The Misfits

Author: James Howe
Reading Range: 5.2 (AR Finder)
Interest Range: 4-8 (AR Finder)
Plot: Addie, Bobbie, Joe, and Skeezie are the popular targets of bullies at their school. They have been friends for a very long time and they call themselves the “Gang of Five” even through there is only four of them. Addie is the most outspoken member of their group. She often gets into arguments with their teacher, Ms. Wyman. When the student government election come up, she wants to run a third-party called “The Freedom Party.” She picks DuShawn to be their president because he is  and his people have been oppressed. He is one of the most popular kids at school. He ends up dropping out of their group but before he does he tells them that he thinks they are the ones who are the most picked on. Plus, they are not allowed to run their third-party unless they have a platform. Bobbie has an idea that instead of being “The Freedom Party” they should be the no name calling party. They start a secret poster campaign with the names they have been called. Their platform is accepted but then they have to get elected.
Review: This book is for anyone who is an outsider. The “Gang of Five” are outsiders in their school for different reasons. Addie is an outsider because she is smart tall. Bobbie is an outsider because he is overweight and he sees too much. Joe is an outsider because he is gay and has no problem with being gay. Skeezie is an outsider because it seems like he stepped out of a James Dean movie. They accept each other and their quirks. One of my favorite side stories from this book is about Bobbie’s boss. His mother has just died and Bobbie’s mother had been died for a number of years. They start to bond over that and find they have something in common. I would recommend this book even through I know that the subject manner would make some people uncomfortable. In fact, this book has made a few people uncomfortable.
Additional Info:
This book uses language some parents might find objectionable. It also contains a scene where a character has comes out. I did some research and this book has been banned and challenged in a number of schools. I just read a story where a teacher was using the book in class to teach but she had to stop using it because a parent complained. I thought it would be because of the issue of homosexuality in tweens.
Main Characters:
Addie-Addie would be considered the brains of the group. She is very passionate about issues and expresses her mind. This has gotten her in trouble a number of times.
Bobbie-Bobbie is the narrator of this story. His mother has died and he lives with his father. He has a job selling ties which he is very good at.
Joe-Joe is very expressive having no problem with his sexuality. He feels he does not fit in.
Skeezie-Skeezie is a greaser. He is one of the most unusual characters in the book. He does what he feels is right.
DuShawn-DuShawn is one of the most popular students at school. He likes Addie but she does not know.
Colin-Joe and Addie both have a crush on him. He is another popular student.
Ms. Wyman-Ms. Wyman is their history teacher. Addie and her often fight over issues.
Mr. Kiley-Mr. Kiley is the principal of the school.

Theme: Coming of age, Dangers of ignorance, Desire to escape, Empowerment, Names – power and significance

Bibliographic Info:

Howe, J. (2001) The Misfits. New York, NY: Aladdin Fiction


Sticks and stones may break our bones, but names will break our spirit.


Here Lies Linc

Author: Delia Ray
Reading Range: 5.2 (AR Finder)
Interest Range: MG 4-8 (AR Finder)
Plot: Linc is starting his first year of real school. He has been homeschooled before this time with other children of professors. His mother, Lottie, is a professor who researches the history of burial customs. She and Linc travel around the country looking at different grave sites. His father passed away when he was younger of a heart attack. They live close to a graveyard so that Lottie can do her research. His history class is given an assignment where they have to document the history of a gravestone. He chosen the local “cursed” angel to write his report on. While researching his report, he becomes friends with a girl named Delaney. She is researching a grave with the last name of Raintree which is the middle name of Linc’s father. They started researching Raintree together and discover this person had a tie to Link’s dead father.
Review: At first glance this book seems to be another story about a boy trying to fit in but it is really about dealing with grief. Lottie studies gravestones but she cannot stand having anything of her husband around. Linc’s father died unexpected leaving a big hole in both Linc and Lottie. Even Delaney is processing grief. Her mother had a baby that was stillborn. Her mother is pregnant again and she marks the days down until that baby is born. She worries this baby will not make it either. It is also about how people find ways to maintain the link with their dead family members. Delaney finds comfort in walking through the baby part of the graveyard and seeing how people still put flowers and toys for their children. Linc finds comfort in discovering an unknown tie to his father. I would recommend this book. Even through it is about grief, it is still humorous.
Additional Info:
The grave that Linc did his report on is based on a real person and real grave. The author researched the history of the angel and the woman who had it built.
Main Characters:
Linc-He is the main character. He is starting his first year of school which happens to be middle school. He was homeschooled before this time.
Lottie-She is Linc’s mother. She is professor of history who specializes in burial customs.
Lincoln-He is Linc’s dad. He is dead during this story but Linc thinks about him often. He is still important to Linc.
Jeeter-He is the graveyard keeper. He is also Linc’s friend and his father’s friend. He helps Linc when he can.
Delaney-She is a new girl at school. She and Linc become friends.

Theme:  Circle of life, Dangers of ignorance, Death,  Lost love

Bibliographic Info:

Ray, D. (2011). Here lies linc. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knofp.


