Set in the 1960s, A Corner of the Universe is a favourite of my eleven-year-old daughter, so of course, I had to read it (ordered to, actually). I love the 1960s, and if you do too, be aware that this isn’t about Civil Rights (which strangely isn’t even mentioned in the non-fiction back matter) or JFK or flower-children, although there is a bit of generational tension between the artist-like parents and proper grandparents in the book. There is a carnival and an uncle fresh from the times of deinstitutionalization (although that isn’t really mentioned either; the adults just say Adam’s school is closing its doors).
Hattie, the main character, is spending her summer at home, which is a boarding house of interesting people who she counts as friends. Hattie’s one friend who is the same age always spends summers away, but quiet, bookish Hattie ends up making three new friends over the summer, one of whom is an uncle she didn’t know she had and who has a mental illness. The understanding that Hattie and Adam have form the basis for a big change in Hattie’s every day life: she gains empathy and the confidence to speak from her heart.
Written by Ann M. Martin, A Corner of the Universe is a 2003 Newbery Honor Book.