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American Girl: Addy #2

Addy Learns a Lesson: A School Story

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Addy starts her life as a free person in Philadelphia. She learns about reading and writing for the first time - and about the real meaning of freedom.

88 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1993

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About the author

Connie Rose Porter

34 books85 followers
Connie Rose Porter is an American author best known for her books for children and young adults. She was the third youngest of nine children of a family living in a housing project.
She has since taught English and creative writing at Milton Academy, Emerson College, and Southern Illinois University Carbondale. She was a fellow at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and was a regional winner in Granta's Best Young American Novelist contest.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 102 reviews
Profile Image for Camryn.
Author 5 books794 followers
October 4, 2021
I said this on Twitter but I was really surprised that this handled colorism (without explicitly saying this) with the character of Harriet and showed class and skin color divisions within the Black community, which is something we're still talking about. Also made me want to move to Philly lowkey.
Profile Image for Allie (alliewithbooks).
337 reviews601 followers
April 18, 2022
This one was so cute and sweet!! I love the lesson on being a good friend and not being blinded by popularity.
Profile Image for Rachel Moyes.
184 reviews1 follower
February 24, 2020
Maybe my favorite AG book yet?? I feel like most of the AG books I've read focus mostly on the main character and her one (1) friend. I feel like the power dynamics at play at Addy's school were very realistic.
Profile Image for Rebecca Sheffler.
9 reviews2 followers
February 28, 2014
"Addy Learns a Lesson: A School Story" is an incredible story about a young slave girl who finds freedom during the Civil War, and adapts her life to live with freedom. Addy, a girl who has lived on a plantation her entire life, is now free to live in the city of Philadelphia. Because Addy was a slave child, she never went learned how to read or write. When in Philadelphia, Addy is able to go to a school where she the opportunity to learn to read and write. Now, when Addy arrives in her new classroom, she is blown away because her teacher is Black, just like her. This blew her away because on the plantation that Addy used to live on, none of the Black people could read or write, so she thought it was crazy that a Black woman was her teacher. Addy meets some girls during the school day and they seem friendly, but after school they made Addie carry all of their textbooks, which Addy compared to carrying a water bucket on the plantation she used live on. Eventually, Addy realizes that she doesn't need to fit in with others because she is happy being who she truly is. I do not want to give away too much about the book, because I think this is a must read for teachers and students!

There are many historical concepts discussed in this story. First of all, it addresses the Civil War and Slavery in a real-life way that children can understand and visualize. The author creates a character who the children can relate to because she is a child too. This book also discusses the hardships that African American's faced during the Civil War. I would use this book in my class as a interactive read-aloud to discuss questioning strategies and historical concepts of Slavery and the Civil War. Like I said, this book is a great way for students to be able to visualize what happened during this historical time period. I would use this book to work on questioning strategies because there is so much important information in the book that I would want to ensure that students are comprehending the material. This book is apart of the American Girl series, and hopefully through reading this book students may find a series of books that spark their interest, and make them love reading!
Profile Image for Jenna Vahue.
1,208 reviews68 followers
February 5, 2017
Addy is such a darling little girl and this book helps radiate her light. Addy has arrived in Philadelphia with her mother after escaping from a plantation via the Underground Railroad. Addy befriends a sweet girl named Sarah and her mother finds work as a seamstress in a dress shop. Addy learns to read and write in a school specifically for young black children and former slaves. Addy Learns a Lesson teaches the importance of friendship, kindness, and hard work. Every book in the series just endears this sweet fictional character to me more.

Profile Image for Jillian.
1,949 reviews88 followers
August 13, 2016
Five of My Thoughts on Addy Learns a Lesson

1. Addy, don't let Harriet get you down. She's just a mean girl, and you're going to meet more in your lifetime.

2. Harriet, check your privilege. You are not better than other people just because your family has not been in slavery. It's actually a little disturbing to me that she bragged that.

