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Children's Literature Reviews
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A corner of the universe
Ann M. Martin.
Publisher description
New York : Scholastic Press, 2002.
189 p. ; 22 cm.


The summer that Hattie turns twelve, she meets the childlike uncle she never knew and becomes friends with a girl who works at the carnival that comes to Hattie's small town.

Best Books:

Best Children's Books of the Year, 2003 ; Bank Street College of Education; United States
Booklist Book Review Stars, Dec. 1, 2002 ; American Library Association; United States
Booklist Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 2002 ; American Library Association; United States
Booklist Top 10 Historical Fiction for Youth, 2003 ; American Library Association; United States
Capitol Choices, 2002 ; The Capitol Choices Committee; United States
Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2003 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Children's Catalog, Nineteenth Edition, 2006 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Children's Literature Choice List, 2002 ; Children's Literature; United States
Horn Book Fanfare, 2002 ; Horn Book; United States
Kirkus Book Review Stars, October 1, 2002 ; United States
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Ninth Edition, 2005 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Middle and Junior High School Library Catalog, Supplement to the Eighth Edition, 2003 ; H.W. Wilson; United States
Notable Children's Books, 2003 ; ALSC American Library Association; United States
Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 2003 ; National Council for the Social Studies NCSS; United States
Publishers Weekly Best Children's Books, 2002 ; Cahners; United States
Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, July 22, 2002 ; Cahners; United States
School Library Journal Book Review Stars, September 2002 ; Cahners; United States
Young Adults' Choices, 2004 ; International Reading Association; United States

Awards, Honors, Prizes:

ABC Children's Booksellers Choices Award, 2003 Winner Young Adults United States
Dolly Gray Award for Children's Literature in Developmental Disabilities, 2004 Nominee Picture Book United States
John Newbery Medal, 2003 Honor Book United States
Kentucky Bluegrass Award, 2004 Winner Grades 6-8 Kentucky
NAIBA Book of the Year Awards, 2003 Winner Children's Novel United States
Thumbs Up! Award, 2003 Nominee Michigan

State and Provincial Reading Lists:

Arizona Young Readers' Award, 2005 ; Nominee; Teen Books; Arizona
Charlie May Simon Children’s Book Award Reading List, 2004-2005 ; Nominee; Grades 4-6; Arkansas
Colorado Blue Spruce Award, 2004-2005 ; Nominee; Colorado
Colorado Blue Spruce Young Adult Book Award, 2004-2005 ; Nominee; Colorado
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award, 2003-2004 ; Nominee; Vermont
Flicker Tale Children's Book Award, 2007 ; Nominee; Juvenile Fiction; North Dakota
Garden State Children's Book Award, 2005 ; Nominee; Juvenile Fiction; New Jersey
Iowa Teen Award, 2006-2007 ; Nominee; Grades 6-9; Iowa
Nene Award, 2005 ; Nominee; Hawaii
Soaring Eagle Book Award, 2004-2005 ; Nominee; Grades 7-12; Wyoming
Voice of Youth Award, 2004-2005 ; Nominee; 7th and 8th Grade; Illinois
William Allen White Children's Book Award, 2004-2005 ; Master List; Grades 6-8; Kansas

Curriculum Tools:

Link to a discussion guide at the Scholastic website

Reading Measurement Programs:

Accelerated Reader
Interest Level Upper Grade
Book Level 4.5
Accelerated Reader Points 6
Accelerated Vocabulary

Lexile, MetaMetrics, Inc.
Lexile Measure 750

Reading Counts-Scholastic
Interest Level 6-8
Reading Level 6
Title Point Value 11
Lexile Measure 750

Standards of Learning Information

Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 2003 ; Individual Development and Identity-IV; National Council for the Social Studies NCSS


