Here’s a quick review of one of the books on Mr. C’s shelf. He thinks it’s hilarious that I’ve been reading the books we’ve accumulated for him, but I like to check out books before he reads them to see if they’re any good first.
‘When You Reach Me’, by Rebecca Stead, published 2009, it was awarded the Newberry Award in 2010. This is the story of Miranda, a sixth grader living with her single Mother. We’re introduced to her routine, her walk to school, the places she likes to go, her group of friends. All with a great deal of details of the time and setting, New York City in the mid 1970’s, which should appeal to any adult who lived through that time. Amanda’s mother tries to become a contestant on the TV game show ‘The $20,000 Pyramid’, which I remember being a big hit when I was a kid. There’s also plenty of details of how hard it was to be a single parent in the 70’s, such as deciding what to make for dinner or paying the rent. Amanda starts to receive mysterious notes, placed in her room by she does not know who. From the way they are written it becomes apparent that something strange is going on. The notes seem to be written in odd verb tenses, were they written in the past, and she is just finding them now ? Or is it possible that they are from the future ?
“I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.”
Miranda then tries to figure out who is leaving these notes for her, carefully questioning her classmates without seeming to be a crazy person. As a subplot, she is also trying to figure out why her friend Sal was punched while walking home from school, by another kid that neither of them know, for apparently no reason. Hmm… maybe those two stories will meet up by the end of the book. If you’ve seen a few episodes of ‘The Twilight Zone’ you’ll probably figure out the mystery fairly quickly, but I doubt that a kid will figure it out. Rebecca Stead references the classic ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ throughout the book, both as Amanda’s favorite book, and in a variety of plot points. This is good and bad in that it gives so much away to the adults who are reading it, but for a kid I’m guessing that it just adds to the mystery, and could lead them to read that book as well if they have not already.
This is the type of children’s book that will most likely make a strong impression on middle grade kids. There are books I read years ago that I’ve bought for Mr. C, some of which he likes and some have barely registered for him. Must be a generational thing, there are just some books that become classics, but maybe just for those people who read them when they were published. An older kid than Mr. C, maybe age 8 or so, will read and remember this as their favorite book. For adults reading it to their kids, while they might appreciate the period details, they’ll probably prefer the book that made that big impression on them when they were eight, such as ‘A Wrinkle in Time’.
This is a bit too advanced for Mr. C for now, it’s probably a good fit for kids aged 8 and up. Especially those who like things like ‘A Wrinkle in Time’.