Dexter the Tough

Dexter the Tough

4.4 8
by Margaret Peterson Haddix, Mark Elliott
     
 

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I'm the new kid. I am tuf. This morning I beat up a kid.

It's only the first day of school for Dexter, but he's already mad at the principal, and the secretary, and the janitor, and the kids who laugh at him. When his teacher tells the class to write a story, Dexter writes about how tough he is — and how he's already gotten into a fight. Is

Overview

I'm the new kid. I am tuf. This morning I beat up a kid.

It's only the first day of school for Dexter, but he's already mad at the principal, and the secretary, and the janitor, and the kids who laugh at him. When his teacher tells the class to write a story, Dexter writes about how tough he is — and how he's already gotten into a fight. Is any of Dexter's story true? Why was the other boy crying before Dexter hit him? And why would the other boy still want to be Dexter's friend?

Even Dexter doesn't know the answers to some of those questions. But as he deals with family problems, a persistent teacher, and a boy who's strangely interested in floor wax, he discovers many surprises hidden in his own tale.

Editorial Reviews

Booklist
"A thoughtful choice for reading aloud."
Children's Literature - Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger
When Dexter starts at a new school, he finds that he hates everyone. He hates the custodian for making the floor so slippery that he falls down. He hates the kids for laughing at him when he does. He hates the principal for asking where his parents are when they are across the country without him. He hates the school secretary for leaving him alone in the hall. So when he comes across a boy in the bathroom, he beats him up. So when his teacher tells him to write a story, he writes, "I am the new kid. I am tuf. This morning I beat up a kid." He didn't mean to say that, but he couldn't help himself. Although he later denies beating anyone up, his teacher sends him in search of more details for his story. He learns the boy in the bathroom is named Robin. Dexter realizes Robin is as unhappy at school as he is. But Robin responds differently. In fact, Robin introduces Dexter to the custodian, the principal, and to the school secretary. Will Dexter be able to face the real reason behind his anger? When Dexter begins to share his worries about his father's illness, he begins to understand that first day of school may not have happened quite the way he remembered it.
School Library Journal

Gr 2–5
When Dexter presents his perky teacher with his first assignment, it reads, "This morning I beat up a kid. I am tuf." Ms. Abbott pushes him to add details and much more to his story. With each revision readers learn more about why Dexter is angry, confused, worried, lonely, sorry, and why he hit Robin in the bathroom, and they see the developing friendship between the two boys. They discover that on Dexter's first day at his new school, he is left abruptly in a hallway by the school secretary and is laughed at when he falls on a slippery floor. They find out about his father's cancer and that he is living with his grandmother in Kentucky because his parents are at a hospital in Seattle. Slowly, they learn, along with Dexter, that the incident didn't happen exactly as he remembers it. An appropriately happy ending wraps up all of the loose ends. Haddix does an excellent job of capturing the voice of a fourth-grade boy. Dexter is a multifaceted character who thinks about his actions and emotions like a smart, confused kid, never like an adult. Occasional full-page drawings nicely portray the actions and feelings of the characters in this easy chapter book.
—Catherine CallegariCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Dexter's first assignment at his new school is to write an essay, and he describes beating up another boy before class. After some investigation, his alarmed teacher has him explore the situation further, which leads, ultimately, to Dexter befriending Robin, the victim. With understanding from his teacher and help from Robin, Dexter comes to grips with his own guilt and hostility, as well as the real reasons he threw the punch: feeling helpless and angry about his father's cancer, missing his parents who have temporarily moved to obtain medical treatment, adjusting to life with his grandma and struggling to keep his emotions under control. In the end, Dexter discovers that his behavior was unfair but forgivable, and he is able to open up to his family and his new friend. While a trifle pedantic, the story unfolds realistically and provides an example of how violence and bullying may be prevented through patience and sensitivity. Dexter, a sympathetic and believable character, may help others come to grips with their own demons. (Fiction. 7-10)
From the Publisher
"Dexter, a sympathetic and believable character, may help others come to grips with their demons."

"A thoughtful choice for reading aloud."

"Haddix does an excellent job of capturing the voice of a fourth-grade boy. Dexter is a multifaceted character who thinks about his actions and emotions like a smart, confused kid, never like an adult. Occasional full-page drawings nicely portray the actions and feelings of the characters in this easy chapter book."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416911593
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
01/23/2007
Edition description:
Repackage
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile:
690L (what's this?)
Age Range:
7 - 10 Years

Read an Excerpt

Dexter the Tough


By Margaret Peterson Haddix

Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing

Copyright © 2007 Margaret Peterson Haddix
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1416911596

Chapter 1

Dexter hated his new school already.

It was only his first day -- barely his first hour. So far Dexter had decided that he hated the principal, the school secretary, and the janitor. He hadn't even met the janitor yet, but he hated him anyway. The janitor had made the floor so shiny and slick that Dexter slipped on it, falling right in front of a bunch of other kids.

Dexter hated those kids, too. They laughed at him.

Now he was standing in front of his new fourth-grade class, a sea of staring eyes.

"Dexter moved here from Cincinnati," his new teacher said. "Dexter, would you like to tell us a little about yourself?"

"No," Dexter said.

The smile on his teacher's face didn't shrink at all.

"Well, that's quite all right, Dexter," she said in a fake, cheerful voice. "I know it can be kind of scary being new."

Dexter wanted to say, Oh, no, I'm not scared. Not me. But the teacher was already showing him to his desk. Her too-wide smile stretched back almost to her ears.

"It's so wonderful that you've joined us today, Dexter, because we're starting on the most exciting writing project," she said as Dexter slipped into his seat.

