Bucking the Sarge

Bucking the Sarge

by Christopher Paul Curtis

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Overview

Luther T. Farrell has got to get out of Flint, Michigan.

As his best friend Sparky says, “Flint’s nothing but the Titanic.”

And his mother, a.k.a. the Sarge, says, “Take my advice and stay off the sucker path.”

The Sarge milked the system to build an empire of slum housing and group homes. Luther’s just one of the many people trapped in the Sarge’s Evil Empire—but he’s about to bust out.

If Luther wins 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.

Sparky’s escape plans involve a pit bull named Poofy and the world’s scariest rat. Oh, and Luther. Add to the mix Chester X., Luther’s mysterious roommate; Dontay Gaddy, a lawyer whose phone number is 1-800-SUE’M ALL; and Darnell Dixon, the Sarge’s go-to guy who knows how to break all the rules.

Bucking the Sarge is a story that only Christopher Paul Curtis could tell. Once again the Newbery Award–winning author of Bud, Not Buddy and The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 gives us a whole new angle on life and a world full of unforgettable and hilarious characters. Readers will root for Luther and Sparky every step of the way.

Praise for The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963:

“An exceptional first novel.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred

“Ribald humor . . . and a totally believable child’s view of the world will make this book an instant hit.”—School Library
Journal
, Starred

Praise for Bud, Not Buddy:

“Curtis has given a fresh, new look to a traditional orphan-finds-a-home story that would be a crackerjack read-aloud.”
School Library Journal, Starred

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440413318
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 05/09/2006
Series: Readers Circle Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 375,348
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.88(h) x 0.74(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Christopher Paul Curtis is the author of The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963, one of the most highly acclaimed first novels for young readers in recent years. It was singled out for many awards, among them a Newbery Honor and a Coretta Scott King Honor, and has been a bestseller in hardcover and paperback. Christopher grew up in Flint, Michigan. After high school he began working on the assembly line at the Fisher Body Flint Plant No. 1 while attending the Flint branch of the University of Michigan. He is now a full-time writer. He lives with his family in Detroit.

Read an Excerpt

“Just a minute, fellas. Hello?”
“Luther?” It was Sparky. He sounded like he’d just run five miles. “Have you looked outside, bruh?” I could hear the wind howling behind him.
“Yeah, where you at?”
“I’m on the phone outside Seven-Eleven. It’s like a hurricane out here!”
“Then why don’t you get inside? Are you coming over?” The 7-Eleven was only a couple of blocks away.
Sparky said, “Uh-uh. I need you to meet me behind Taco Bell.”
“You need what?”
“Seriously! This is my big chance, baby! Before this night is over I’m going to be calling 1-800-SUE-EM-ALL. I finally got someone to sic the big D.O.G. on.” He started barking into the phone.
“Sparky, what are you talking about?”
“I’ma put me a suit in on Taco Bell!”
“Oh, you’re gonna do that old I-found-a-rat-in-my-burrito trick?”
Sparky said, “Please, they peeped out that scam a long time ago, they even do autopsies on the rat if you claim that happened. I got the bomb, baby! But I’m gonna need your help.”
“Uh-oh.”
“Uh-uh, Luther, this is for real. I walked by Taco Bell and all them red tiles are lifting up off the roof and knocking the mess out of everything in the parking lot! One went clean through someone’s windshield!”
“Sounds dangerous.”
“Which is why you gotta get down here.”
I said, “Why would I come out on a night like this to watch some roofing tiles crashing into cars . . .” Then I understood. “Now I get it, you want a witness that you got hit by one of those tiles, right?”
“Something like that, but I need a little more.”
“I’m listening.”
“I really do need to get hit, and you’re the only one I can trust to do it right.”
“Aw, no. That ain’t happening!”
“Come on, Luther, I already got one of the tiles set to do it. All you gotta do is kinda tap me in the head, then walk me into Taco Bell and have them call an ambulance.”
“What?”
“Don’t worry, bruh, you know when I get paid I’ma break a little something off for you.”
“You must be kidding.”
“Luther, don’t make me beg.”
“I can’t do it, Sparky. Besides, you’re cutting into my science fair project time. Plus I gotta put the Crew to bed, that’s going to take at least half an hour.”
Sparky said, “If that’s the best you can do, half an hour then, behind the Taco Bell.”
“Cool.”
He said, “I just hope the wind hasn’t died down by then, it’ll be on you if it has. Your half hour could be costing us a whole lotta benjamins, my brother.”
“I’ll see you in half an hour, but this better be quick, I’ma just whack you in the head, then I gotta bounce.”

