21 May 2014

When You Reach Me: 2010 Newbery Award Winner

In March of 2014, I started a new undertaking: reading every single Newbery Medal Winner book.  A number of them I have read in the past, but I am reading them with fresh eyes,and reviewing them for others. I am not reading them in order, as some will require some effort on my part to find them all. Want to keep track of which books I read?  Check them out at Confessions of a Wannabe Reader!

Front cover featuring a shoe, bread bag, winter jacket, library book, Miranda's school, a key, Miranda's apartment, two-dollar bills and a mailbox; all important plot elements in the novel.
Cover of the book - used for identification purposes under the fair use clause

Miranda : Seeking Answers

"I am coming to save your friend's life, and mine."

It is the school year of 1978 - 1979 and Miranda is twelve years old.  Her best friend since infancy, Sal, has suddenly stopped talking to her and she feels lonely as a latchkey kid.  She relates to the character of Meg from her favorite book, A Wrinkle in Time because she suddenly has no one to talk to and she feels like she doesn't fit in. There is also a mysterious person who is leaving her notes in the New York City apartment she shares with her mother, notes that suggest things about Miranda that no one else knows, things that haven't happened yet.  Who is the mysterious person and what happened to the spare key her mother hid?  Why is there a guy running naked through the neighborhood?  Why does the homeless man on the corner laugh so much and act so weird?  And how is Miranda going to find new friends to replace Sal?

This was a book I had to read twice in a row.  The first time I read  When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, the pieces hadn't fallen into place until the very end of the book.  I had to reread the story to see how they had fit and to see the events I had missed before in a new light.  This story was very well written and extremely engaging.  

The biggest idea in this novel is the same idea that is in Madeleine L'Engle's novel, A Wrinkle in Time, and that idea it time travel.  Miranda herself wonders about it, as do other characters in the story, and each asks if it could be possible, and how it could work.  Could the homeless laughing man actually be a time traveler or is it just a figment of Miranda's imagination?  

Friendships play a big role in the story.  Sal just inexplicably decides to stop being friends with Miranda on day, which bothers her.  She has to make new friends, which is a difficult thing to do for some.  There is also fellow sixth-graders Annemarie and Julia, who decide one day to just stop being friends in the way that preteen girls do.  Eventually, Miranda comes to realize that in order to make new friends and strengthen old ones, she must grow and learn to emphasize with each of her fellow classmates.

This is a great read, but the concepts are a bit more intellectual and mature than some children can fathom at the suggested fourth grade reading level.

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