Dear possible reader of this book,
What's faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a pound of Gorgonzola cheese? It's STINKY DOG, the hero of my new book. By a stroke of fate (or is it destiny?) the lovable (not to mention cute) Howie Monroe is transformed into Stinky Dog, protector of the innocent. (Don't worry, he's still lovable.) (Not to mention cute.) The secret of Stinky Dog's power is SUPER STENCH an odor so strong it can bend steel! (Am I good or what?) Joined by a smart-mouthed sidekick, a sparrow named Little D, Stinky Dog tries to save Center City from villainous, low-life, miserable, rotten, wicked, kindergarten-scissors-stealing gangs who roam the streets, knocking down little old ladies and running off with their handbags!
Uncle Harold says my book is TERRIFIC! Well, okay, he also said I got a little carried away with the thesaurus and used three (or four or five) words when one would do.
I have no idea what he's talking about. I just hope you enjoy the story.
|Publisher:||Atheneum Books for Young Readers|
|Series:||Tales from the House of Bunnicula Series , #6|
|Product dimensions:||5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.40(d)|
|Lexile:||750L (what's this?)|
|Age Range:||7 - 9 Years|
About the Author
James Howe is the author of more than ninety books for young readers, including the modern classic Bunnicula and its highly popular sequels. In 2001, Howe published The Misfits, the story of four outcast seventh-graders who try to end name-calling in their school. The Misfits is now widely read and studied in middle schools throughout the country, and was the inspiration for the national movement known as No Name-Calling Week (NoNameCallingWeek.org), an event observed by thousands of middle and elementary schools annually. There are three companion novels to The Misfits: Totally Joe (2005), Addie on the Inside (2011), and Also Known as Elvis (2014). Howe’s many other books for children from preschool through teens frequently deal with the acceptance of difference and being true to oneself. Visit him online at JamesHowe.com.
Read an Excerpt
I am so upset I can't write! Well, okay, I can write, but I can't write a book! I owe my editor another book soon, and I don't even have an idea. I don't think my editor would be very happy to get a book about how I just had my third bath in three days!
You would think -- what with his being a college professor and her being a lawyer and all -- that Mr. and Mrs. Monroe would be smart enough to figure out that a dog isn't a dog without certain smells in his life.
But do they say, "Oh, Howie, what is that delightful aroma -- a new aftershave?"
Nooooo. They say, "P. U.! Howie, you stink! Have you been rolling around in the compost heap again? Now you're going to have to have another bath."
Then they tell me that the pile of garbage and rotting food and smelly weeds in the far corner of the yard is there to make fertilizer for their garden. Fine. I have nothing against fertilizer. In fact, I'm all for fertilizer. But how come they get to enjoy it and Uncle Harold and I don't?
Life is so unfair.
Especially when you're a dog.
I'm going up to Toby's room to sulk. Maybe a good sulk will clear my head so I can come up with an idea for my next book.
Oh, the curse of the writer's life! Readers demand more books. Editors give you contracts, then insist that you actually write the books you promised you would. But what of the poor writer? Is he a machine, churning out books as if they were nothing more than chew bones or squeaky toys? (Not that I have anything against chew bones or squeaky toys.) Or is he a living, breathing creature made of flesh and blood who can't be expected to create whenhe's been scolded (again) for rolling around in the compost heap and made to suffer the indignity of three baths in three days!?
Life is so unfair.
Especially when you're a dog.
And a writer.
The best thing just happened! Toby was in his room, reading this big stack of comic books, and he must have known how I was feeling because he said, "Come on up here, boy, and let me read to you."
So I did, and he did, and now I know what I'm going to write!
By Howie Monroe
"TROUBLE IN CENTER CITY"
Things were bad in Center City. Gangs roamed the streets, knocking little old ladies down and running off with their handbags. Signs were posted everywhere:
GANGS CARRYING HANDBAGS MAY BE DANGEROUS
No one was safe. Not even dogs. Dogs were not allowed to be smelly. If they were, they were locked up in the jug. The can. The cooler. The hoosegow.
People kept their little old ladies indoors and gave their dogs baths every day. Sometimes more than once.
It was a terrible time.
Howie Monroe, a decent, mild-mannered, and law-abiding citizen of Center City, worried about the safety of his family, the Monroes, even though they gave him too many baths and would not let him roll around in their compost heap.
Why have a compost heap, he wanted to know, if you can't roll around in
Howie wished there was something he could do to make life better in Center City, but what could he do? After all, he was only one small dachshund in a world gone mad, one tiny voice in a sea of voices, one pebble in a field of boulders, one itsy-bitsy minnow in a school of sharks! He didn't even dare leave his house for fear that, unable to resist the lure of the compost heap, he would be picked up for unlawful stinkiness and tossed into the clink where he'd have to share a cell with gangs of criminals armed with handbags.
One day he was sleeping under the coffee table when he was awakened by a loud
KEERASHHH from outside. Harold and Chester, the other decent, mild-mannered (except Chester, sometimes), and law-abiding pets with whom he shared his home, came running into the room.
