Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Addie on the Inside, written by James Howe. Simon & Schuster, 2011. $19.99 ages 10 and up
to praise the alliteration
and instead pray for release
from this purgatory of
the middle school years
when so many things
that never mattered before
and will never matter again
I stopped at nineteen post-it notes and decided that I couldn't share them all with you anyway. Truly, nothing would make me happier! I will be singing the praises of this book for weeks. I will recommend it to my sweet and spunky friend Victoria, who turned 13 one week ago and hope that she tells her friends about it, too. And, I will read it again...and wish I were teaching in a middle grade classroom so that I could make it the first shared read of the upcoming school year.
I asked my daughter Erin, a tenacious reader of many different types of books, how a man who is about the same age as her mother could possibly write a book that comes from the heart of a 13 year old girl, and do it with such compassion and strength. She quickly answered that that is what great writers do! Simple, huh???
Well, James Howe does it remarkably well. He has created a tender, involved, outspoken middle grader who deserves our attention and our admiration. If I were in seventh grade, I would want her to be my friend. She stands up for what she believes in, and supports those who must deal with the narrow-mindedness of others.
"Who do you see when a girl
like Addie walks down the hall,
when a girl like Addie
raises her hand in class
for the hundredth time
offering opinion as fact
and outrage as opinion,
wearing her attitudes
more comfortably than her
less than awesome clothes? "
Those who have read the first two books about The Gang of Five will know Addie...but not so intimately as they will know her when they finish reading her amazing story. She has opinions and is not afraid to share them. She also has uncertainties about many things. These doubts are considered from the 'inside' in this remarkable novel in verse:
"And what do I talk about if not clear skin and straight hair?
I talk about Nadia and about Mariam, married at eleven
to a man thirty years older than she, and beaten
for being unable to bear him a child.
I talk about the poems of Naomi Shihab Nye.
I talk about Sold by Patricia McCormick.
I talk about suffering and how I don't know
anything about it."
This novel in verse is so strong, so elegant, so poignant. I love the way James Howe changes his verse forms, using each to tell about her family life, her beloved grandmother, her two cats, her friends, her first love and her growth as a person of quality and substance.
He goes from humor:
"The Omigod Chorus, or What I Have to Listen to Every Single Day
Omigod, did you know?
Omigod, I hate him so.
Omigod, I love your dress!
Omigod, your hair's a mess!"
"My mind is full of not knowing,
and if it's true that not knowing is a kind
of strength, then at the rate I am going,
I will soon be the strongest girl
in the world."
"Johnson eats for two -
a cat growing fat from grief,
"I am who I say I am,
I'm not some fantasy
of how you think you think you know me
of who I ought to be.
I am a girl who is growing up
in my own sweet time,
I am a girl who knows enough
to know this life is mine."
So, now my TBR pile has grown by 3...The Misfits, Totally Joe and Sold. I guess that is what the best books do...make you yearn for more!
Bravo, James Howe!