Ilene Cooper (Booklist, Dec. 1, 2002 (Vol. 99, No. 7))
It is 1960, Hattie Owen is about to turn 12, and her world is about to be turned upside down. She loves her small town and the boarding house her parents run (enabling her father to pursue his art), in part because of the security and familiarity her surroundings represent. The boarders seem to be as much a part of the family as her grandparents, who live in a mansion and literally look down their noses at the Owens. But Hattie's perceptions of life in general—and her life in particular—change when 21-year-old Uncle Adam returns to town after his residential school closes. Adam seems to be manic-depressive, and he's a savant when it comes to dates. He's news to Hattie, but he mostly delights her, and she feels she can help him. His problems, however, are more than anyone—including Adam—can handle. The book's message—that people like Adam help "lift the corners of the universe"—is passionately offered, though perhaps too oft repeated. It is Martin's characters that shine, especially Hattie, who is trying to feel her way through family secrets, and Adam, whose valiant efforts to forge a life for himself are as uplifting as his failures are heartrending. The supporting characters are strong pillars that hold up the rest of the story, and their subtle depictions provide a depth that makes it much more than a "problem novel." This is a fully realized roller coaster of emotions, and readers take the ride right along with Hattie. Category: Books for Middle Readers--Fiction. 2002, Scholastic, $15.95. Gr. 6-8. Starred Review

Midwest Book Review (Children's Bookwatch, April 2003)
Hattie Owen is a pre-teen before she discovers the existence of an odd uncle, Adam, who is returning to her grandparents' home after his special home/school is closed. Adam suffers from a mental illness which affects his behavior but doesn't mask his intelligence. Hattie's experiences during a summer with her new uncle and the new carnival in town, which brings unexpected friendships to a shy young girl, culminate in an unexpected tragedy. A Corner Of The Universe is hard to put down and a moving portrayal of the life of a small-town girl with close family ties comes to life under Martin's experienced pen. The Fiction Shelf ...., Scholastic, $15.95. ages 10+

Christy Oestreich (Children's Literature)
The summer of 1960 is quite a life-changing experience for eleven-year-old Hattie Owens who lives in a small town named Millerton. Her parents own a boarding house. Hattie thought she would have the same old predictable summer of spending time with her family's boarders, reading books, and enjoying other favorite pastimes until she meets her Uncle Adam. She didn't know her uncle existed until her Nana and Papa tell her that he is coming to live with them because his "school" has closed down. Hattie is confused and curious as to why she never knew about Adam and can't wait to meet him. When Hattie meets Adam he is excited to see her and quickly starts quoting lines from the "I Love Lucy" show, which Hattie thinks is funny. While she spends time with Adam she begins to understand that he has a mental illness, but Hattie doesn't pay much mind. They develop a friendship on Adam's level, which means a lot to Hattie because she has only one friend who is gone for the summer. Hattie also befriends Leila, whose family owns the traveling carnival in town for the summer. For Hattie's 12th birthday, Adam and Leila want to give a special birthday party. One night during a dinner party, Hattie encourages Adam to sneak out and join her at the carnival, which is the night that changes everyone's lives. Before Adam realizes his fate, he tells Hattie that she is the only one who truly understands him. Ann Martin has written with such compassion, grace, and consideration that the reader can feel Hattie and Adam's endearing friendship. This book is wonderful for those seeking understanding of how individuals with mental illness live and view their lives. It is a gentle book that young adults will tearfully enjoy and walk away from with a new view of people who are different and the importance of accepting them for who they are. 2002, Scholastic Press, $15.95. Ages 12 up.

