All Alone in the Universe

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"Before last summer Maureen and I were best friends....At least I think we were. I don't know what happened exactly. As some people who get hit by trucks sometimes say,'I didn't see anything coming.'"

When her best friend since the third grade starts acting as though Debbie doesn't exist, Debbie finds out the hard way that life can be a lonesome place. But in the end the heroine of this wryly funny coming-of-age story--a girl who lives in a house covered with stuff that is supposed to look like bricks but is just a fake brick pattern--discovers that even the hourly tragedies of junior high school can have silver linings, just as a house covered with Insul-Brick can protect a real home. This first novel shines--fun, engrossing, bittersweet, and wonderfully unpredictable.

Curriculet Details
37 Questions
43 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in 5th grade, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining 1st person point of view, theme, and making connections. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about realistic fiction, conflicts, and figurative language. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of characters, theme, and important inferences. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

The curriculet is being added to your library


Fly ash is a byproduct of burning coal to produce electricity. We don't know exactly what state this story takes place in yet. All we've read so far are names of towns. 
The time period of this novel is 1969.  
This house is covered in Insul-Brick.  (This annotation contains an image)
Explain what you think this means Debbie's mother really says to her. 
Based on this sentence, you can infer that Debbie means what about her friendship with Maureen? 


You should be able to tell that this novel is probably realistic fiction. So far the setting (time and place) seems to be present day--even though it is 1969. The characters seem to be like normal people who have everyday problems. Watch this video about realistic fiction.  (This annotation contains a video)
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up? 
Read these sentences again carefully, but think about what personality trait they reveal about Maureen. Which of the following best describes that trait? 
Which detail from this paragraph do you think will be most important to the story? 
These drawings throughout the book are fun to look at. They were drawn by the author. 


The writer uses a great deal of figurative language, especially similes and metaphors. These two types of figurative language are found in all types of writing. Both help readers understand things, events, and people in unique ways. It's important to be able to understand the difference between similes and metaphors. Watch this video for a review.  (This annotation contains a video)
Below is a picture of a cedar waxwing.  (This annotation contains an image)
This is funny. The narrator uses "one" instead of "we" or "I." As a narrator, Debbie has a good sense of humor. Debbie is the main character of this novel, and she's also the narrator. This type of point of view is called first-person point of view. This means that as a reader, we get all of the information about the story, events, and characters from Debbie. We only know what Debbie is thinking, though. She can only tell us what the other characters do and say. 
List two details that you've learned so far about Marie that show she may be "trouble" for Debbie. 
This expression is an allusion. An allusion is a literary device where the writer refers to something well known from literature, history, or culture and doesn't explain it. Do you know what the expression "launch any ships" may refer to? It is from Greek mythology. Helen of Troy was supposedly so beautiful that her face, "launched a thousand ships." This is said because when she is kidnapped by a man named Paris, her husband Menelaus and his kingdom, Sparta, set off in ships to retrieve her. Thus the Trojan War begins.  (This annotation contains an image)
Does Debbie really have a balloon that just popped? What do you think "balloon" means here? 


This is a difficult name to pronounce. When you are reading a text, and come across a word like this, first try to determine what it means. If it is the name of something (in this case, a family), then don't worry about pronouncing it. Just use the first letter when you read. So from now on when I read and see this name, I will read "P." 
This figurative language suggests that the Prbyczka kids are raising themselves in a sense. What type of figurative language is used here? 
You can tell what a character is thinking sometimes by his/her body gestures. What do you think Debbie's mother and Fran are thinking here? 
These furnishings may sound especially odd to you, but actually the lime green ashtray, white plastic egg-shaped chair, and the ceramic bull lighter were all in style in the 1960's.  (This annotation contains an image)
Use the Define feature on the word gingerly. Which of the following words could be used in place of gingerly and still mean the same? 
Dark Shadows is a television show that aired in the late 1960's and early 1970's. It was like a Gothic soap opera. There were werewolves, vampires, and witches on regularly.  (This annotation contains an image)


