The Children's Book Compass

Addie on the Inside & Wonderstruck

Posted on: October 7, 2011

Addie on the Inside by James Howe.  (2011) 202 pages.  Atheneum.  Grades 6 – 8.  Novel: Realistic Fiction, Poetry.

Addie’s story is a companion to Howe’s previous books about a group of friends in middle school, The Misfits and Totally Joe.  This book stands on its own.  However, readers will want to go back and read the other novels, because Howe creates such realistic and lovable characters. In this one he masterfully captures the joys and anxieties of being a seventh grader.  Howe has spent time with this age group because the dialogue between the characters to ring so true.   Addie’s story is told in a variety of poetry forms.   Howe challenges his readers to “See” in his Prologue poem.  “Who do you see/when you look at them?/ You know the ones I mean: /the others, the olders,/the youngers, the ones/who are not you, not/like you or your friends,/ who wear the labels/you give them.”  Abby is a passionate learner, a loyal friend, the focus of name-calling and teasing – labeled by others because she dares to be different.  But what is the cost?   She muses;

If I had the right

shoes,  if I had the right

bag,  if I had the right

hair, if I had the right

hands, if I had the right

eyes, if I had the right

nose, if I had the right

body, if I had the right

walk, if I had the right

talk, if I had the right

phone, if I had the right

friends, if I had the right

everything, how would

I be different from who

I already am?

Addie also reflects on issues beyond her world.  The poem, “What We Don’t Know,” ponders an article she reads in The New York Times about the fate of a girl in forced marriage in Afghanistan.  Read this one with your seventh graders and enjoy the conversations it ignites.


Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick.  (2011). Scholastic.  Grades 4 and up.  637 pages.  A Novel in words and pictures.

After being fascinated and thrilled by  Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, I was eager to read his new book, Wonderstruck.  Selznick alternately tells two stories that are fifty years apart. Rose’s story starts in 1927.  It is entirely told in Selznick’s detailed, pencil drawings with no words.  Fifty years later Ben’s story starts, all told in words.   The two stories, like puzzle pieces, are melded together at the end with a satisfying resolution.  Along the way Selznick explores deaf culture and celebrates the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.  This book seems less organic than The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  Some parts are forced and Ben’s story needs a faster pace.  However, with those small quibbles aside this is a book that children will enjoy and want to return to for another reading.

Click this link to see a video with Selznick.

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Pointing the Direction to New Books for Children and Teens

Marilyn Carpenter, PhD.

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