In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

My hope is that this is what books become to you—as important as almost anything else on earth. This blog is about helping you find the miracle in these small, flat, rigid squares of paper while you are in middle school and beyond. Once you read alongside me, you are forever a member of my tribe of readers. No matter how you old you are, when you need to be reminded of the power of a good story, you will find me here, waiting to place one in your hands.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

THE MISFITS by James Howe

copyright date: 2001
primarily marketed for: grades 4-8

In honor of No Name-Calling Week, the idea for which originated with this book, I thought I would post a review of The Misfits by James Howe.  

This book has one of my favorite leads:
"So here I am, not a half-hour old as a tie salesman and trying to look like I know what I am doing, which have got to be two of the biggest jokes of all time, when who should walk into Awkworth & Ames Department Store but Skeezie Tookis."
I think I like it because it is such an inviting introduction to Bobby and Skeezie, two of the four friends referred to in the book’s title. 

Bobby, Skeezie, Addie, and Joe are seventh graders who decide to create their own political party to run in the student council election.  Their goal is simple: to put an end to name-calling.  Who doesn’t think that is a good idea?

The wonderful things about this book aren’t limited to the positive messages about acceptance and kindness that it communicates, however. 

In fact, one of the best things about this book is the format through which it is told.  Regular prose chapters are interrupted by chapters of dialogue amongst the four friends that is formatted like a play.  The switch in format adds a different sort of energy to the story and brings the characters to life through their realistic conversations. 

Another plus is the humor that James Howe infuses into this story.  I mean, how could it not be humorous with a character named Skeezie Tookis, right?  

One of my favorite parts is when they are first exploring the idea of the No Name Party.  The four friends list all the names they have ever been called.  The result is a heart-breaking list.  However, their conversation left me smiling since the friends end up competing to see who can come up with the longest list!

If you read this story, you will surely reflect on your own experiences with name-calling, you will definitely chuckle, and you are undoubtedly going to find yourself cheering for four misfits who are trying to empower people to be themselves as they discover the kind of people they want to be. 


  1. Hmmm, this is not a book I have read, although I know it's been out for awhile. I may have to check this out!

  2. I love the little humor you add in. I love your reviews. So refreshing. :)

  3. I love books about misfits almost as much as I love books about dysfunction!!!

    Thank you for bringing it to my attention!!!

  4. This is a great novel! Hilarious AND heartfelt. It is one of our class novels during the school year, and my students love it!

  5. this book sucks because I have to do a project on it