The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexie
Reading Range: 4.0 (AR Book Finder)
Interest Range: Young Adult (Follett Library Resources)
Plot:  This story is about a teenage boy named Junior, who lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Junior is a cartoonist and he draws about his experiences. He was born with medical problems.  Junior decides he wants a good education so he chooses to go to the white school off the reservation. He was picked on before but now it gets worse.  The Indians are mad him for leaving and now the whites are not too fond of him either. He has to find a way to survive in his new school.
Review: Although this book is at a reading level of 4.0, it is really written for high school students.  It deals with teenage issues like identity, sex and drugs and alcohol and profanit. Sherman is very funny. I went to an author’s talk he did a number of years ago in Buffalo, New York and he was hilarious. He does present reservation life in a very negative light. Truthfully, there are many problems on reservation and they do need to be address. At sametime, there are some good things about reservation life. This is one of the few popular books written about life on the reservation and people might assume that it is the same for all Native people not realizing that we all have different experiences.
Additional Info: This book can be pretty raunchy because of the language and Junior likes to talk abut mastrubuation a lot. Other people seem to take issue with the fact that a lot of the characters around Junior die due to drugs and alcohol.  Honestly, there are a lot of deaths on Indian reservations due to drugs and alcohol so that part is realistic.
Main Characters:

Arnold Spirit, Jr. (Junior) –Junior is a cartoonist who documents his life. He had several medical issues as a child and still has problems. He is going to an off-reservation school.

Junior’s Mom (Agnes Adams) –Junior considers his mother one of the smartest people he knows. He often wonders what her life would be like if she did not live on the reservation.  She is a former alcoholic.

Junior’s Dad (Arnold Spirit, Sr.) –He is a talented musician but he is an alcoholic.

Mr. P –He is a geometry teacher at the reservation school. He encourages Junior to leave the reservation.

Rowdy –He was Junior’s best friend before Junior start to the white school. He is abused by his father. He fights and is considered very tough. Junior spends the book trying to get Rowdy to forgive him.

Mary –Junior’s sister. She is also known as Mary Run Away. She lives in their basement after high school. She secretly writes romance novels.

Gordy –He becomes Junior’s friend while at Reardan. He teaches Junior many things about life and he calls him out when he needs to.

Penelope –Junior’s crush at his new school. They start to “date.” She is bulimic.

Junior’s Grandma (Grandma Spirit) –Grandma Spirit provides Junior advice when he needs it. She believed in tolerance and accepting people for who they are. She travels to different pow wows.

Theme: Death, Man struggles against society, Overcoming adversity

Bibliographic Info:

Alexie, Sherman . (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian.   New York, NY: Hachette  Book Group.


School of Fear

Author:  Gitty Daneshvari

Reading Range:  6.2 (AR

Interest Range: 4-6 (

Plot:  After annoying their families with their fears, four children are forced by their families to go to the School of Fear during the summer.  This school is hidden and kept secret from anyone who could learn about it.  There they are forced by their ex-beauty queen headmistress, Mrs. Wellington, to face their worst fears.  Madeleine is afraid of spiders. Theo is afraid of death. Lulu is afraid of small spaces. Garrison is afraid of deep water.  Mrs. Wellington’s six-week curriculum is either going to cure their fears or kill them. Is she just insane or an insane genius? A tragedy forces them to band together to save Mrs. Wellington’s beloved bulldog, Macaroni (Mac), and the school. Can they put aside their fears and band together?

Review:  This is a funny book that exaggerate common fears people have.  It does show how fear can limit the lives of people even if it is exaggerated. Madeleine is so afraid of insects that she cannot live without her bug spray the veils she wears to keep bugs away from her. Theo cannot stand not knowing where his family is in case one of them dies. Lulu cannot go into an elevator or any small place. Garrison lives in Florida and they have hurricanes in Florida. What is interesting is that even through Mrs. Wellington seems crazy she sometimes has good insights when she tells Garrison that working through fear is a process and if his father cannot handle that his fear of Garrison’s fear says more about him then Garrison. This book left me smiling at the end and eager to read the next one.

Additional Info:  The first book in the “School of Fear’ series.

Main Characters:

Madeleine Masterson-Madeleine is from London, England.  She is so scared of insects and spiders, she has to cover herself head to toe in bug spray. She is not able to work around without her veil.

Theodore Bartholomew-Theo is from New York city where he lives with his parents and brothers and sisters.  He is so afraid of death and dying he has his family check-in with him nearly every hour. He knows a lot of facts about accidents and death which he annoys people with.

Lulu Punchalower-Lulu is from Providence, Rhode Island.  She lives with her parents and brother. She is tough and with strong views but she has claustrophobia.

Garrison Feldman-He lives in Florida with his parents. He is the star athlete but no one knows his deep, dark secret-his fear of water. He hides this fear because he is afraid of losing his popularity. He finds School of Fear so that he can face his fears.

Mrs. Wellington-The headmistress of School of fear. She founded it and has successful treated nearly every children who came to her except for one. Her curriculum is unusual.

Schmidty-the caretaker.

Macaroni-Or Mac as he is known. He is a bulldog who can sleep electronics.

Themes:  Empowerment, Fear of failure, Overcoming fear

Bibliographic Info:

Daneshvari, G. (2009). School of fear. New York, NY: Scholastic

Tagline: Everyone’s afraid of something. . .

School of Fear

School of Fear.


Four kids are spent to a super-secret school where they are forced to face their fears.