Foreshadowing is when a writer gives hints or clues about something that may happen later. Do you think there is foreshadowing in these sentences? What part of Debbie's life might forget about her? 
What two things does Glenna say that reveal she doesn't want Debbie to come along? 
This is an allusion to the novel The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. Remember, an allusion is when a writer refers to something famous, yet doesn't explain because he expects the reader to understand and make the connection.  (This annotation contains an image)
Debbie is feeling like a "third wheel" even though she's with her best friend, Maureen. When a character must deal with a problem on the inside, like with his/her emotions, we call this an "internal conflict." Watch this video on literary conflicts.  (This annotation contains a video)
Phrases like this one reveal that Debbie, our narrator, has what you call a "dry" sense of humor. This means she says really funny things in a matter-of-fact way. It is part of her personality. The main character, or protagonist, is the character that readers most identify with in a novel because the protagonist's personality is the one most developed. Could Glenna be the antagonist? Watch this video on protagonists and antagonists.  (This annotation contains a video)
What is Debbie feeling? 
Do you have a prediction here? Do you have an unsettling feeling that this may not be good news? 
There are two examples of the same type of figurative language in this sentence. One involves a tide and one involves an island. What type of figurative language are they examples of? 
Maureen getting out of the car too, shows what about her? 
Quiz #1 
The "oracle at Delphi" is a priestess who makes prophesies to those who come to consult with her. Her answers, though, often are riddled with mystery and don't always turn out the way expected.  (This annotation contains an image)


This is popular television game show that aired in the late 1960's. Movie stars filled the squares and contestants would play against them.  (This annotation contains an image)
This is a subtle indication again of the setting. In 1969, a woman would be much more likely to pick up a hitchhiker--even though she probably shouldn't. In 2014, most women would NEVER pick up a stranger and give him a ride.  
You've just read about two separate events involving Debbie's mom: the hitchhiker and little Bobby. What can you infer about Mrs. Pelbry's character from them? 
This retelling of the Prbyczka family's day shows us again that these kids pretty much raise themselves. It seems their parents get involved only when absolutely necessary. 
Roberto Clemente was a famous Puerto Rican baseball player who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates. He was killed in a plane crash in 1972. This is another detail that sets the time period of this novel.  (This annotation contains an image)
Explain in your own words the life advice Fran gives Debbie here. Do you think it is good advice? 
Now, we understand the title of this novel. "All Alone in the Universe" is how Debbie feels. 
What is the writer's main purpose in this paragraph? 
Do you agree? Are laughing and crying sometimes almost the same thing? Think about it. Have you ever had an experience when you started to cry and then started laughing? 
This passage suggests that Debbie, George, and Martha all have shared the same experience. What is it? 
This is an allusion to what fairy tale? 
Do you think what is happening in the dance might symbolize (represent) something that is happening in the novel? 


Have you ever been around two or more people and they talk about things that only they know about, like "an inside joke," or use code words like Glenna and Maureen are doing now? It makes you feel like an outcast. Do you think it's rude? If you're thinking about it, you are making a Text to Self connection. 
Which of the following is the best way to describe Debbie and Glenna's relationship to each other? 
What is Debbie doing? 
This is probably something you can relate to. Think of a time when you tried hard to hold in your emotions like Debbie is doing. When you put yourself in the place of a character in a story, you are making a text-to-self connection. It helps you relate to the story better. Watch this short video on the different kinds of connections good readers make.  (This annotation contains a video)
What has Debbie just realized? 
Notice how the writer uses a metaphor here. She compares the voices and footsteps to a wave. But she extends the metaphor into the next two sentences with phrases like, "I let myself be carried back..." and "I slipped back into the current..." This helps create the sense that Debbie is overpowered by all the students on this day that she's so upset. 
This is an interesting way of describing how Debbie pulls away from people at school. What type of figurative language is used here? 
How is Marie feeling here? 
This is a reference to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, two Hollywood stars who were known to constantly fight, break up, and then get back together. They were married and divorced twice to each other.  (This annotation contains an image)


