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The Misfits Paperback – May 1, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What do a 12-year-old student who moonlights as a tie salesman, a tall, outspoken girl, a gay middle schooler and a kid branded as a hooligan have in common? Best friends for years, they've all been the target of cruel name-calling and now that they're in seventh grade, they're not about to take it any more. In this hilarious and poignant novel, Howe (Bunnicula; The Watcher) focuses on the quietest of the bunch, overweight Bobby Goodspeed (the tie salesman), showing how he evolves from nerd to hero when he starts speaking his mind. Addie (the outspoken girl) decides that the four of them should run against more popular peers in the upcoming student council election. But her lofty ideals and rabble-rousing speeches make the wrong kind of waves, offending fellow classmates, teachers and the principal. It is not until softer-spoken Bobby says what's in his heart about nicknames and taunts that people begin to listen and take notice, granting their respect for the boy they used to call "Lardo" and "Fluff." The four "misfits" are slightly larger than life wiser than their years, worldlier than the smalltown setting would suggest, and remarkably well-adjusted but there remains much authenticity in the story's message about preadolescent stereotyping and the devastating effects of degrading labels. An upbeat, reassuring novel that encourages preteens and teens to celebrate their individuality. Ages 10-14.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Grade 4-8-A high spirited cast brings James Howe's energetic, sometimes hilarious book (Atheneum, 2001) about junior high school politics and nasty name calling to life. Young actor Spencer Murphy does an excellent job playing narrator Bobby Goodspeed, an overweight seventh grader who belongs to the Gang of Five, which (ironically) is made up of four not five kids who consider themselves misfits. The other "gang" members are the precocious and extremely tall Addie (played with effective Lisa Simpsonesque moral outrage by Maggie Lane), the Elvis look-alike Skeezie (the funny Andrew Pollack), and the effeminate Joe (a sensitive performance by Ryan Carlesco). The student council elections are coming up, and these students decide to run on the "No-Name Party," which promises to bring an end to all name calling in the school. The scene with the characters listing the various hateful names they have been called (everything from "fat boy" to "fairy" to "greaser" to "loser") is truly chilling. Thanks to Daniel Bostick's inventive direction of the actors, the presentation soars and entertains. There are many clever touches: an echo effect is used when Bobby has interior thoughts, and there are neat sound effects when characters speak on television or over PA systems. A clever music score, which mixes rockabilly with muzak, adds to the story's humor and energy. The entire cast, especially the aforementioned young actors as well as Bill Molesky as Bobby's world weary boss, does a fine job. An interesting interview with James Howe completes this first rate presentation.
Brian E. Wilson, Evanston Public Library, IL
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 960L (What's this?)
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition (May 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689839561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689839566
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (121 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,599 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

