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Dexter the Tough

Review

Dexter the Tough

Dexter is in fourth grade, and nothing about his life is going smoothly right now. For the moment he has been "dumped" at his grandmother's and is the new kid at school. He pretty much hates everyone: the principal, the teachers, the janitor and especially his fellow students. On his first day of school he slips in the hallway, and the children has a good laugh over that. Surely the janitor knew he would slip on all that wax. And then there's that cheery teacher who just sparkles and is always so pleasant. But what does she know about anything? She wants him to write about his first day of school, and he definitely doesn't have much good to say about the whole experience. He is more than upset and everyone is going to know it.

Why is Dexter so unhappy? His father has been undergoing cancer treatments for quite some time and is in a special program. His mother is attending her husband, so Dexter must live with his grandmother. He is hurt, angry and has lost all control over his life. No one better get in his way or else he will let them have it! For instance, that kid in the bathroom he beat up was a cry baby and just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Dexter is pretty "tuf" --- the word he uses to describe himself in this silly essay the teacher insists he write. But he won't let anyone know what's really going on in his life. Why would they care anyway?

Dexter is a hard-sell young man. He is a challenge to his teacher, who is patient and enduring with him. He is mean-spirited to Robin (the kid who got in his way) and is plenty mad at his parents. How can things change for him?

As he painfully works on the essay, Dexter starts to understand more things about his situation. He actually develops a shy, tentative relationship with Robin; as the two lonely boys are pulled together, they blossom in the friendship. One night, a phone call from his parents sheds much light in helping him comprehend what has been happening with the family. Gradually "Tuf" Dexter becomes himself, makes a new friend and accepts the upsets that have been an inevitable part of this hard time.

Margaret Peterson Haddix presents a clear picture of the difficulties and painful misunderstandings that come with these kinds of experiences for a young person. Students who have had to go through the confusion of a family illness or any type of upsetting crisis will find that this little book can offer some comfort. And for those looking for a good story, Haddix has put together a very enjoyable one.

Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts on January 23, 2007

Dexter the Tough
by Margaret Peterson Haddix

  • Publication Date: January 23, 2007
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1416911596
  • ISBN-13: 9781416911593