Dexter the Tough


Book: Dexter the Tough

Author: Margaret Peterson Haddix 

Illustrator: Mark Elliott

Publisher : Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, reprinted 2008

ISBN-13 : 978-1416911593 Hardcover

ISBN-10: 1416911596 Hardcover

ISBN-13 : 978-1416911708 Paperback

ISBN-10 : 1416911707 Paperback

Related website(s): (publisher)

Language level: 1

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 7 – 10

Rating: ***** 5 stars

(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)

Category: General youth fiction

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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     Haddix, Margaret Peterson.  Dexter the Tough (Published in 2007 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY  10020).   Fourth grader Dexter Jackson has moved from Cincinnati, OH, to live with his grandmother in Kentucky because his dad Thomas is very sick with cancer, so his parents have to go to Seattle, WA, for his dad’s treatment.  On the first day of his new school, Dexter is already mad at the principal, the secretary, the janitor, and the kids who laughed at him. When Ms. Abbot, his teacher, tells the class to write a story that lets her know more about who they are, Dexter writes, “I’m the new kid. I am tuf. This morning I beat up a kid.” 

     The other boy’s name is Robin Bryce, and Dexter hit him because Robin was crying in the restroom.  Why was Robin crying before Dexter hit him?  Is it possible that Robin would still want to be Dexter’s friend?  And what will happen to Dexter’s father?  I found this to be an interesting story as the author gradually reveals the details behind the opening incident.  In several meetings, his persistent teacher encourages him to flesh out his story, asking Dexter questions which help him to acknowledge his feelings, including his resentment at being left behind by his parents, his concern about his father, and his guilt about hitting Robin, so that he can come to terms with his emotions. 

     In the end, Dexter discovers many surprises hidden in his own tale as he makes revisions to it, and an appropriately happy conclusion wraps up all of the loose ends.  One thing that I liked was the fact that Grandma definitely believes in prayer.  Robin had been homeschooled through third grade but talked his mother into letting him going to regular school.  Homeschooling is not necessarily presented in a bad light, but the impression seems to be left that homeschooled students might have trouble making friends.   I have known literally hundreds of homeschooled children, and that has never been my experience.  But I still liked the book.

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