She was wearing huge star earrings that seemed to twinkle at the class. He could tell already: She was going to be oneof those sparkly, enthusiastic teachers.

He hated that kind of teacher.

"Don't you all want to hear what the project is?" the teacher asked.

"Yes, Ms. Abbott," the whole class except Dexter chorused together.

Disgusting. The other kids were going to be as sparkly and enthusiastic as the teacher.

"Great!" the teacher said. "We're going to be working on the same piece of writing every day for a month! We're going to pretend we're all professional writers, and that's how they work. They don't just write something and say, 'Hurray! I'm done! Isn't this wonderful?' They write a story and then they go back and rewrite it, and revise it, and make it as good as possible. Some writers may rewrite the same story dozens of times! What do you think of that?"

Dexter thought that professional writers must be pretty stupid. He wondered if he should add professional writers to the list of people he hated.

"We'll start out today just writing the first draft," the teacher said, still all twinkly and cheerful. "Get out a piece of paper and tell me a story. It can be a true story or it can be made up. But" -- her eyes seemed to rest on Dexter for a moment -- "I'd really like it if you could tell me a story that lets me know more about who you are!"

All the other kids started writing right away. Dexter sat frozen at his desk.

"Dexter?" the teacher said. "Don't you have pencil and paper?"

Staring down at his empty desktop, Dexter shook his head. No. He didn't have anything he needed.

"That's okay," the teacher said, slipping a pencil into his hand and sliding paper onto his desk. "I'll send a note home with you tonight to let your parents know what school supplies to buy."

Dexter clutched the pencil so hard he was surprised it didn't snap in two.

"It's my grandmother," he blurted.

"Excuse me?" the teacher said, and for the first time, she didn't look sparkly or twinkly. She looked confused.

"You have to send the note to my grandmother, not my parents," Dexter said, the words coming out in a rush. "I live with her now."

"All right," the teacher said. "No problem. Let's get started writing, okay?"

Maybe it was no problem for her, but now there was a huge lump in Dexter's throat, which made it hard for him to swallow. It kind of made it hard for him to breathe. He stared down at the blank sheet of paper on his desk. Every other kid in the class was writing like crazy. He could hear the pencils racing. He saw one girl already flipping over her sheet of paper, to start on her second page. Dexter couldn't even remember exactly what he was supposed to be writing. Something about letting the teacher know who he was. Fine. He could do that.

He gripped the pencil and printed:

I'm the new kid. I am tuf.

He put the pencil down.

"Some of you who finish early might want to start your revision process now," the teacher said from the front of the room. "Add details, descriptions, examples!"

Examples.

Dexter picked up his pencil again. His hand shook a little as he wrote:

This morning I beat up a kid.

It was kind of scary seeing those words in black and white. He stared down at his paper, and the words seemed to stare back at him. He put his hands over the paper so all he could see was one sentence: "I am tuf."

I am, he told himself. I am. So there.

"All right, everyone," the teacher said. "Make sure your names are on your papers and hand them in. Even if you aren't done, Marleeza."

A girl in the front, who'd started waving one hand in the air, abruptly put her arm back down.

Someone behind Dexter poked him in the shoulder and handed him a stack of papers. Dexter stuffed his own paper in the middle of the stack, so no one would see it. Then he handed the whole stack to the kid in front of him.

Dexter's stomach churned as he watched the teacher's hands gather all the papers together. Her long fingers smoothed the ragged edges, making the pile neat.

"I'm so excited to start reading these!" the teacher said. "It's almost time for recess anyhow. I'll let you go a few minutes early, to reward you for all your hard work. And when you return, we'll begin workshopping!"

Why did I write that? Dexter wondered. Why?

His hands itched to grab his paper back before the teacher saw it. But how could he do that? What would he tell her?

The paper was lost to him now. The teacher was holding all the papers too tightly.

He squared his shoulders. He tried to ignore the sick twisting in his stomach.

Who cares? he told himself.

He walked out of the room behind the other kids. He didn't let himself look back.

Copyright 2007 by Margaret Peterson Haddix



Continues...


Excerpted from Dexter the Tough by Margaret Peterson Haddix Copyright © 2007 by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Margaret Peterson Haddix is the author of many critically and popularly acclaimed YA and middle grade novels, including The Missing series and the Shadow Children series. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for The Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio. Visit her at HaddixBooks.com.

Mark Elliott has a BFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts. He has illustrated a number of book covers, and his work has been exhibited at the Society of Illustrators and the Art Directors Guild. Mark lives on a sheep farm in the Hudson Valley region of New York.

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Dexter the Tough 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dexter the tough tells a sweet and sometimes heartbreaking story of a young 4th grader who is forced to move away from his home and friends to move in with his grandma while his mom and dad are on the other side of the country to treat his father's progressive cancer. Dexter has the normal problems of the first day at a new school and has an interesting way of starting his day (readers will realize the title in the first chapter). His first assignment from his teacher is to write a story about himself- an assignment that he struggles with through the entire book. In the end, Dexter becomes friends with an unlikely match and realizes some of lifes hardest lessons. This story is a great way to teach friendship, respect, and life values.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dexter's first day at his new school was not a good day he was already mad at the principal,the secretary,and the janitorI loved this book but try to think about this What makes a bully? Will dexter become friends with the kid that he beat up?
Anonymous 10 months ago
What is between a cars and a house?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dexter the Tough is a very sad and up tempo book. It keeps you on your feet to find out what happens next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It honestly looks like a good book but a havnt read so...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thid book is good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Shuld i read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
THE BOOK IS TERRIBLE! THE KID LOOKS DUMB AND A NON INTERESTING STORY