Bucking the Sarge

by Christopher Paul Curtis

Hardcover, 2004



Local notes

Fic Cur





Wendy Lamb Books (2004), Edition: First Edition, 259 pages


Deeply involved in his cold and manipulative mother's shady business dealings in Flint, Michigan, fourteen-year-old Luther keeps a sense of humor while running the Happy Neighbor Group Home For Men, all the while dreaming of going to college and becoming a philosopher.

Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

259 p.; 5.6 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member buckeyeaholic
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
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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?
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LibraryThing member jeriannthacker
Hilarious story about wannabe philosopher Luther T Farrell and his slumlord mother, the Sarge. One of a kind story, good for reluctant readers.
LibraryThing member jasusc
A book of an inheritance that the kid doesn’t want. This is an entertaining and brilliantly written book of Mrs. Farrell, Sarge, who has become tremendously wealthy by making slum housing and her very intelligent mature-for-his-age, fifteen year old son, Luther. Luther wants out of the slum
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business because he desperately wants to become the world’s greatest philosopher. There are lots of escapades as Luther sets out to use his science fair competition to spread Sarge’s wealth.
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LibraryThing member jgbyers
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member MWFforJ757
Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis (2004)

Luther T. Farrell is a smart kid, trying to escape Flint, Michigan to become “the country’s best-known, best-loved, best-paid philosopher,” all while living under the thumb of “The Sarge,” his not-so-flattering nickname for his mother,
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the slum lord. He doesn’t realize just how close that escape is or how it involves the ninth-grade science fair, Luther’s strange new charge at the Happy Neighbor Group Home, Chester X., and the fortuitous departure of his mother for a four-day conference.

An engaging book, Bucking the Sarge is interesting enough at the beginning, but really picks up pace at the end. Though somewhat implausible that a clever student would not see the implications of his own science fair research, Luther is such a likeable character that the reader tends to overlook this minor point. Told in Luther’s own teenage vernacular, the language is colorful, yet well-crafted.
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LibraryThing member bloftis
Bucking the Sarge tells the story of Luther T. Farrell, a very independent 15 year old, who works for his mother at a resident facility. He desires greater things for his life, but fears his mother's, and her friends, reactions to his challenges, but must decide if her means of business are too
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unethical to tolerate.
Bucking the Sarge is a funny, yet meaningful book. It explores teenage perceptions, anxieties, and aspirations, while also discussing serious adult issues. The book maintains a humorous tone, but the story remains serious and enlightening to readers. Luther T. Farrell is a character to whom many young adult readers can relate, a driven, but stil happy-go-lucky teenager who is at times naive but at other times not willing to give himself the credit he deserves.
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LibraryThing member Xx_iiCoN_xX
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member Whisper1
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
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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.
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LibraryThing member KimJD
I knew that Christopher Paul Curtis was one of my favorite historical fiction writers, but boy, he can hold his own with contemporary fiction. Luther T. Farrell has one of the freshest 15-year-old voices I've read in a long time, and the story of how he outsmarts his mom (the Sarge) is both
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hilarious and heart-rending.
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LibraryThing member alovett
Curtis, Christopher Paul. Bucking the Sarge. 2004. 259 pp. $6.99. Wendy Lamb. 385-32307-7. Ages 13 & Up.
Luther T. Farrell is different from a lot of teens in Flint, Michigan. For starters, he is working on his third first place medal in the High School science fair, hoping to beat his crush Shayla
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yet again. He also has a drivers license that says he’s eighteen, and he gets to drive and $80,000 van. But the biggest difference in Luther T. Farrell’s life is his mother, or the Sarge, who expects Luther to work full-time running her men’s group home and helping out with her other nefarious business interests in exchange for contributions to his education fund - which Luther figures should have at least $90,000 for him to put to use to his education to become the world’s most famous philosopher. As much as the Sarge wants him to take over her business, Luther can’t bring himself to kick out tenants or condone the exorbitant interest rates on her “friendly neighbor loans.” When Luther betrays the Sarge’s business interests, it becomes Luther’s turn to take control of his life and buck the Sarge’s expectations - if he can escape alive. A vivid portrait of life in a city gripped by poverty and exploitation. Curtis brings a refreshing and unique voice of an African American teen who is highly intelligent, hardworking, and attuned to the immorality of the world he is trapped in. Reader’s will cheer for this underdog as he finally gains the courage to outwit his dictatorial mother. Highly recommended. Ages 13 & Up.
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LibraryThing member susan259
A little bit over the top for me, but I bet there are tons of middle school guys out there that will love it, especially the scenes where they try and capture the rats.
LibraryThing member Salsabrarian
Booktalk: The town of Flint, Michigan, is a lot like the Titanic: a sinking ship with no way out. At least that's how Luther's best friend Sparky describes it. But 15-year-old Luther and Sparky are hoping to find a way out some day. Sparky plans to get out by suing the pants off someone, like say,
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Taco Bell if one of their roof tiles blew off and knocked him in the head. Luther's way out is through his college education fund, all $92,510 he's earned working for his mom, taking care of the male residents in her group home. His mom is so tough Luther calls her the Sarge. And it's true, her toughness has helped her become the successful woman she is today. Luther can respect that even if he doesn't agree with all of her life philosophies. But maybe it's possible to be TOO tough. When the Sarge comes down on Luther way too hard, he may have just found his way off the Titanic as he hatches a vengeful plan for BUCKING THE SARGE.
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LibraryThing member wrightja2000
Really disappointed at some extremely inappropriate scenes. Much prefer his other books.
LibraryThing member DrFuriosa
Oh, man. That was really, really good. Filled me with melancholy joy.




½ (129 ratings; 3.7)
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