Rodman Philbrick, Author of Freak the Mighty

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

Rodman Philbrick is the author of several books for young readers, including the award-winning ''Freak the Mighty''. In this lesson, we will learn more about Mr. Philbrick's life, inspirations, and writing style.

Rodman Philbrick

Freak the Mighty was not Rodman Philbrick's first novel. He spent more than ten years writing books part time to develop his craft. There were many struggles he faced as an author trying to find his audience and get his work published.

In the Beginning

What were you doing when you were 16 years old? Rodman Philbrick was writing his first novel! Originally, he wrote mysteries and thrillers for adults. It was not until he was 28 years old and had written several novels that he received his first publishing deal. Would you do something for 12 years if there was no guarantee that it would pay off?

A dozen novels later, when he turned his attention to writing for young readers, he achieved his greatest success. While writing his first novels, he supported his family by working as a longshoreman unloading cargo ships, a carpenter, a roofer, and a boat builder. At that time, his writing habit was more of a hobby than a career.

Freak the Mighty

Freak the Mighty is the story about a boy with Morquio syndrome. Morquio syndrome is a rare form of dwarfism caused by a metabolic disorder that creates some severe health concerns. Philbrick was inspired by a young neighbor he had who was very small, but highly intelligent and interested in math and science. This boy had a tall friend that carried him on his shoulders and a very beautiful mother. The plot and Max's dark past, however, are fiction.

Philbrick wrote a screenplay for the movie version of the book, called The Mighty, but it was rejected by Miramax; there may have been some fear that 'freak' in the title would offend viewers. A different screenwriter was hired to write the screenplay that was made into the movie. The movie is different from the book, but still something that Mr. Philbrick is proud to have been part of making.

Personal Life

Philbrick is passionate about fishing, which he writes about in his novel, The Young Man and the Sea. Philbrick's wife, Lynn Harnett, was also a novelist and co-wrote several books with him, including a series of scary books for young readers called The House on Cherry Street.

Lynn passed away from cancer at 61 years of age in 2012, while in the arms of her husband. Philbrick gives her full credit for the success of the books they wrote together.

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