The Misfits is a young reader-friendly novel about name-calling. The protagonists include a gay boy, a smart girl, a supposed “hooligan”, and an overweight boy being raised by his dad. This band of “misfits” confronts homophobia, gender stereotypes, weight bias, ageism and racism (cleverly presented through one of the protagonists’ well-intentioned liberal agenda). Rich with social insights and issues (including the moments when you wish the author James Howe had gone further or handled a storyline differently), The Misfits offers educators some obvious teachable moments.
That said, here’s what was on one 5th grader’s mind: “What’s a department store?” (The narrator works part-time in a department store selling ties.)
I love it. Just when you think you know what the issue is… a child points out what you hadn’t even noticed. Scientists call it “inattentional blindness.” In diversity work, we’re usually blind to our own norms–which are glaringly obvious to those who don’t share those norms. Kind of like department stores.