Sunday, March 14, 2010

When You Reach Me

My sincere apologies for the long blog silence. I've been busy and my laptop has been...well distracted would be one word. The others would all be spelled with asterisks. It spent some quality time thinking it was 1969 and then decided to only allow me to type with the right-hand part of the keyboard. Fun times! But now (knocking firmly on wood), it seems to be in much better spirits and I'm determined to be a much better blogger. So enough technology woes, let's get back to books.

Since my last post, When You Reach Me finally reached me. I know, horrible joke. I really can't help myself. However I hope my sense of humor (or lack thereof) doesn't deter you from picking up this delightful book.

Elizabeth has already posted a more full review, but I had to add my two cents. First of all, bravo to the Newbery committee for picking this book. It's super and winning the Newbery Medal means more people will read it and (I assume, Elizabeth can confirm) more libraries will stock it. And this feels like the kind of book you should stumble over in a library and finish in one go on a summer afternoon.

It's an overt homage to Madeline L'Engle's classic A Wrinkle in Time, but it also reminds me of many children's books set in New York in the 1960s: The Young Unicorns, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and Harriet the Spy.

In fact, heroine Miranda reminds me a bit of Louise Fitzhugh's immortal (I accidentally typed immoral first and that works too) Harriet Welsch, as she struggles to navigate friendships, family, and school, while caught up in her own particular mysteries. But while Harriet's mysteries were largely self-created, Miranda's come in the form of mysterious notes from an unknown sender.

I don't want to say too much about the plot, as its slow reveal is part of this book's charm, but its complexity is a sign of Rebecca Stead's respect for her readers. She introduces challenging concepts, both academic and emotional, and trusts readers to keep up with Miranda as she works to unravel them. This trust, more than the overt mentions of A Wrinkle in Time in the text, is what makes When You Reach Me a true heir to L'Engle's beloved books and such a pleasure to read.

And finally, given my own long-running obsession with Jeopardy!, how could I not love a book in which a major sub-plot is centered around Miranda's mother's shot at appearing on The $20,000 Pyramid? Game show geeks unite!

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