Title: The Misfits
Author: James Howe
Grade Level: 4-7
Rating: 5 out of 5
The Gang of Five is a group of four misfit students at Paintbrush Falls Middle School. Addie (the tall, outspoken one), Joe (who is learning to live with being gay), Skeezie (the resident tough guy) and Bobby (the quiet, overweight boy) have all been targets of name-calling. Addie decides they should run for student council against their more popular classmates just to make a point. Little does she know that they would evolve into the "No-Name-Party" who stand up for anyone and everyone who has ever been called a name.
This book was amazing! It was tremendously powerful and I was left blown away when I was finished reading it. The characters were so strong and the language so precise. It was not just the core four characters but every person created by James Howe and placed into the story that made an impact. Every person had a purpose and they weren't just one dimensional. From Daryl Williams who has a stutter and is the catalyst for the "No-Name-Party" to DuShawn Carter who represents more than just his black skin, each and every person brings a different dynamic to the story that is key to what the "No-Name-Party" represents. The language used by James Howe is so powerful. This is a touchy subject but with his word choice he just blows the whole thing up. He doesn't dance around the names and taunts but attacks them and uses them to the book's advantage. The quick wit, humor and deliberate word choice give the story its strength.
If I end up teaching upper elementary or middle school I would definitely love to use this book in my classroom. It addresses something extremely important and relevant to students at that age. Name-calling effects the victim, aggressor and outsider and by reading this story it is made clear to the reader. I don't think many students realize the power their words can have. "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will break my spirit." The book shows that everyone is different, even those in the "popular" crowd and that we are all effected by such negativity. I can imagine the classroom discussions would be highly interesting and passionate by the students. Whether or not I read this book with my classroom I would still want to participate in No Name-Calling Week. I think it would be a great experience for the students, teachers and parents to first hand see how just one week of no name-calling can be like.