From the Publisher
Declining, as she always does, both her best (and only) friend's invitation to Maine and her grandparents' offer of summer camp, Hattie plans to spend the summer of her twelfth birthday in her hometown. She likes to wander the town's few streets, visiting the library and her grandparents and her favorite stores, but always staying close to home, which is in her case a boardinghouse run by her parents. But Hattie's desired ordinary summer is upset when not one but two strangers come to town. First to arrive is her hitherto unrevealed twenty-one-year-old uncle Adam, who suffers from an unspecified mental illness that makes his conversations an enthusiastic milange of sense, nonsense, and word-perfect dialogue from the I Love Lucy show (the book is set in 1960). Hattie is convinced that no one understands him as well as she does: "I feel a little like Adam's baby-sitter, a little like his mother, not at all like his niece, and quite a bit like his friend." The author balances this friendship with another that Hattie, surprising her shy self, begins with a girl traveling with an itinerant carnival-Leila's father runs the Ferris wheel and her mother is the "Pretzel Woman" in the sideshow. Martin excels at evoking simply the intricacies of friendship, what it enables you to give to others, and what it teaches you about yourself. She also understands its perils. Trying to offer Adam the freedom and happiness she believes is wrongly denied him by his parents, Hattie relates to him as she would a fellow child-a mistake whose gravity becomes apparent in the book's terrifying climax. Told in the present tense in Hattie's personable voice, the story takes on serious concerns but has equally strong standing as the kind of novel kids mean when they ask for "a book about friends."--Horn Book Magazine, January, 2003--starred review
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.--Booklist, December 2002--starred review
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 "
A 2003 Newbery Honor Book
The Barnes & Noble Review
Bringing back memories of her extraordinarily moving yet quietly told novel Belle Teal, Ann M. Martin (who also pens the popular Baby-Sitters Club series) takes us back to the 1960s, where we spend a not-so-typical summer with one girl and her mentally ill uncle.
Hattie Owen enjoys peaceful Millerton summertimes with "houses nodding in the heavy air," being in charge of Miss Hagerty's breakfast tray at her parents' boardinghouse, and drinking lemonade on the porch after supper. Yet this year, it's different -- Hattie's uncle Adam is coming home. Returning from a Chicago school that's just closed and whose existence is kept quiet by adult family members, Adam is a 21-year-old man with a child's mind, having a knack for talking quickly, a savant-like ability for remembering weekdays, and a passion for I Love Lucy. Hattie and Adam wind up spending precious time together -- including a visit to the recently arrived carnival with Hattie's new friend, Leila -- which makes her feel soulfully connected to her uncle, especially when he declares that she's "one of the people who can lift the corners of our universe." But when Hattie takes Adam on the ferris wheel one night, it sets off dramatic events that lead Hattie's family to strengthen its bonds and changes her life's outlook forever.
A novel with a flavor similar to Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie or Kimberly Willis Holt's When Zachary Beaver Came to Town, this absorbing look at a shake-up of one family's small-town normalcy will bring you to tears but leave you feeling ultimately triumphant. Martin paints her characters masterfully, letting Uncle Adam's unsure energy carry an unpredictable foreboding beneath the story while Hattie builds a gradual rebelliousness against the denial and unspoken truths that surround her. A powerful work that presses all the right emotional buttons and touches on all-too-human themes, A Corner of the Universe is one book that should not be missed.
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 in a starred review. Ages 12-up. (Jan.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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. 2002, Scholastic Press, 189 pp.,
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-Twelve-year-old Hattie Owen's life changes forever when a hitherto unknown mentally disabled uncle returns to live with her grandparents in the small town that comprises Hattie's entire world in this novel by Ann M. Martin (Scholastic, 2002). From their first meeting it's clear that Adam sees life much differently and expresses emotions more intensely than is "normal" or comfortable for his aging and controlling parents. His outlandish antics, unexpected outbursts, and emotional vulnerability make him an appealing, yet challenging person whose tendency to ask questions that others might prefer be left unvoiced creates both humorous and uncomfortable situations. Judith Ivey's soft-spoken yet impassioned narration perfectly captures Hattie's desire to help her uncle navigate the raging currents of his feelings as well as her fear that his problems may someday surface in her own personality. Hattie's longing for things to remain the same and her fear of the world beyond her neighborhood conflict with her tentative efforts to make new friends. Ivey effectively uses this tension to draw listeners ever deeper into Hattie's world, providing a thoroughly satisfying and thought-provoking auditory experience.-Cindy Lombardo, Orrville Public Library, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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 thecorners of the universe. Martin's voice for Hattie is likable, clear, and consistent; her prose doesn't falter. A solid, affecting read.