3. I loved the scene when Addy teaches her mother her letters and how to spell with dough. It just feels loving to me.

4. Spelling bees are always rough, man. Always.

5. Recommended!
Profile Image for Laura (Book Scrounger).
730 reviews50 followers
September 21, 2021
This is the second book in the Addy series. Addy and her mother arrive in Philadelphia, alone, but are given help from a church and Addy's mother eventually finds work as a seamstress. I appreciated the lesson Addy learns about friendship from two of the girls at school -- one is rich and well-dressed but treats others poorly, while the other is poor and doesn't do well in school but is kind and helps Addy and her mother. My 1st and 4th grader liked this book too.
Profile Image for Marisa.
406 reviews13 followers
August 28, 2015
Review by my 8 year old:
I liked the book Addy Learns a Lesson because two of Addy's main friends, Harriet and Sarah, disliked each other. In the end Addy is no longer Harriet's friend because Harriet calls her a flunky and addy thinks she is being treated like a slave. But Sarah is a true friend.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Ciara.
Author 3 books348 followers
December 8, 2011
when we last left addy, she was fleeing from slavery. this book picks up with addy & her mother arriving in philadelphia. they are met on the dock by mrs. moore & her daughter sarah, who are also escaped slaves who have been free for a while. sarah is just about addy's age & promises to help addy adjust to philadelphia (which is understndably culture shock for addy, who spent her entire life living on a tobacco plantation & has never seen a city) & go to school. addy is very excited about the prospect of learning how to read & write.

somehow they all end up at a little sewing shop. i think the quakers had something to do with this. the woman who runs the sewing shop agrees to hire mrs. walker (addy's mom) as a seamstress & allow the walkers to live in the garret apartment upstairs. mrs. walker agrees to let addy go to school.

addy is amazed that her teacher is a black woman because she never knew any black people back on the plantation that could read or write. sarah explains that there is a special school in philadelphia for black people who want to become teachers, & says that maybe when she & addy are old enough, they can go there together. but addy is concerned that she's too old & that she will never become literate. sarah promises to help her & says that you're never too old to learn something new.

addy notices another girl in class. her name is harriet & she is wearing a really fancy dress. addy asks sarah about harriet & sarah explains that harriet is the richest girl in class--& the snobbiest. she says that it's not really worth addy's time to try to get to know harriet because she doesn't have time for any of the poor (ex-slave) girls. but addy is still very impressed by harriet's perfect ringlets & expensive dress.

the next day, the teacher shuffles up the desk assignments & asks addy to sit next to harriet in the front row. harriet is one of the best students & she wants harriet to help addy catch up in lessons. addy is breathless over harriet's dress. she herself has only one dress--a pink striped number given to her by the woman who helped addy & her mother escape from slavery. harriet is helpful with lessons, but she's definitely a little snooty. she explains that her family has always been free (is that something to brag about?) & they have plenty of money. addy is in awe. she thinks that harriet has the life she thought she would have when she was free. & i just have to ask...really? because addy's only exposure to people was the other slaves on the plantation & the master & his guests. did she really think freedom meant that she would just *poof* be rich? i don't know. maybe she did, since the only free people she knew were also rich. but this is straining my credulity a little bit.

anyway, sarah is not wild about how addy is acting so impressed with harriet. but she keeps her word to help show addy around philadelphia. addy starts doing deliveries for the sewing shop her mother works at, & sarah tags along to help read & find the addresses. addy also starts teaching her mother how to read & write by forming letters with biscuit dough while cooking & spelling words. i wonder how grimy the dough got in the process. seems like it would aldo overwork the gluten, making for some pretty tough biscuits. but it's a nice image, so let's move on.

a spelling bee is coming up at school & harriet brags that she's the best speller in class. she tells addy she is having friends over to study & kind of semi-invites addy to join them. addy is ecstatic, but worried about how to tell sarah that she's walking home with harriet instead. this is all so awkward because harriet & sarah are both kind of forcing addy to choose between them & i always think that's a dick move. addy should ditch 'em both. but he chooses harriet because she is still in awe of harriet's fancy wardrobe. "she must have ten or fifteen dresses!"

but when they start out on the walk home, harriet & all of her rich friends pile their books up in addy's arms & make her carry everything. addy thinks to herself that all those books weigh just as much as the water bucket back on the plantation, but it's worth it to hang out with harriet. &...really? she's not having any slave-related PTSD flashbacks? harriet & her friends say that addy makes a great "flunky," & then they take their books back & rescind the invite to study for the spelling bee. addy doesn't get it & accepts harriet's invitation to walk home the next day too. the same thing happens. addy finally realizes that harriet wants addy to "be her slave" (those are really the words the book uses), & addy won't play that game.