"What was that?" Chester the cat cried out in alarm.
"It sounded like KEERASHHH to me!" said the keenly aware dachshund puppy.
"Let's investigate," said Harold.
They all jumped up onto the sofa and peered out from behind the living room curtains.
Howie couldn't believe his ever-observant eyes. A large garbage truck had KEERASHHHed into the fire hydrant (his favorite fire hydrant, too, but never mind) in front of the house. Garbage was tumbling out of the truck while water sprayed through it, turning it into a big, gooey, soupy, smelly mess.
"It's every dog's dream!" Howie said, gasping.
"It's going to have to remain just that," Harold, the older and more sensible dog, said with a sigh. "A dream."
"But why?" Howie, the younger and more impulsive (not to mention impetuous and spontaneous) puppy, demanded to know, even though he already did. Know.
"The mayor of Center City hates smelly dogs," Harold reminded him.
"That's not fair!" cried the outspoken and righteous Howie. "We've got to do something about it!"
"There's nothing to be done," Harold said.
"Center City is full of corruption and crime," said Chester. "It will take somebody a lot more powerful than a mere mortal to do anything about it, Howie."
Howie scowled. He hated feeling powerless. Even worse, he hated feeling mere.
Whatever that was.
"Maybe I can do something about it!" cried the brave, courageous, and defiant pup. "Maybe I'll just go out there and roll around in that muck. I'd like to see somebody try and stop me!"
"No!" cried Harold. "You'll end up in the slammer, boy! You don't want to break your mother's heart!"
Howie sniffed back a tear. "My mother raised me to follow my conscience," Howie told the older dog. "She would be proud of me!"
Harold sniffed back a tear himself. "You're right," he said. "It takes a young fellow like yourself to remind old fellows like Chester and me that there's more to bravery than being brave. Sometimes there's being stupid."
"Right on!" Howie asserted.
SKREEEE -- he ran as fast as his little legs would carry him until KAPLOOMPH -- he shoved through the pet door and -- PLIPPITY PLOPPITY PLIPPITY PLOPPITY -- he charged around the yard until he reached the front curb and -- SHHPLOOFFF -- he threw himself into the soggy mess of garbage and waited for the coppers to arrive.
It didn't take long. ZEEHEE ZEE HEE ZEEHEE came the sound of the sirens. Howie Monroe braced himself. He was about to be arrested! He was going to spend the rest of his days in the Big House eating gruel and fearing handbags!
And that's just what would have happened if it hadn't been for the sudden storm that sent a bolt of lightning -- ZZZZZAPPP -- right to the hydrant next to Howie's back left leg. That bolt of lightning changed everything -- not just for the decent, mild-mannered, and law-abiding Howie Monroe...not just for all the Monroes...not just for Center City...but for the ENTIRE UNIVERSE!
Text copyright © 2003 by James Howe Illustrations copyright © 2003 by Brett Helquist
Reading Group Guide
About the Book
“ . . . Hilarious and poignant . . . An upbeat and reassuring novel that encourages preteens and teens to celebrate their individuality.” —Publishers Weekly
« “Howe tells the truth about the pain and anger caused by jeers and name-calling in a fast, funny, tender story that will touch readers.” —Booklist, starred review
Bobby, Skeezie, Addie, and Joe are “the misfits.” Bobby is fat. Skeezie dresses like it’s 1957. Addie is tall, brainy, and outspoken. And Joe is gay. They’re used to being called names, but they know they’re better than the names they’re called.
Besides, they’ve always had each other when times got tough. And surviving seventh grade looks like it’s not going to be easy. Starting with Addie’s refusal to say the Pledge of Allegiance and her insistence on creating a new political party to run for student council, the Gang of Five, as the four friends call themselves, is in for the year of their lives. It’s a year in which they learn about politics and popularity, love and loss, and what it means to be a misfit. After years of insults, the Gang of Five is determined to stop name-calling at their school. Finally, they are going to stand up and be seen—not as the one-word jokes their classmates have tried to reduce them to, but as the full, complicated human beings they are just beginning to discover they truly are.
• Why do you think the author chose the character of Bobby Goodspeed to tell the story of The Misfits? Could you see another character narrating the novel instead? How would the novel be different with another narrator? How is Bobby wise beyond his years?
• The Misfits is a uniquely written novel. Part of the story is written in prose and part of it is in a play format. Do you like this style of writing? Did it help you to learn more about the characters as you were reading?
• Celebrating one’s individuality is a strong theme throughout The Misfits. Which characters “celebrate their individuality” more than others?
• We don’t learn that Bobby’s mother has died until halfway through the novel. Does learning this important fact about Bobby’s life enable us to understand him better? Why do you think the author chose to withhold this information about Bobby until halfway through the story?
• Other characters in The Misfits have also endured a loss. These losses have shaped their personalities and have affected each of them differently. Discuss how this is so. Is there a “right” way to deal with loss?
