA world are gonna be doing some kind of badass NFL-style victory dance for having lured Christopher over to our side of the 'hood with his latest tale full of one-of-a-kind characters and occasional laugh-till-the-snot-and tears-pour-out situations.
"I don't mean to say my boy is obsessed, but Sparky blames all our problems on the fact that we live in Flint. Yeah, I'm looking to get out someday myself, but this is one of those things that me and Sparky don't think alike on. But that's not his fault. My mind is trained in a different way than his.
"I like to look at everything philosophically, and he doesn't. I've known since I was about six that thinking that way will get you what you need in life so I've been studying philosophical junk since then.
"It gets a laugh every time I tell someone but by the time I'm twenty-one I plan on being America's best-known, best-loved, best-paid philosopher. And that's a job that there's gotta be a big demand for 'cause how many full-time, professional American philosophers can you think of?
"I rest my case."
Luther T. Farrell is a skinny, six-foot-four student at Whittier Middle School. He is actually fifteen, even though his driver's license says eighteen. Sparky is his best friend and foil. Luther is a success with science fair projects but less so with love (as evidenced by the well-aged condom in his wallet that he's named Chauncey). He quietly longs for romance with Shayla, the pretty and smart undertaker's daughter whom he's known forever. He's also big on making lists.
Luther's mother, a.k.a. The Sarge, has him stretched between school and work. The Sarge is the loan-sharking, slum-lording, government reimbursement-sucking, ever-scamming operator of numerous sub-par establishments, including the Happy Neighbor Group Home for Men, where she's had Luther living with, caring for, and chauffeuring around the clients since he was thirteen.
For a reasonably easy and often-funny read, BUCKING THE SARGE is also riddled with complexities and darkness. The Sarge and Darnell Dixon ("the Sarge's go-to guy and my boss and one of Flint's leading psychopath nut jobs") are a matched set of ticking time bombs. The Sarge's consistently despicable and cruel treatment of society's most vulnerable groups--children, the poor, the elderly--is topped off by the pair's gross brutality during their eviction of a family that includes one of Luther's classmates.
When, at one point, Luther "[gets] up enough nerve to tell her that I was thinking about quitting working at the home and was probably gonna get a job at Micky D's," she repeats the jaw-dropping story of how she got to where she is today. The moral of that bitter recollection is that she has learned from the wealthy, the politicians, and the corporations to milk "any- and everything that moves. If it's got nipples, I'm going to milk it." To recognize this cold, hard, violent woman as a mimic and parody of the "winners" in the American economic system of the haves and the have-nots is to understand this subtle yet scathing indictment of the system.
Luther, himself, tells us that he's learned philosophically to see things from both sides. "What's important is that you keep your mind wide open and try to understand what's going on from a lot of different angles. That's what I try to remember every time I talk to the Sarge or think about her or try to understand why she is the way she is." But, in either case, we see a dangerous woman who--whether full of great advice or not--is clearly not in a space to be what we'd consider to be a loving mother.
And dark humor is certainly found in the dangerous extremes to which Luther's buddy, Sparky, is willing to go in order to try and escape Flint. Those vivid images make us cringe as we laugh (or is it laugh as we cringe).
"Sparky took three steps back, then fell in a pile limp as a towel you just dried off with after a shower. It seemed like all of his bones had been Jell-O-fied."
There are a wealth of contemporary coming of age tales, but in the hands of Christopher Paul Curtis it's a whole new story.
"I've learned that if you don't write down what you're thinking about, no matter how amazing it is you'll forget it. I don't like to brag, but I know I've had a couple of ideas that were so great and shocking that they'd've won the Nobel Peace Prize of Philosophy. The only problem was I didn't write them down and by the time I got home or got out of the shower they were long gone."
Even more so than with Kenny or Bud, we're left at the finish wondering about the future of this goodhearted kid we've come to love. You can be damned sure that I'll be keeping a lookout for America's great new, best-loved, professional philosopher.
Parents and educators, however, should know that there are sexual themes that make it more appropriate for more mature readers. These themes make it a very different book from "Bud Not Buddy." Sexuality *is* dealt with in a fairly responsible manner--others have mentioned Luther's condom so at least he's thinking about having *safer* sex!--but it is still pretty frank. I wouldn't just hand this to any given fourth grader.
Also Luther's mother and her boyfriend are *so* threatening to him that I think this book could be upsetting to children who are sensitive to stories about children who are emotionally abused by parents. (Although, that said, Curtis does a great job of explaining how Luther's mother came to be the way she is. Not to excuse her but she is a fully formed character.)
Again, an excellent book, but one probably best for older or more mature children within the reading level.
The story itself kept me guessing for a while. I didn't know where Mr. Curtis was going to take the story. I was hooked. Luther and Sparky's adventures were funny, yet Luther's revelations were always interesting.
The characters worked well together. Everything connected perfectly: from the Sarge's relationships with Luther and Darnell to Sparky and Luther and Chester X.
Luther's story was funny and well written. I liked how the book was unpredictable. That made everything great. Mr. Curtis did a fine job with this.
I loved this book, and I think many other readers will also like this.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I liked this one so well that I am using it with my current Children's Literature class.