When You Reach Me (2009)
By Rebecca Stead
Wendy Lamb Books (Random House imprint)
Age: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7
Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy
Miranda, a sixth-grader in 1979 Manhattan, receives a series of cryptic notes that implore her to write a letter, explaining, “I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.” The mystery continues as the author, Rebecca Stead, develops her story around Miranda’s neighborhood.
Miranda’s favorite book is Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, which is referenced throughout. We discover that it is no coincidence as the story unfolds. Though we don’t have to be familiar with A Wrinkle in Time before reading When You Reach Me, it is a nice first allusion and plot parallel for young readers.
The time travel theme and a multi-storyline narrative are entertaining and challenging (in a good way) for middle-school students, while the characters are masterfully developed. Miranda’s mother is delightful and real; their relationship, and her interactions (along with that of her Mother’s boyfriend Richard) are positive, respectful, and caring – a refreshing break from the many children’s books with evil, hated, or dead parents.
This book will appeal to boys and girls – and not just the science fiction-seeking reader, as it explores relationships and light conflicts of all kinds throughout the book. There are dark-ish moments, but they never overtake the story. In the end, the mystery is clearly explained and storylines are resolved nicely in this outstanding novel. A must-add for your library collection.
School Library Journal Guidelines and Application for Reviewers. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/about-us/guidelines-and-application-for-reviewers/
Although the book is at the frontier of the materials that we touch on in this class (up to 6th grade), I should say that the review does a good job at following the requirements of SLJ, showing a balance between plot and critical evaluation as well as pointing to the most salient characteristics of the material. You are clealry speaking to fellow librarians, pointing at the Wrinkle in Time connection as well as making a judgment at the end, a must have.
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