whne she gets home that night, she finds that her mother has made her a beautiful new blue dress out of some scraps in the sewing shop, to wish addy good luck on the spelling bee. i have to say, these earlier american girl books really do a stellar job of weaving the outfits & accessories available for sale into the stories. & i'm not being sarcastic about that. this was addy's school story, & the related items for sale included this blue outfit, addy's school desk, her lunch pail (complete with pretend biscuits that spell out the word "love"), & her school supplies, which included a spelling book & an abacus. very cunning.

the next day at the bee, sarah fumbles in one of the early-ish rounds & misspells a word. addy is up next & has to spell that same word correctly to stay in the bee. she considers misspelling it on purpose in solidarity with sarah, but then she sees harriet smirking over sarah's mistake & decides to try to show harriet up. it all comes down to just addy & harriet...& then harriet gets cocky & makes an asy mistake because she's spelling too quickly. addy spells the word properly & wins the bee, she also apologizes to sarah for ditching her for harriet.

can i just say that this book was totally weird? maybe it's difficult for me to imagine a little girl (harriet, in this case) being such a smug asshole about having never been a slave because from where i sit in 2011, slavery is a horrifying, shocking thing. this story takes place during the civil war, when slavery was still widespread. obviously many people found the institution abominable, but maybe it wasn't this totally taboo thing like it is now? i don't know. it's just really difficult to imagine someone now crowing about not being descended from slaves, like that makes them better than someone who is descended from slaves. & the fact that harriet wants to treat addy like a slave...i get that the point of the book is that addy learns a lesson about sticking by the friends that accept you for who you are (like sarah) than chasing after the shiniest bauble on the block (harriet), but i feel that the book made me loathe harriet to the point that it was difficult for me to appreciate the actual story. this book originally came out about twenty years ago & is geared for children. i wonder if being an eight-year-old reading this book in 1993 would have made me feel differently. maybe moral lessons need to be painted in broad strokes like this so kids will get it? i don't know.
Profile Image for Ryceejo.
354 reviews
April 2, 2023
A very age appropriate lesson on friendship and inclusivity. I loved everything about reading this one with my daughter. And we got to practice our spelling too!
Profile Image for Sharon.
273 reviews7 followers
March 26, 2023
Addy Walker and her mother escape slavery and are now living in Philadelphia. Mrs. Walker finds a job as a seamstress and Addy attends school for the first time. Addy makes friends at school and develops a deep admiration for Harriet, who seems to have everything going for her. Addy learns a lesson about true and false friendships. Book two in the Addy series.
Profile Image for Katie.
366 reviews22 followers
March 17, 2021
Oh, sweet Addy. This girl knows how to apologize properly when she realizes she's hurt a friend. Proud of you for that, Addy.

Other thoughts from re-reading as an adult:

Harriet's mean girl tricks are a completely new concept to Addy, which led me to wonder: Exactly how many children were there on that plantation? Meet Addy says that the children were tasked with worming the tobacco plants, and also that there were 22 people enslaved there before Sam and Poppa are sold. We know six of them (Addy, Sam, Momma, Poppa, Auntie Lulu and Uncle Solomon - presumably Master Stevens is not counting a baby that can't work?). So of the other 16, there are probably only a few other children.

Given that, it makes sense that we don't hear about friendships in Meet Addy. Compare that to Meet Kirsten, where the bond with Marta is strong but Lars and Peter are kind of an afterthought. With Addy, it's all about Sam and Esther - as it needs to be, to really understand how hard it is for her to be parted from them.

I'm also impressed by how smart Addy is. It's not clear exactly how much time passes, but she clearly goes from learning the alphabet to winning that spelling match - with tricky words like "scissors"! - really fast. Granted, it sounds like she has nothing to do after school but sit in the garret and study, but clearly she makes the most of that time.

