Booklist calls "The Misfits," by James Howe, “a fast, funny, tender story that will touch readers as much as all the recent books about school violence.”
Booklist calls "The Misfits," by James Howe, “a fast, funny, tender story that will touch readers as much as all the recent books about school violence.”
Seventh-grader Bobby Goodspeed calls them "the dreaded middle-school years" - and he has good reason to do so.

Goodspeed is the fictional narrator of The Misfits, by James Howe - a book that Booklist calls "a fast, funny, tender story that will touch readers as much as all the recent books about school violence."

"(The Misfits) tells the truth about the pain and anger caused by jeers and name-calling," Booklist continues. "The narrator, Bob ('fatso'), joins with his three 'loser' friends in the seventh grade -- Joe ('faggot'), Addie ("beanpole," 'know-it-all'), and Skeezie ('wop,' 'ree-tard') -- to challenge the usual popularity-contest class elections and get kids and teachers to change."

As part of a school-wide program to enact exactly that kind of change, all 470 students at Decorah Middle School (DMS) are reading The Misfits. Every day, during an end-of-day group advising period, students and teachers read aloud from Howe's book, and talk together about the issues it raises.

"Teachers have said they've had some pretty good discussions," says DMS Principal Leona Hoth.

Remembering their own middle-school years, few adults reading this article would disagree with Bobby Goodspeed's assessment.

"Middle school is tough years for kids," Hoth says. "They're deciding what their interests are; they're making a lot of big decisions at this time ... and bullying is going to happen."

Lee Stock, DMS guidance counselor, concurs.

"I would say, find any school where bullying isn't an issue," he says. "There are very few kids that aren't recipients of it at some point."

In the interest of preventing bullying in school, Decorah Middle School introduced the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in 2005.

"By 2006 "we were really rolling," Hoth says. "We were looking for a systematic approach to confronting bullying - where all teachers were trained and given the same message on how to handle these issues."

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