A Corner Of The Universe

by Ann M. Martin

Paperback, 2004

Call number



Scholastic Inc. (2004), Edition: Reprint, 189 pages


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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member conuly
Ann M. Martin has written, to my knowledge, three books now involving autistic characters - a stand-alone novel in the 80s, that BSC book, and now this one.

I like to be complete, so I thought I'd check this one out and compare it against my memories of the others. This review WILL contain spoilers,
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I'm sorry, because there are a few issues I have with the book at the end.

First, you should note that Adam's characterization clearly reflects increased knowledge of autism. This is as it should be - the other two books are painfully outdated... but it wouldn't be fair to judge her for writing a book in the 80s that uses the knowledge we had in the 80s. Adam is never officially diagnosed, but it's fairly clear from the speculation ("some thought it was autism, some thought it was schizophrenia") and a few specific details of Adam's behavior (he engages in scripted speech, he has the savant skill of calendar counting, he is totally lacking in the social awareness that says do NOT stare at women's chests) that he's intended to be on the spectrum.

How accurate is this depiction? I don't know. I have a hard time believing that you COULD memorize many - much less all! - full episodes of I Love Lucy in the days before VCRs, but then, I didn't live in the 60s. The calendar counting did annoy me. Most autistics are not savants (and only about half of all savants are autistic - Kim Peek, the inspiration for Rain Man, was not autistic, for example).

I was happy to see that Adam is a real character. He has interests and feelings and a life. You get the feeling that he has some greater purpose than to simply provide character development for his niece. This is in contrast to disabled (particularly autistic) characters in many other books, who really are just there so the people they come in contact with can have a renewed appreciation for life or be kinder or I don't know what. Some commenters has mentioned that his behavior is "inconsistent" - he's "sometimes childish, and sometimes adult". This is accurate, though. Adults with developmental disabilities are still *adults*. They still have adult feelings, even if in some ways their understanding isn't up there.

Which brings me to another point, there are some mildly adult situations in this book. Adam stares at his crush's chest, and accidentally walks in on her with her boyfriend. It's not really that bad, but of course every family will have to make its own judgments about appropriateness.

And now we get to the end of the book, and the reason I gave it such a low rating. THIS IS WHERE THE REAL SPOILERS COME IN.

After seeing that he really doesn't have a chance with the pretty young woman who works at the bank (and after a trying few days where he had it made clear to him, again, that his family doesn't really want him to act the way he is), Adam goes and kills himself. And Hattie (who considers herself to be like her uncle in some way, although the reasons why are never given) thinks it over and calls this brave in her mind. Not the sort of braveness she'd like, but brave all the same.

It's not the suicide or the lackluster condemnation of the act that concerns me - actually, it's very clear that suicide has major repercussions for the people you leave behind.

It's the context. And this might be unfair, but I think the context is important. We're not living in a world where people love and accept the disabled. We're not living in a world where this is ONE voice about autism and suicide.

We are living in a world where prominent autism organizations can make videos where mothers say - in front of their verbal autistic children! - that the only thing that has stopped them from killing those same children and themselves is thinking of their *normal* child. And when called on it, these same organizations can then claim that every parent of an autistic child really wants them dead. (Alison Singer, in the short film Autism Every Day.) We are living in a world where parents who locked their autistic son in a room and set the house on fire aren't convicted of murder. (Christopher DeGroot.) We are living in a world where it is common for people who kill their autistic children, in fact, to be praised for their "courage" and their "love". We're living in a world where there are parents of autistic children who feel no compunction about saying that autism is worse than cancer because at least the children with cancer die. (sentex.net/~nexus23/md_01.html - actually, the autism - cancer comparison is all over the place, along with the autism - AIDS comparison and the autism - kidnapped children comparison. But at least most of these people don't go out and say that those other kids are lucky enough to die faster than the autistic kids!)

In short, we're living in a world where the lives of autistic individuals (and disabled individuals in general) are not considered as valuable as those of "normal" people.

The suicide in this book could have been handled differently. Our main character could have reasoned that if his family loved him they could have accepted him better instead of hiding him away - remember, she had only found out about him that summer! She could have suggested that if he wasn't so ostracized and patronized, he might never have taken that drastic step. In fact, there is a real suicide risk among autistics, similar to the recently publicized risk among gays.

Or, the "oh, it was brave not to want to live in this world he doesn't fit into" bit could have been made in isolation from a culture which says that all the time.