In tragedy, a literary genre, a fatal flaw in a character is a weakness or bad trait that brings about the character's own downfall. So if greed is the character's fatal flaw, then greed will be the cause of the character's ruin or death. 
Why does Miss Epler have this kind of reaction when Debbie says, "Stories don't mean anything"? 
Do you have a prediction here? Do you think Miss Epler is up to something? 
The writer uses two metaphors in this sentence to describe Alice. What is the best interpretation of this sentence? 
This simile signals us to pay close attention because if it "pierced like an arrow," it must be important to Debbie. 


Do you recognize this type of figurative language? It's called personification and it's when a writer gives a nonliving object human actions, emotions, or even body parts. Watch this video to understand more about personification.  (This annotation contains a video)
Debbie and Alice seem comfortable together, like they can be themselves around each other. Do you think that is important for a friendship? 
How does this relate to what Martha told Debbie in the garden that day? 
Quiz #2 


You may be predicting that something bad might happen here. The title of the chapter is "The Intruder," and this first sentence is short and dramatic. 
Use the Define feature on the word bellowed. Which of the following words is an antonym (opposite in meaning) of bellowed? 
Do you think that when you're alone in the house, everything seems creepy and suspicious? 
This shows just how fast the story spread. What type of figurative language is this? 
Debbie compares this event at lunch to the Bridging Ceremony at Girl Scouts. What kind of a "bridge" does Debbie cross here? 
Explain why you think Debbie is in such a jubilant mood. 


Girls used to wear a guy's class ring and wrap yarn around it so it would fit.  (This annotation contains an image)
The expression "any port in a storm" is an idiom which means that during a storm, a boat will pull into the nearest port to be safe and wait it out. It doesn't matter if the port is not where the boat is supposed to go. Explain what Debbie means by using this expression to describe what is going on with Marie. 
What do you think this mark under Marie's lip reveals about her? 
These last two sentences make the Prbyczka's house and street seem both relieved that the family is gone. What type of figurative language is this? 


Patty and Debbie are both right when they discuss friendship. You don't have to be a lot alike to be friends. Being human, with a heart and a mind, is all we need to connect with each other. Look at some of Debbie's new friends: Marie, Martha, and George. They are all very different from Debbie, but she cares about them and they make her happy. That's friendship.  
Remember earlier in the story when Debbie finds out Maureen is going to the lake with Glenna? Debbie feels like she's an island that was swept over by the tide. It looks like now that's how Glenna feels, and Debbie smiles to help make Glenna feel a little better. That's why the writer uses the image of a lifeline and of Debbie "scrambling back onshore." 


Debbie and Mr. Schimpf both feel that this secluded place in the woods is church. Which of the following phrases best supports this idea? 
Quiz #3 


This is true, don't you agree? Maybe that's why Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter--all the holidays you spend with family and friends--revolve around food. 
Who do you think this reminds Debbie of? 
Do you agree with this statement by Aunt Mary? List three specific examples from the novel that prove people DO look out for each other. 
Debbie is learning about real friendship. She's learning about looking out for people you care about. Debbie saw beneath Marie's make-up and tough exterior. She saw beyond her lousy boyfriends and cigarette smoking. They may not have had time to become close friends, but Debbie reached out to her and that is what friendship is all about. 
Debbie is referring to two separate events here. One was a kind deed she did; the other was a kind deed done for her. What two events is she remembering? 
When you want to discover the theme of a story or novel, a good way to do that is to consider what the main character learns or how he/she changes over the course of the story. Debbie learns that losing Maureen as a friend is not the end of the world like she once thought. Through the kindness of others, Debbie learns that life goes on, and new, and even better friends come along.