• How do you feel about the character of Addie? Do you find her frustrating, or refreshingly honest? Would you be friends with Addie if you had the opportunity? Can you sympathize with Ms. Wyman regarding her feelings toward Addie? Do you think that Ms. Wyman was once a little like Addie when she was younger? And how is Addie ultimately like Ms. Wyman?
• Bobby, Skeezie, Addie, and Joe rebel against name-calling and base the platform for their new political party on banishing name-calling. However, they are guilty of calling people names themselves. Cite examples throughout the book where they fall into this trap. Do you think they realize that they are name-callers? Is name-calling a natural part of who we are or is it learned? Can name-calling ever be a positive thing?
• Examine and discuss the following pairings: Bobby and Mr. Kellerman, Addie and Ms. Wyman, Joe and Colin. How does each relationship demonstrate how people who seem outwardly very different can actually be very much alike?
• The role of family is significant in the development of each character in The Misfits. Talk about each character’s connection with his or her family. How do the families help to define each character?
• Bobby is surprised to discover that Pam was not popular when she was his age. How is this eye-opening and ultimately inspiring for Bobby? Do you think that Ms. Wyman, Mr. Kellerman and Bobby’s dad were “popular” when they were in seventh grade, or do you think they were more like the Gang of Five?
• Bobby tells his friends that his dad says, “It’s better to just get along [and] not make waves . . . [B]ringing attention can be a dangerous thing.” Why do you think he said this to Bobby?
• Mr. Kellerman makes the comment that “we’re all so ready to believe the worst about ourselves . . . we just accept them without even thinking about what they mean or even if they’re true.” Do you agree or disagree with him?
• Although the No-Name Party ultimately loses the student council election, Bobby puts the loss into perspective by saying “sometimes it is about winning something much bigger.” How does the No-Name Party “win” anyway? Can you think of other examples where something has been lost, but something much bigger has been won?
• The ending of The Misfits gives a glimpse into the Gang of Five’s future. What surprised you about the ending of the story? Can you try to predict how your circle of friends at school will end up one day? • After finishing the story, do you think Addie, Bobby, Skeezie, and Joe are really misfits?
• Does The Misfits present a realistic portrayal of life in middle school or junior high? Why or why not?
• After reading the book, do you wish that any of the characters were your friends? Who and why?
• Do you think it’s possible for two boys or two girls to go out together in your school? Why or why not?
• What do you think of the expression, “That’s so gay,” or “He/she is so gay”? Does being gay or not affect your opinion?
• Is your school and/or your community a safe place to be a “misfit”?
• What is the difference between seeing someone as “different” from you and “less than” you?
• Do you think it’s possible for a mixed-race couple to date in your school? Why or why not?
• Why does Addie refuse to say the Pledge of Allegiance? What do you think of her position? Do you agree or disagree with the position of the principal, Mr. Kiley?
• Of all the characters in the book, who do you think shows the most courage and why?
• Do you think the resolution of the story is realistic or a fairy-tale ending? Is it better for fiction to reflect the way things are or point the way to how things could be?
• Is it possible for unpopular kids to be friends with—or go out with —popular kids? If not, what gets in the way of making this possible?
• Addie, Joe, Bobby, and Skeezie are strong characters. What are their strengths and how do these strengths help them?
• Addie makes assumptions about DuShawn. What are they and what does she learn that’s different from what she thought? Discuss other assumptions the characters make and what they’re based on. What assumptions do you make about groups or types of people?
• Discuss the character of Kelsey. What is it that makes someone “painfully” shy?
Activities and Research
• Research the history of name-calling. Did you know that in the past, people were jailed or even killed for calling people names? Research historical situations where this was an outcome of name-calling. Can name-calling still carry significant consequences in today’s world? When has name-calling been used to oppress people?
• Cite situations today where name-calling is used to ruin a person’s reputation. Provide current examples involving celebrities, members of the media, politicians, or local figures by reading the newspaper or scanning the Internet for several days or a week.
• Find out more about the different political parties that exist in the United States, other than the Republican and Democratic parties. Why and when were these political parties launched, and what do they stand for? What party would you join?
• If you had the opportunity to create a new political party for a school election, what would your platform be? How would you promote the party? Design several potential election posters with different logos and share them with your classmates.
• Talk with your parents, grandparents, a teacher, or an older sibling about their experiences in middle school or junior high. Do they reveal anything surprising? Did you have any preconceived notions about that time in their lives, only to find out that they were actually very different?
• Research the history of the Pledge of Allegiance and the controversies that have arisen over its use in schools and students’ refusal to participate in its recital.
• Research the experiences of gay students in the past and the present. An excellent resource is www.GLSEN.org, the website of GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network).
• Write about your own experiences of being a misfit, or what you imagine it is like for others who don’t fit into the mainstream in your school.
This reading group guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I wunder if james howe is actually gunna be writin howie Monroe 'nd ta 'nchnted chewbone ev'r how 'bout u 'cuz im gunna wanna no soon 's it comes out 'ey im talkin' like Hamlet oh and im only 'lev'n but best kidz book 'views 're cumin' frum kidz right - Maya