I love that the Addy books specify the parents' first names. Until American Girl podcast pointed it out, I hadn't noticed that Felicity's mother and Kirsten's mother never get named (though their fathers do, sigh). But chapter one of Meet Addy, right off the bat you get Ben and Ruth, and in this book, Sarah's mother gets a first name, too. That's awesome.
5,240 reviews23 followers
February 15, 2016
Addy is the young girl who escaped from slavery in the South with her mother. Now she's living in Philadelphia and has a chance to go to school, something which was prohibited black people in the South of the time.

She makes a friend of another black girl, Sarah, then thinks she makes a friend of another black girl, Harriet. (Addy when to an all-black school.) Harriet's not the type of person that Addy thinks she is, though, and she has to learn a lesson about how people behavior and just who a friend is.

Addy also helps to teach her mother how to read.

As always, there's a historical section in the book which helps put the events into more perspective. The most important part to remember, of course, is how the blacks in the South were denied an education on purpose (the Masters didn't want them to learn how to read and possibly escape). Even today in some parts of the world girls are not allowed to get an education in order to keep them ignorant on purpose. Although an education does not guarantee you a good life, it definitely helps.
Profile Image for Gale.
1,018 reviews18 followers
August 30, 2013

Addy and Momma arrive in Philadelphia in 1984—sad to be separated from the rest of their family on the North Carolina Plantation, but hopeful to start a new life as free people. Eager to learn the alphabet and to read Addy is enthusiastic to start school with her friend, Sarah, while Momma works as a seamstress. But they both discover that Freedom comes with a heavy price--new responsibilities and challenges. There is always the need for personal sacrifice as brave soldiers march off to fight
for the Union.

Alas, social skills are just as important as academic ones--which Addy learns to her sorrow. In her ambition to “belong” to Harriet’s snob club she deeply hurts her one true friend. Fortunately their kind teacher, Miss Dunn, helps Addy learn to spell “Principle”—both in her heart and in her life.

(April 27, 2013. I welcome dialogue with teachers.)

Profile Image for Rebekah.
1,201 reviews48 followers
June 8, 2015
After running away from the plantation Addy and her mother have settled in Philadelphia and for the first time in her life Addy gets to go to school. She gets to learn all the things that were once forbidden to her. She begins attending school with other black children and a black teacher. The teacher has her sitting with Harriet, the best pupil and perhaps the richest and snobbiest. Harriet brags about her money and how her family has always been free and then tries to turn Addy into a flunky for her and her friends. Addy finally puts a stop to that and learns what real friendship is with another girl named Sarah.

Like all the early American girl books this one teaches a valuable (and timeless) lesson about kindness and hard work while weaving in history.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
243 reviews14 followers
February 11, 2017
In Addy Learns a Lesson, She and Momma finally make it to Philadelphia! Momma gets hired as seamstress and they live above the store. They miss Poppa, Sam and Esther but continue on with everyday life until they get a chance to see them again. Addy starts school and learns to read an write. She makes friends with Sarah but when the teacher sits Addy with popular girl Harriet, she gets caught up in the rush of being friends with the populars and leaves Sarah behind. Can Sarah and Addy be Friends Again? Is Harriet as nice as she acts?

This book was good too. It's centered around the hardships of trying to get off on your own feet and finding out who your friends are. I liked it. I did kind of hope for the better for one character, but it didn't turn out to be so.
36 reviews1 follower
November 9, 2011
I read these books obsessively when I was younger, and Addy was always a great character to check back in with. In this story, she is beginning her life as a free black girl in Philadelphia. She expects to have nice dresses, be smart and popular, and instead, she finds herself in one handmade dress and with only one friend. This one is a great example of the expectations and real life issues of people who are different. Addy was different from the rich black girls in her school, and she just wanted to be like them. But instead, she decides that just being herself would keep her happy enough. It was a great message as well.
Profile Image for Marya.
1,343 reviews
June 14, 2013
The Addy books get considerably watered down in this second installment. While the concept of segregation (as opposed to slavery) is introduced, the main conflict in the book is between Addy and her new deskmate at school, Harriet. There are hints about what lies behind this conflict: Harriet has lighter skin than Addy, her old Philadelphia family has never known slavery, and she has considerably more money than Addy. And yet, those facts remain nothing more than one-liners. The story instead focuses on Harriet's mean girl attitude, and as far as Addy is concerned, that is the only reason the two quarrel.
664 reviews3 followers
August 4, 2014
Addy and her mother have escaped slavery and are now living free in Philadelphia, but they are alone, the don't know where papa or Sam are and they had to leave baby Esther behind. Mama has found a job as a seamstress and Addy is going to school where she will learn to read and write for the first time. In school Addy makes a friend, Sarah who helps her learn her way around Philadelphia and helps her with her schoolwork, but Addy's desk mate is Harriet, a rich girl who thinks she's better than Addy and Sarah, Addy is envious of Harriet's beautiful dresses and how smart she is. Addy learns a lesson about friendship and what is really important.
3 reviews2 followers
November 12, 2014

