Monday, November 15, 2010

The Misfits

The Misfits by James Howe
            Children’s Novel—Realistic Fiction
            Grades 5-8
            Rating: 5 Stars
            Summary: A group of seventh-grade outcasts start a third student council party in order to bring attention to the negative impacts of name calling.

            The Misfits is truly an amazing book that I think everyone should read at some point. Its theme of name calling addresses an issue that most people will fall victim to and therefore makes this book particularly relevant for middle school students who are in the midst of such an issue as part of their day to day lives. However, I found no problem relating to the characters and the situations that they faced at an older age as well.
            The realness of the characters in this novel is really what makes it such a powerful book. There is a personality or trait that everyone can relate to: the weirdo, the fat kid, the tall girl, the brainiac, the fairy, the shy girl. While we may not be able to see an exact mirror of ourselves in Bobby, Addie, Skeezie, Joe, or any of the other characters, we can still share in a similar experience, which is what makes these characters so “authentically human” and relatable through the problems they face (Peterson & Eeds, 2007, p. 40). I found myself connecting to the experiences of Kelsey as the shy girl. In elementary and middle school, I was quiet and didn’t like to be notices, and I related to her feelings of embarrassment when someone was talking to her. It is fascinating to observe the behaviors of each character while reading and be able to identify people in my own life that are similar to them. In that sense, Howe did a phenomenal job of creating such real people in his story and capturing the social essence of what it means to be a middle school kid.
            Howe’s choice for point of view also makes this novel unique. We see the story through the eyes of Bobby, one of the members of the Gang of Five. At first, I thought it may have been more effective to switch between the four friends, Bobby, Addie, Skeezie, and Joe, in order to offer insight into each of their thoughts throughout the book. However, I realize that by showing the events only through Bobby’s perspective, we have the opportunity to see things only as he sees them. I feel like this allows us as the reader to feel like a member of the Gang of Five because we get to know each of Bobby’s friends in a way that only he can share. Because he has such a close bond with each of the other three friends, we are able to experience the interactions consistently through one character, which is what makes the first person narration through Bobby a significant choice.
            Finally, the theme of The Misfits gets at the heart of a significant issue in schools today. While we can all likely relate to a character of this novel in some way, most of us go through school without standing up against those that call people names or degrade others based on stereotypes. I think that the actions of the Gang of Five represent an empowering message for kids in school. Many students face torment by bullies and do not know how to cope with it, but Bobby, Addie, Skeezie, and Joe show readers that they can and should do something about it. One of the most significant events in the book is when the Gang of Five hangs up signs with the names that they have been called and come to realize that if someone calls them a name, then they are only proving their point. The characters show that name calling does not have to be brushed off or tolerated. Indeed, they help the reader understand that we are all people and deserve to be treated with care and respect. In my experience, this is a message that all kids could benefit from hearing.

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