Kirkus (Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2002 (Vol. 70, No. 19))
In July of 1960, just as she is turning 12, Hattie Owen's quiet, solitary summer-occupied with books, the various residents of her parents' boarding house, small errands about town, and avoiding her grandmother-is disrupted, bringing a loss of a kind of innocence and a look at the wide borders of the world. Hattie's autistic, emotionally challenged young uncle returns home to live with his parents after the institutional school in which he has lived half his life-and all of Hattie's-closes permanently. Hattie's well-to-do and severe grandparents are clearly burdened by their difficult child, but Hattie is intrigued, and charmed, by Adam's rapid-fire way of talking, his free-associating, and his liberal use of dialogue from "I Love Lucy." Adam's quirky, childlike enthusiasm and his obvious delight with her endear him to Hattie immediately, as does his vulnerability to Nana's strictures on behavior. When a carnival comes to town Hattie befriends Leila, a girl who travels in the carnival with her family, and it is Adam and Leila who together give Hattie her first birthday celebration among friends. Adam's crush on one of the boarders at the Owens' rooming house is the catalyst for the tragic ending, though Adam's fundamental inability to protect his feelings in the world destroys him. His suicide and its aftermath-his siblings' grief, his mother's sudden remorse, Hattie's courage to speak at his funeral-are nearly unsurprising, but moving nevertheless. In the end Hattie has had a glimpse into, as she says, "how quickly our world can swing between what is comfortable and familiar and what is unexpected and horrifying," and she has opted for herself to live in such a world, to keep lifting the corners of the universe. Martin's voice for Hattie is likable, clear, and consistent; her prose doesn't falter. A solid, affecting read. 2002, Scholastic, $15.95. Category: Fiction. Ages 11 to 13. Starred Review. © 2002 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Paula Rohrlick (KLIATT Review, November 2002 (Vol. 36, No. 6))
Last summer, the summer I turned twelve, was the summer Adam came," Hattie tells us at the start of this bittersweet tale set in 1960--and his arrival turns her quiet small-town life upside down. Adam is Hattie's 21-year-old uncle, whose existence had been kept a secret from her. He has been in a school for the mentally disabled since he was a child, but when it closes down Adam returns to the home of his rigid, controlling mother, Hattie's grandmother. Adam, who is impulsive and exuberant, fascinates Hattie; she feels he is a kindred spirit, a "visiting alien" like her, and he expands her world. Hattie is quiet and shy, reveling in the warmth of the boarding house her parents run and her friendships with the eccentric boarders, but Adam's presence emboldens her to defy her grandmother and help Adam--and herself--to enjoy some new experiences. One of these is an illicit visit to a traveling carnival, where Hattie has made a friend. When they get stuck briefly on top of the Ferris wheel, however, Adam panics, and Hattie must face the consequences. Even more tragically, Adam has a crush on a pretty boarder, and when he bursts into her room and finds her in bed with her boyfriend he is so distraught that he commits suicide. Hattie learns "how quickly our world can swing between what is comfortable and familiar and what is unexpected and horrifying, " but she has also learned from Adam "that we have to talk about things," as well as the importance of exploring the world, lifting "the corners of the universe." Martin, the author of Belle Teal and other books for YAs, offers a sympathetic portrait of the mentally ill in this sensitive, tender coming-of-age tale. Like Ruth White's Memories of Summer, another look at the impact of mental illness on a young relative, this is an insightful and affecting tale of how a girl arrives at a hard-won new understanding of others. Category: Hardcover Fiction. KLIATT Codes: J--Recommended for junior high school students. 2002, Scholastic, 208p., $15.95. Ages 12 to 15.

Maria Salvadore (Parents Guide, Fall 2002 (Vol. 5, No. 1))
Though she's never heard her family talk about him, Adam is Hattie's uncle whose stay will only last until another "school" -- actually an institution for the mentally disabled -- is found. Adam arrives in Hattie Owen's small town the summer she turns twelve and changes forever her predictable world through an unpredictable and touching friendship. 2002, Scholastic Press, $15.95. Ages 9 to 12.

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
Martin (Belle Teal; the Baby-Sitters Club series) hints at a life-changing event from the first paragraph of this novel narrated by a perceptive and compassionate 12-year-old, and set in the summer of 1960. Hattie Owen had been anticipating a summer as comfortably uneventful as all the others ("I just want things all safe and familiar," she admits), helping her mother run their boarding house, painting alongside her artist father and reading "piles" of books. Then Uncle Adam (whom Hattie never knew existed) makes a surprise entrance, turning everything upside-down. Hattie's mother says that Uncle Adam has "mental problems." Hattie's grandparents act embarrassed whenever he is around, and her peers laugh at him. The author authentically conveys the ripples Adam sends through this small town. The heroine is continually amazed by his outlandish antics, moved by his sudden mood changes and secretly wonders if she and Adam might be kindred spirits. Hattie finds adventure and tragedy as well as enlightenment as she "lifts the corners of universe" in order to better understand Adam. With characteristic tenderness and wisdom, the author portrays the complex relationship between the sympathetic heroine and her uncle ("I feel a little like his baby-sitter, a little like his mother, not at all like his niece, and quite a bit like his friend"). Readers will relate to Hattie's fear of being as "different" as Adam, and will admire her willingness to befriend an outcast. Hearts will go out to both Hattie and Adam as they step outside the confines of their familiar world to meet some painful challenges. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)"

Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly)
A 12-year-old girl had been anticipating a summer as comfortably uneventful as all the others—until her uncle with "mental problems" makes a surprise entrance, turning everything upside-down. "Hearts will go out to both as they step outside the confines of their familiar world to meet some painful challenges," wrote PW\n in a starred review. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)\n"