But it wasn't. Instead, you read the book and her thoughts, and it's hard not to hear it saying yet another variation of "those people are better off dead". This is a message that society does need to hear again. In particular, it's a message that autistic children do not need to hear again. Yes, I said autistic children. In this day and age, we have to accept that you can't assume the only people reading a book with an autistic character are NTs with no idea about autism. Many of them instead will be on the spectrum somewhere. Or they'll be siblings of autistic children - they don't need that message either.

I'm sure the underlying message was not Ann M. Martin's intent. However, unfortunately, intent isn't some magical glitter that removes all wrong. The message is there whether she intended it or not, and it's one that is actively harmful. "Their lives have less worth" is a contributing factor in the murder and suicide of autistics. I really can't advise this book for anybody, unfortunately.
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LibraryThing member ChelseaGriffin
A Corner of the Universe is a chapter book for a middle level reader that deals with more intense, real life issues. While the book is for more older children, it is a suspenseful read that will keep the reader holding on to every page.
LibraryThing member mitchsar
This is a touching book by one of my favorite childhood authors. Some young girls will be able to relate to the main character, who is painfully shy, full of doubts, and more comfortable with adults than her peers. It’s a coming of age story in which growing up means relating to people one’s
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own age.
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LibraryThing member krsball
My little sister loved this book and passed it to me. Very sweet and touching story written by one of my favorite authors from childhood (yay for the Babysitters Club!).
LibraryThing member LAteacher
This is a touching book about accepting people who are different. The fact that the young girl can understand and even like her uncle while her parents struggle with him supports the idea that we learn intolerance. This is a must read in my opinion.
LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
Eleven-year-old Hattie Owen only has one friend in the world, her best friend Betsy who always goes away to Maine for the summer. With this summer stretching out before her, Hattie looks forward to visiting with the shopkeepers downtown, painting with her father, and reading stacks of books from
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the library. Those plans suddenly change when Hattie finds out that she has a secret uncle named Adam who is coming to stay with her grandparents for the summer. Adam is unlike anyone Hattie has ever met. He's... different. He's in his own little world. As Hattie's grandmother says, he is "mentally ill". But as Hattie comes to know Adam, she grows to love the person that he is: loyal, honest, loving, fun, and smart in the most surprising ways.

Again, wonderful narration by Judith Ivey. She's great at doing different voices and keeping them all separate. A poignant coming-of-age story.
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LibraryThing member SoccerGal
A carnival comes to Hattie's (a young girl's) town in the summer of 1960. When she had already made plans to visit it, a guest arrives at her home...
LibraryThing member jordyn_gymnast
This is my favorite book of all time!!! The first time I read it was when I got it from a book fair in the sixth grade. I still have the book needless to say. I have read it around 4 times. I haven't read it in a long time, but I can still remember almost every detail. I felt like I could relate to
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Hattie even I have never fallen into her situation. I can relate to her.
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LibraryThing member babbryan
I would recommend this to my mature 6th graders. I enjoyed the language choice and the theme. Social injustice is a hard concept for young people, this book hit the mark. Although the ending is harsh, it is a reality that mature adolescent readers can handle. I think the characters were developed
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well enough that I really cared about what happened to them. The character's thinking was authentic. This is a keeper in my library.
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LibraryThing member bmozanich
This is a very good book. It is well written. The angst that Hattie feels is well documented and true. Readers can feel her love for Adam as well as her frustration with him and how he is treated. She is, at times, unsure how to behave around him and how he will react. She is embarrassed to be his
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neice at times, yet is never mean. YA readers can feel empathy for her - her loneliness and need for a friend, her embarrassment, her loyalty. Hattie reminds readers that we need to focus on the positive and look for qualities instead of focusing on deficits. Martin addresses tough topics - loneliness, family members with mental disabilities and suicide honestly and directly.
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LibraryThing member Sarah21123
Hattie's summer is turned upside down when her Uncle Adam comes to town. She is not quite sure what to think of him, but their adventures grows a bond between them both. She is thrilled that the circus came to town, and has quite the experience getting to know the crew. A surprising twist at the
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end of the book leaves both Hattie, and the reader in shock.
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LibraryThing member smilz23
Hattie Owen never knew she had an uncle and now he is living around the corner at her grandparent's house. Adam has been living in a school for boys with problems for 12 years. Adam is autistic and can be a lot to handle. During summer vacation Hattie and Adam become friends and share adventures at
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the fair and around town. In addition to Adam, Hattie must also deal with her bossy, up tight grandmother and the snooty girls around town.