Addy was learning how to do reading and writing she does a spelling test.Addy is very nervous to do the spelling bee because it’s her first time taking a test. Addy spends time with Harriet even though Sarah get’s jealous because Addy didn’t spend time with the whole week instead she spend time with Harriet.After Harriet and her friends walked Addy to Mrs.Fords shop we’re her momma is Harriet and her friends told Addy to hold their stuff like Addy was a slave.Just like she back at the plantation before she came to Philadelphia we’re your not a slave.
Profile Image for JadeShea.
3,156 reviews61 followers
November 28, 2018
Addy Learns a Lesson is about Addy starting school, and learning that freedom comes at a price. She’s unsure who she should make friends with, and she doesn’t understand why certain things are the way they are. But, she determined to learn and make friends no matter what, even if she makes mistakes along the way.

This one was not nearly as good as the first book, but it was still interesting. I liked how Addy had to figure out who was really her friend and who wasn’t. But, it was also somewhat sad at times as well. Especially, when it came to Addy’s mother. I felt so bad for her. But, I was glad it started working out towards the end.
Profile Image for Anne.
216 reviews7 followers
August 7, 2008
Had American Girl dolls been around when I was a child, I would have been ga-ga for them. After being very moved by my visit to the new Gettysburg museum, I contemplated getting dolls/books for a couple of special little girls, but I wanted to read the books first to make sure they were historically "kosher." I started with this one since the first in the series wasn't available at the library. A little concerned about the dialect, which certainly isn't "proper" English, but it seems in context.
November 15, 2013
The American Girl collection has been my favorite since I was a little girl. This book is a great transitional book. I started reading these chapter books in 3rd grade. The text was just right, had a great plot, and there are a few pictures here and there to match the imaginative visuals created by text. Moreover, this book is a historical fiction so the readers gets a nice glimpse of history. The thing I like most about this story is that it's within a series, so if you have a reader that loves this book, there is another one for your transitional reader to engage in.
December 14, 2013
This historical fiction book is about a world of opportunities for Addy in Philadelphia. For a child who has always grown up on a plantation and has never seen a city before, this is a bit of a culture shock. However, Philadelphia is not quite what she expected. There are still hardships and racism that Addy and her mother have to overcome. I loved this book because it teaches elementary school readers about history and encourages the students not to discriminate based on race.
6 reviews
November 3, 2012
This book is about Addy a girl who just escaped slavery and was living in Philadelphia. In this book Addy learns a lesson about true friendship. I thought it was a great book because of the way it is put together while you read, the author does a great job making you understand what Addy is going through and you almost feel connected to her.
Profile Image for Lindsey.
181 reviews
February 25, 2013
I've been using this series as an introduction into our Journeys unit. My students are learning about African Americans from slavery to Civil Rights, and they have absolutely fallen in love with Addy. Watching her grow and learn, as well as seeing how she handles the hardships life has thrown her way has been inspiring to my students and to me.
Profile Image for Kimberly OutspokenMom.
103 reviews1 follower
April 3, 2015
This is a wonderful story that brings a part of the past back to life. It is told from a view point that is not often heard from, a young black girl who was a slave and has escaped, but doesn't know how to read or write. It also tells a story of the hardship of a black family during this time and the story of friendship that applies to all races
124 reviews9 followers
July 26, 2008
I read this aloud to my 5 year old daughter. We enjoyed learning what Addy's life was like after escaping from slavery with her mother. She began going to school. There, she met some other girls and had to work through some friendship issues.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 102 reviews

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