A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this companion to James Howe's The Misfits and Totally Joe again deals with slightly offbeat kids trying to fit in. This time it's 13-year-old Addie, whose story is told completely in narrative poetry that poignantly captures the turmoil and confusion she faces. Themes range from learning how to stay strong and smart and sensitive in the face of taunting by "mean girls" to overbearing teachers, young love and broken hearts, and how and when to speak your mind. It also juxtaposes the painful but almost silly struggles of middle school with the atrocities that take place around the world: child brides who are raped, disfigured, and sold; battered women; a student driven to suicide by bullying. Addie helps organize the Gay and Straight Alliance in support of her openly gay friends and dares to hold a Day of Silence even when it's nixed by the principal.
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What's the story?
Tall 13-year-old Addie Carle has always been a strong, smart, and sensitive girl who has felt sure of herself and her place in the world ... until now. Her seventh-grade year is a kind of \"purgatory,\" and through narrative verse, she reveals her inner thoughts and feelings -- as well as the familiar markings of a very tough year: She's the first one to raise her hand in class and always has an opinion, but that's not going over well with the other kids. She worries about human rights and other world issues while most of the other kids seem like they couldn't care less. She hates the mean girls but feels their power. She endures teasing about her boyish looks, her independent spirit -- and even gossip about why a popular older boy would choose her to be his girlfriend. And, hardest of all, she begins to question herself and who she is.
Is it any good?
Addie's voice is straightforward and true, and the author's poems vividly and sensitively capture her pain and confusion. While the problems she struggles with are familiar, the book is one of a kind, both in its artistry and in the thoughtful questions -- and lessons -- it imparts. Howe challenges his readers to open their eyes, minds, and hearts and to try to really see one another, to allow people to choose who they want to be and respect them for their choices. (He writes, "what is it we see when we look at each other, especially at those who are different from us?")
Readers will be moved by the small story of Addie's fight to become the person she wants to be -- and be left with plenty of big questions to ponder.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about all of the issues that Addie confronts: cruel gossip, name calling, bullying, speaking out, staying silent, human rights, consumerism, and so on. Kids: How do you define yourself and others? What makes a person popular? Is today's culture more or less accepting of teens who want to be different?
The author chose to tell this story through a series of poems. Do you think this is an effective way to show that these were Addie's inner thoughts? How would her story have been different if it had been told as a more straightforward narrative or in some other form, like a graphic novel?
If you've also read The Misfits or Totally Joe, what did this book add to the trilogy? Do you think there's another book that could be written about Addie and her friends? What do you think it would be about?
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