Sparky didn’t have to worry, by the time I’d settled everyone down and started walking to Taco Bell the wind had even picked up some.
The stop sign on the corner was twisting back and forth in the wind, sounding like a rocket made out of tin cans and duct tape getting ready to blast off. The wind was hot in a way that made you want to close your eyes and tilt your head back and breathe real deep. Or maybe even howl.
Something from the roof of Taco Bell somersaulted through the air, then smashed into the parking lot. Sparky popped out from behind a Dumpster and ran toward me with a tile in his hand.
“Sparky,” I yelled, “this is insane, man, let’s just go home.”
Sparky shook his head and said, “Come on, bruh, hurry up, this ain’t real easy for me, you know.”
I took the reddish-brown clay roofing tile from him. I was surprised how heavy it was. He leaned toward me, closed his eyes tight and showed his teeth.
“Come on, Luther, quit torturing me,” he whined, keeping his teeth clenched. “Do it!”
I shook my head and closed my eyes. I raised the tile about shoulder high, brought it down on his head and felt a little shimmy run up my arm. Sparky was still standing with his eyes squinched shut.
He looked at me. “That’s it?” He brought his hand up, rubbed at the spot where I’d hit him and said, “Man, you gotta be kidding, don’t forget this thing’s supposed to have blowed off a roof, you really gotta knock the snot outta me, bruh.”
I dropped the tile. “This ain’t me, you gotta get someone else.”
Sparky looked hurt. “What? You supposed to be my boy, who else can I trust?”
He picked the tile back up and reached it toward me again. “Remember what we used to say, ‘We’ll have each other’s backs from womb to tomb, you’ll be my boy from birth to earth.’”
What could I say? He was right, we had said that. I took the tile again. It must’ve weighed ten pounds.
The wind was really starting to get serious. The stop sign had stopped shaking and was now whistling and going back and forth like one of those piano metronome things. Two more tiles jumped off the roof and exploded in the parking lot.
“All right, fool, bend your head over.”
I closed my eyes, raised the tile over my head and let it drop on Sparky’s skull. Again my arm shimmied. When I opened my eyes Sparky was looking at me the way you’d look at a kid who brought home all Ds on his report card.
He said, “Man, all you’re doing is giving me a headache! Swing that tile, brother! I bet if I went and got your crusty old mother she wouldn’t have no troubles lighting me up.”
If only he knew. The Sarge would’ve paid big cash to take my place right now. Sparky isn’t one of her favorite people. She would’ve hit him so hard it would’ve knocked his head clean off. I laughed. “Leave my mother out of this.”

Reading Group Guide

1. Sparky and Luther are very different, but they have a close friendship. What do you think makes them such good friends, and why are they so loyal to each other?

2. Luther is very compassionate: he returns KeeKee’s papers and takes care of the Crew. In a town and in a family in which many of the people are quite selfish, why do you think Luther is this way?

3. What is the significance of the character D.O.G. (Dontay Orlando Gaddy)? Why do you think it’s important to the story that Luther and Sparky pay a visit to him?

4. Are there times in the story when you think the Sarge gives good advice? Do you think she cares about Luther?

5. In chapter eight, the Sarge explains why she decided to milk the system and avoid the “sucker path.” What do you think of the reasons she gives for her behavior?

6. Luther could tell the mayor or the police at the science fair about the Sarge’s criminal activity as a landlord, but instead, he chooses to take what he feels he deserves and leave. Why does he leave town without turning the Sarge in?

7. Chester X becomes something of a father to Luther. Do you trust him? Do you think Luther and Chester X will succeed in Florida?

8. What do you think Luther will be doing in two years? What do you think Sparky will be doing? What will happen to KeeKee and Bo?