Classroom connections: It would be interesting to have lit circles with both this book and Rules by Cynthia Lord. Then have students discuss the similarities and differences in the treatment and actions of the autistic boys. This would also spark conversation about autism and how it affects families.
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LibraryThing member Tahara
A Corner of the Universe is a story about a girl who is shown a very different perspective of life by her seceret uncle. This dramatic story has what charictaristics many would call a good book. This book would not a be a good choice for those who crave adventure. A Corner of the Universe is for
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more of the sensitive readers who love drama, love, and friendship.
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LibraryThing member chelsealee
A Corner of The Universe by Ann Martin is a great book that is defiantly one of my favorites. I read this a few years ago and I have been planning on reading it again. It is a story about a young girl and her mentaly retarded Uncle that she was unaware of untill his school was closing and he had to
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move back home with his family. This book tells the story of 12 year old Hattie's summer dealing and loving her newly found Uncle.
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LibraryThing member jpeer
A story set in the 1950's, Hattie is a young girl who lives with her parents who operate a boarding house much to the dismay of her grandparents. At the age of 12, her summer is filled with excited and confusion as she discovers that she has an Uncle whom she never knew. After the "school" he was
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living at shuts down, he is brought back home to her grandparents. Her summer becomes one of discovery and friendship as she becomes to know her Uncle Adam. This is a wonderful tale about how those with mental/disabilities were handled and bringing the awareness to a young audience.
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LibraryThing member ticagringa
This was an emotional story that is so close to home. I myself have a retarded sister that is so real no matter who is around. Many become so uncomfortable with her presence because of her honesty. If she is sad, she cries, happy she recoices and mad she lets every one know it. One time I remember
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her saying at a formal dinner party how mean someone was in front of everyone. It was the truth. This story came to a very unhappy ending, but it just goes to show people that we need to count our blessings and live each day to the fullest. I will recommend this story to children who feel uncomfortable with others that are different. If we get to know them we can truely understand. Life can be so simple but we often worry more about what others think.
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LibraryThing member mikitchenlady
Touching and surprising. As a parent of a child with special needs, this book is particularly poignant. Does not have a happy ending, so may be hard for some to deal with.
LibraryThing member dendrea
a new favorite. add this to my 'coming of age' novels that I seem to enjoy so much.
LibraryThing member kimmclean
A young girl learns that she has an uncle who is mentially challenged who comes to lives with the grandmother. She befriends him over the summer at the same time she meets a girl who is part of the summer county fair. She goes to the fair everyday. One day, unbeknownst to the family, she takes her
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uncle to the fair and encourages him to go on the ferris wheel. He says no, but then OK. He gets up top when it breaks down and he freaks out and tries to climb out of the their seat. Police come and he is taken away. He later commits suicide.
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LibraryThing member MrFClass
This book is a very interesting and amazing book. In this book a girls uncle named Adam that has mentally ill problems has now come back home from his mental hospital. They are worried about him and what he might do by the end of the book which puts a very big excitment and twist to this book.
LibraryThing member Lindsayg
This one was good. The characters were real and I could really feel Hattie, the main character's, frustration with being eleven years old. She could see the mistakes and shortcomings of the adults around her, yet she still had to do what they said. The story begins when Hattie finds out she has an
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uncle she never knew about. He's mentally ill and has been away at a special school all his life. When she meets him they hit it off and become friends even though her parents and grandparents mostly seem perplexed by him. The ending is very sad though.
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LibraryThing member SaRa0518
This book was very good, and I enjoyed reading it. It was a quick read but full of interesting dialouge and events. I would reccommend this book to anyone who likes to read.
LibraryThing member jllwlsh
This book is emotionally charged, and great for a child with a mature reading level. It introduces children to hardships of growing up, and highlights the strength of one young girl in the face of turmoil. I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to a child who I think could handle the
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subject matter.
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LibraryThing member debnance
Hattie suddenly discovers she has an uncle she's never heard about when Adam returns home. But Adam is not just any regular uncle; Adam, she is told, is mentally ill. Adam is loud and enthusiastic and repeats things over and over and quotes continually from I Love Lucy. And, in addition, Adam lifts
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the corners of Hattie's universe. Recommended.
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LibraryThing member jasmine84
This book is about uncle that have trouble with his mind like thinking different ways then others in the family especially his mom. The main character is a little girl but she can feel all the things that her uncle think. But with the little girl help cant turn out much different because it turn
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out that not so many people accept him as normal person. With the shock and terified about the way he feels it end up hang himself dead. This is a sad ending and it happen so fast. I dont want the story end like this. But worth of reading. Must read!
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