James Howe has written more than eighty books in the thirty-plus years he's been writing for young readers. It sometimes confuses people that the author of the humorous Bunnicula series also wrote the dark young adult novel, The Watcher, or such beginning reader series as Pinky and Rex and the E.B. White Read Aloud Award-winning Houndsley and Catina and its sequels. But from the beginning of his career (which came about somewhat by accident after asking himself what kind of vampire a rabbit might make), he has been most interested in letting his imagination take him in whatever direction it cared to. So far, his imagination has led him to picture books, such as I Wish I Were a Butterfly and Brontorina (about a dinosaur who dreams of being a ballerina), mysteries, poetry (in the upcoming Addie on the Inside), and fiction that deals with issues that matter deeply to him. He is especially proud of The Misfits, which inspired national No Name-Calling Week ( and its sequel Totally Joe. He does not know where his imagination will take him in the next thirty-plus years, but he is looking forward to finding out.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By James Hiller VINE VOICE on December 31, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Known best for his Bunnicula series, James Howe breaks out from that mold and ventures forth with one of the best books written this year, "The Misfits".
Both touching, cutting edge, real and gutsy, the Misfits in the title are a band of four friends, each one with a trait that society unfairly and immediately judges them on: being too tall, too fat, too gay, too greasy, and all of them too smart for their peers.. : ) The kids band together for survival, security, and to experience something they all yearn for: acceptance.
The story, compelled by the characters needs, is about a schoolwide election, and how the students are forced to join the Democrats or Republicans. Of course, they don't quite fit in either group, and decide to form their own party: initially "the Freedom Party" and then, more appropriately, "The No-Name Party". What follows is stunning, inspirational, heartbreaking, and guaranteed to provoke thought.
The story is written in a very interesting way. Partially prose, partially "minutes" which read like a play, it moves the story along to give a true sense of these kids, and they become very real as we hear their voices. One side plot involving a manager of the tie department didn't quite work, but the story more than compensates by offering us middle school intrigue with many twists and turns.
How many of us at one time or another that we could fit into that group. It's a shared feeling, and Howe brilliantly captures the agony of not fitting in, and the joy of finding a group to fit in with. After all, isn't that we all want?
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on January 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
The Misfits.. I don't even know where exactly to start. You may think the plot sounds a bit childish, four rejected young kids try to make a name for themselves. A name that's not an insult, for once. But it's actually very mature, told by Bobby Goodspeed, the "fat kid" of Paintbrush Falls.

Bobby says that misfits tend to stick together within the hurtful depths of pre-teen pressure. And that's true. Bobby is joined my Skeezie, a rebellious dirty boy; Joe, the openly gay and fashion crazed; and Addie, little miss female-rights-activist. But to others, they don't have names. They're called Greasy, Fairy, Beanpole, and Lardbar.

Once a week, our little misfits meet up for "the forum", where they eat and (mostly Addie) discuss how to change things around, so that their peers can see them for what they are on the inside, behind the sexuality, fustration, anger, and over-eating. They can see their inner beauty, compassion, and intellegence. What really matters.

It's easy to relate to them. It's also very descriptive, Bobby shares all the details so the picture in your mind has no blank spaces. It's also one of the uniquest reads I bet you will ever pick up. Remember how i said they're trying to change? Not only socially, but also.. politically.

Addie decides to create an independent party in the student council election, complete with some fellow misfits: Addie, Bobby, and a popular (and one of very few that are colored) boy by the name of DuShawn.

The battle for president is even harder with the leader of the elections against Addie for her protesting in homeroom.

So join the election that will leave Paintbrush Falls (as well as yourself) speechless and perminatly changed, forever.
Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Colleen Pietrobono on December 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
The reason i started to read this book was because of my language arts class which made me think that the book was going to be a boring dud. I was pleasantly surprised to find that throughout the book each chapter was laced with humor and realism. It completely captured what life is like as a middle schooler, not what a forty-year-old man perceives it to be. Although I could not fully relate to the charcaters i felt as though they were my friends not just a group of kids. My favorite charcter was Joe for his adorable sense of humor, keen sense of pop culture, and boldness. This book is full of struggles, differences, confusion, love, and most of all amusement inside a middle schooler's life.

-Allie P.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on July 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
Although this book is a little young for me, I read it on my younger brother's recommendation and was surprised at how good it was. James Howe has written here a humorous, well-voiced, and interesting story.

The only problems I found were that the characters, while supposedly twelve, seemed older (maybe 14), and the respective conflicts of the protagonists seemed to tie up a little too neatly at the end. However, I'm willing to forgive a little contrivance for a happy ending, especially when the story entertained me as much as this one did.

The Misfits is relatively short (big print: I read it in under three hours just before dinner the other day) but the plot is well-developed. Also, the main character Bobby Goodspeed's voice (as I said) was done well. The book tackles one of the biggest problems faced by (pre)teens, that is, being called names. However, it also deals with the hormones and agonies of that age.

I strongly recommend this, mostly to the younger crowd (say, 10-14, which is what the back cover says anyway) but really to anyone looking for a light, funny story about a couple of...well...misfits.
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