Customer Reviews

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Bucking the Sarge 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bucking The Sarge was a great book for my 9th grade English class. They enjoyed that it was about something happening in their lifetime. There were parts that were kind of slow, but overall, it was an enjoyable read for them and for me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This has an incredibly unique plot. I read it in one day. It drew me in... this plot about kids trying to get money... the author gives smart detaail with everything I ighly recommend it!
Whisper1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In this ALA Best Book for YA winner of 2005, Christopher Paul Curtis once again provides the reader with a very likable host of characters. Curtis' trademark is to portray serious subjects with poignant humor, and this book follows that standard.Unlike his other books, Curtis does not delve into historical content. In this modern day story Luther T. Farrell has some problems. First and foremost his mother, nicknamed by him as "The Sarge" is an angry, mean spirited greedy woman. Her tough as nails hallmark to fame is that she is the proud owner of a series of slum housing projects. Also, in addition to being a slum land lady, she also runs a nursing home and scams the poor with her loan sharking schemes.If there is a person to be bought, The Sarge has the cash and the means to do it. If there is a family in her project that cannot pay the rent, the Sarge will happily have her goon throw them out in the street. Using her middle school aged son Luther, aka Sparky as her servant, she forces him manage the nursing home.Sparky is intelligent and quick witted and was to get the heck out of Flint, Michigan as fast as he can.While I laughed when reading this well written book, in the end, it fell flat and wasn't up to the standard I've come to appreciate in this wonderful author.
jgbyers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story is about a boy named Luther T. Farrel who desperately wants to get out of Flint, Michigan. His mother a.k.a. "The Sarge" encourages him to get out as well and says Flint is a sucker path. Luther feels that he is trapped in the Sarges evil empire. The sarge built a monopoly of slum housing and he feels like he is under her evil empire. If Luther wins 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 who is also the love of his life. Sparky's escape plans involve a pit bull named Poofy and the world's scariest rat.
jeriannthacker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hilarious story about wannabe philosopher Luther T Farrell and his slumlord mother, the Sarge. One of a kind story, good for reluctant readers.
abbylibrarian on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Luther has a few goals in life. 1) To become a world-famous philosopher, 2) to be wealthy, and 3) to win first place in his school science fair three years in a row. He knows he's on his way to 1 and 2, but 3 will take some work. It's hard to find time to work on his project when he's always busy doing chores for the Sarge. The Sarge is Luther's mom and she's always got something for him to do. Heck, she got him his driver's license at age 15 so he could help out with the family business. Luther knows the Sarge can get most anything she wants by pulling her strings, but when he comes to find out what's behind those strings, he'll have some choices to make. Does he have what it takes to buck the Sarge? The book starts off somewhat slow, but it really picks up at the end. Luther is a likeable character and he takes the audience along with him as he discovers more and more about the Sarge's empire. It's believable how much he doesn't know and doesn't ask about his mom's "businesses" and when he finally digs out the truth, his reaction is believable, too.
buckeyeaholic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love Christopher Paul Curtis! His stories are insightful & chock full of laughs. I listen to audio books & he has THE BEST narrators. I've listened to Lavar Burton narrate one & this one was Michael Boatman (Carter from Spin City). What a wonderful voice he has for this outlet.Bucking the Sarge is about Luther, a teen whose mother is quite an influence in Flint Michigan. She pulls many strings in the city. A slum lord, loan shark & ACLF operator. Now what happens when Luther finds out what the real scoop is with The Sarge?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I hate this book it stinks. Would give it a big goose egg but I can't :(
Elise Manning More than 1 year ago
Bucking the sarge is great i read it in my 7th grade english i loved it even for a seventh grader !!!!!!!!!!!,!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!*******************************************************-************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I would like to recommend the book Bucking the Sarge, by Christopher Paul Curtis. It is a realistic fiction book about a teenager named Luther T. Farrell. Luther T. lives in a town called Flint and runs sort of a nursing home for men that can¿t live by themselves. His mother, `The Sarge¿, owns many apartments and has a reputation for being ruthless. He also has a best friend named Sparky, King of Get Rich Quick Schemes, and a science fair rival named Shayla 'who he happens to be in love with'. This book is about a scheme of Sparky¿s that went wrong, a science competition with Shayla, and breaking free of the Sarge. One of my favorite scenes is when Sparky ropes Luther into a get-rich-quick scheme. There is a huge storm outside, and Sparky notices that roof tiles are falling off of a Taco Bell¿s roof. He calls up