Monday, December 5, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Addie on the Inside

One thing all this reading for the Cybils has taught me: I no longer dislike novels in verse. The latest of these, which has totally cured me of my phobia, is James Howe’s Addie on the Inside. (Nominated for the Cybils by Tasha Saecker. All opinions are my own, and are not meant to reflect those of the entire panel.)

Addison “Addie” Carle is living “the purgatory of the middle school years” in a small town in upstate New York. She is an only child, opinionated, and her best friends are a group of misfit boys. One of the misfit boys, Joe, is gay. Addie starts a gay-straight alliance at her school and is taunted accordingly.

Howe, the author of Bunnicula, catches the rollercoaster emotions of middle school with perfect pitch. I have to believe this book was written by Addie, pure and simple, not a sixty-something author. And Addie is a complex character. She stands up for her beliefs, yet part of her also struggles with not being popular and with having the other girls taunt her. Weaving in and out of the narrative is her relationship with her boyfriend, DuShawn; the tender moments, the fights, the break-ups, the getting back together, the final break-up. But through it all Addie is resilient.

Here is part of her final poem:

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.

I am this and I am that and
I am everything in-between.
I’m a dreamer, I’m a dancer,
I’m a part-time drama queen.

I’m a worrier, I’m a warrior,
I’m a loner and a friend,
I’m an outspoken defender
of justice to the end.

I’m the girl in the mirror
who likes the girl she sees,
I’m the girl in the gypsy shawl
with music in her knees.

As far as I’m concerned, this should be compulsory reading in every middle school classroom. And if you have a strong, spirited daughter who stands up for her beliefs, yet also feels the pressure to conform: THIS BOOK IS ABOUT HER. GET IT FOR HER!

(James Howe doesn't seem to have a website, but he does have a Wikipedia entry. You can read about him HERE.)


  1. Wow - this sounds like a great one, Michael. Definitely going to be looking for it.

  2. Wow - this sounds like a great one, Michael. Definitely going to be looking for it.

  3. This sounds great. Loved the poen. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. This is my daughter exactly! Thanks for the word about it.

    I read my first novel in verse last week!

  5. I want this book for my classroom! My high school girls LOVE novels in verse, and this sounds like it would be a big-time hit with them. Thanks for the great review, Michael. :-)

  6. I'm glad you like novels in verse because my agent is shopping one for me right now. Addie sounds great! To the library!

  7. Reading Caroline Starr Rose's upcoming book made me realize how lovely novels-in-verse can be. This one sounds wonderful too.

    How interesting that James Howe doesn't have a website. Just like Richard Peck!

  8. Thanks for this review! I like novels in verse.

  9. Poetry is a perfect language for teens, their thoughts and emotions changing as quickly as the verse. Thanks for the recommendation!

  10. I still have to experience reading a book written in verse. That's one thing that's seriously lacking for me and I have to remedy that next year. This is going on my list of those books.

  11. Michael - thanks for this. I, too, have avoided books written in verse, not because I don't like poetry, but because I have too much of a background in poetry, which may sound illogical. I think a part of me just assumes they'll be hokey, but it's also wrong for me to prejudge an entire genre.

    And when did this become a genre, anyone? Which book is the one that ignited this trend?

    I've been meaning to give one a try and Addie sounds like it won you over, so I'll put it on my list.


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