Lindsay Schwanbeck (The ALAN Review, Spring/Summer 2003 (Vol. 30, No. 3))
Hattie Owens begins her summer vacation in the typical way: helping her parents run their boarding house and drinking lemonade on the front porch. But life changes when Adam enters their world. Adam is Hattie's 21-year-old, mentally disabled uncle; until now she has never even heard of him. The Owens' world is thrown upside down as they learn to care for and relate to Adam. Hattie's grandmother has difficulty dealing with Adam's unsophisticated ways and loud temper tantrums. Yet Hattie and Adam are instant friends, and she discovers that Adam brightens her world with his happiness. Through this relationship, Hattie must struggle with family, friendship, and what it means to be different. This is a beautiful tale of heartache and true friendship that challenges readers both to evaluate how they relate to those who are different, and find a way to "lift a corner of the universe" by exploring beyond their world. Category: Fiction/Mental Disabilities/Family. YA--Young Adult. 2002, Scholastic Press, 189 pp., $15.95. Ages young adult.Wheaton, IL

Deborah Stevenson (The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, February 2003 (Vol. 56, No. 6))
Eleven-year-old Hattie enjoys her secure life in her parents’ boarding house with boarders exotic (the beauteous Angel Valentine) and familiar (the elderly Miss Hagerty), so it’s a real shock to her circumscribed life when her parents inform her about the existence of an uncle she’s never known. Adam is in his early twenties, afflicted with psychological and behavioral problems that have led Hattie’s grandparents to place him in a special school, which is now closing. Despite (or perhaps because of) his frenetic outbursts and lack of self-control, Hattie becomes friends with her outcast uncle and widens her world still further by befriending a girl working at the summer carnival in town. Hattie’s voice is preternaturally adult at times, and the proceedings are sometimes too obviously stage-managed (the opening post-event flashback, which foreshadows the eventual tragedy, is particularly superfluous), but this is nonetheless a tender and sympathetic story. Martin effectively captures small-town life in 1960 and the dynamics of those operating within it, especially Hattie’s patrician grandparents, steeped in awareness of their societal position and conflicted about their bewildering youngest son, and their daughter, Hattie’s mother, torn between submission to her parents and the desire to live her own unconventional life. Hattie herself grows beyond her shy complacency, convincingly finding in Adam a motivation for some preteen rebellion (“I want Adam to have one wild, thrilling evening with no one around to tell him to use his party manners”) and learning to challenge some of the family ways she’d taken for granted. This is a quiet and focused story of individual growth and family change in the face of strain and loss. Review Code: R -- Recommended. (c) Copyright 2003, The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. 2002, Scholastic, 189p, $15.95. Grades 4-7.

Stacy Dillon (VOYA, December 2002 (Vol. 25, No. 5))
Fourteen-year-old Hattie enjoys spending the summer helping her parents run their small-town rooming house. Sophisticated Miss Angel Valentine, old Miss Haggerty, and clock-obsessed Mr. Penny all seem interesting to Hattie. The summer of 1960, however, is to be more interesting than Hattie could imagine. To start with, Fred Carmel's Funtime Circus is coming to town, and with it comes Leila, a girl Hattie's age. Next, Uncle Adam comes back home. Hattie did not even know that Adam existed until now. Adam has been away in a special school for almost as long as Hattie has been alive. The school is closing, and autistic Adam is sent home to live with Hattie's rather stiff grandparents. Hattie and Leila do not understand all the fuss over Adam. They even hatch a plan to sneak Adam out for a night to have some carnival fun. Unfortunately, a tragedy causes Hattie to come to terms with the two separate phases of her life-"Before Adam" and "After Adam." Martin writes in such a way that the reader can imagine small town life through Hattie's eyes. This bittersweet and quiet story of friendship and loss will appeal to younger readers, as well as to those who have carried the title of "different." VOYA CODES: 3Q 3P M (Readable without serious defects; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2002, Scholastic, 208p, $15.95. Ages 11 to 14.


Family life Fiction.
Uncles Fiction.
People with mental disabilities Fiction.
Friendship Fiction.
LanguageCall NumberLCCNDewey DecimalISBN/ISSN
English (eng) PZ7.M3567585 Cq 2002
2001057611 [Fic]
0439388813 (pbk.)
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