Luther and somehow convinces him that if Luther would just go to the Taco Bell with him and whack him the in head with a roof tile, they could sue Taco Bell. Well, Luther heads on over and clocks Sparky with a terracotta tile. Now, that would be bad enough. But no- some customers had seen them and Sparky and Luther only just escape. I like this scene because it shows some of the humor that appears everywhere throughout the book. I also appreciate the fact that it shows that get-rich-quick schemes are deceitful and often backfire. I would recommend this book because it is a great read about a teenager breaking free of his mother to become who he really wants to be, discovering things about himself along the way. It is funny and heartfelt, qualities I love in a book. It also has many twists in the plot: things are not always 'actually, in this book, almost never' what they seem. However, I should mention that this is not an especially good choice for kids under thirteen it has a couple rather inappropriate parts. All in all, I would rate this book a four-star book, five stars being the best, because it is a book that is both hilarious and serious, something not all authors can get away with.
Guest More than 1 year ago
My personal reading selection that I have just recently read was Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis. This book is about a fourteen year old boy named Luther who, believe it or not, has his own driver¿s license! Luther¿s mother is in charge of a nursing home for elderly men and is a workaholic. His mother¿s job is very demanding so she has to be very strict even toward Luther. Luther refers to her as the Sarge because of her harassing attitude and bizarrely mean attitude. In the book Luther and his friend that goes by the name of Sparky have to put up with a lot of Sarge¿s behavior and many lectures. The boys along with their gang of elderly men they are responsible for have a lot of quarrels throughout the book and are very entertaining to read. In my opinion the book in general wasn¿t that great because of the way the book seemed to flow. It flowed very fast paced and many times I had to revisit some of the pages I had already read. Besides the fast paced flow the book was very surprisingly slow and over detailed. It was very entertaining at times but I wouldn¿t classify this book as a ¿knee slapper¿. I was surprised to see that Christopher Paul Curtis is a Newbery Honor winner because this book in my opinion wasn¿t a Newbery Honor performance.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was utterly disappointed at the content of this novel. Totally inappropriate for 12 & 13 year olds. Which teacher is going to read to their students about a condom waited to be used? Sharing my disappointment is also my students who after reading the 2 previous novels, they felt left down that I did not read it with them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Okay, you have to be a rabid Christopher Paul Curtis fan to give this book a decent review. Bud, Not Buddy was a superior piece of literature. This book is not in the same league. It takes 200 of 259 pages for the action to commence, after too intensive character and plot developments. ...then the ending...very disappointing. Sorry.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Luther T. Farrell has lived all his life working for his tyrant mother who he nicknames 'The Sarge.' She tells him all his wages are going into his college fund, and what can he do but to believe her? I first saw this book at the Nat'l Book Festival in D.C. but did not buy it. Then I encountered it at the bookstore, but since it was hardcover, i thought, :forget it:. then, i received as a present from my english teacher... and it didnt turn out to be that bad!! though some parts confused me, like the period of time between the second and third science fair. I thought I'd either lost my mind or the book missed out information... anyways, it was a fairly good book nonetheless. recommended fer teenagers and young adults.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis was an awesome book. In this book, Luther T. Farrell is the main character whose mother is a slum lord. She owns many houses in their town of Flint, Michigan. Luther¿s best friend is Sparky. Throughout this book, Sparky tried to come up with crazy schemes to make a lot of money fast. He does this because he hates Flint and wants to get out. One of the most interesting things about this book is Luther¿s on his arch enemy, Shayla Patrick. Luther and Shayla compete in the science fair each year. Every year they always have the best two projects but Luther has always won. This year however, Shayla has a great project and is probably going to win. Luther¿s project was about the dangers of lead paint. On the day of the presentation Luther was informed that his mother would be at the ceremony. Luther thought that it would be great. Luther and Shayla tied for first and then had to present their projects. After Luther had presented his project the mayor told everyone that the search would be tripled in Flint for the search of lead paint in houses. Luther knew that this was bad because the Sarge used leaded paint in her houses because she got it cheap. After the presentations were over, she told Luther that he had four days to leave the house. Before Luther left he took $50,000 in cash and his mothers bank books and went on a spending spree. After he was done he drove to Florida where he would be living, far away from his horrible life in Flint, Michigan.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was boring all it said was bla bla bla bla itwas a good book though
stephanie robert More than 1 year ago
this book is so hilarious.