Saturday, August 7, 2010

When You Reach Me

So I recently finished the book WHEN YOU REACH Me by Rebecca Stead. The fact that I loved it pales in comparison to the fact that it won a Newberry and totally deserved it. I could tell you about the book's cleverness, the fabulousness of its homage to the broccoli in A WRINKLE IN TIME, the details in the story (like the naked man) which seem like simple background material but which are actually important. Or I could talk about the ending, which is a happy one, but only just. The story is built around the prevention of one single event, which means we're left to speculate what would have happened if that event wasn't prevented.

My 11 year old niece adores this book. And she is not, in general, an adorer of books. I'm pretty sure I would have loved it too as a kid. But even if it had been available, I probably wouldn't have touched it.

When I was little, someone (maybe one of my sisters, or a neighbor kid, or perhaps an imaginary friend), explained to me to watch out for the Newberry Medal. It was a sure sign that a book was so terrible that only adults would like it. I wasn't the only kid in school who felt like this, either. No matter how hard the elementary school librarian pushed books like "Up a Road Slowly" or "Sounder" or "Summer of the Swans," we stayed away. So while I read lots and lots of books growing up, I have very little experience with Newberry prize winners.

Would that I could go back in time and leave a note for myself explaining that I'd been misinformed about the Newberry. Also, I could tell myself to stay home sick during the week in 5th grade when Mrs. Evans read the end of "Where the Red Fern Grows" to the class, because the last part of that book is a trauma that I have never recovered from. And if I'm going to go to the trouble of time-traveling to leave myself a note about the Newberrys, I might as well leave myself a copy of "When You Reach Me" too -- so maybe it did exist when I was a kid and I did read it after all.

And if you want to know why I'm suddenly going on and on about time travel, you're gonna have to read "When You Reach Me" for yourself.

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