When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Bibliographic Information:
Stead, Rebecca (2009). When you reach me. New York: Wendy Lamb Books.

Plot Description: Miranda is a 12 year-old New York City girl who carries around a tattered copy of A Wrinkle in Time and helps her mom prepare to be a game show contestant. She faces many of the same obstacles a normal girl her age would face, such as trying to maintain relationships with her family (her mother and mother’s boyfriend) and the friends she loses and makes along the way, while at the same time attempting to make sense of a series of odd notes addressed to her that seem to imply her favorite book is not so fantastical and time travel is actually possible. If that is true, whoever is leaving the notes needs Miranda’s help in a life and death situation.

Quantitative Reading Level:  Lexile Measure: 750L, Interest Level: Middle Grades 4-8, ATOS Book Level:4.5

Qualitative Reading Analysis: Organization includes sub-plots, a non-linear plot line that shifts in time and more complex characters. The vocabulary is mostly contemporary, familiar, conversational and adheres to the reader’s linguistic base. First person narration provides accurate but limited perspectives or viewpoints. The sentence structure is mostly simple and compound. There are multiple themes of varying complexity. Most are clear, but subtly conveyed. The story includes references to a prior literary work: A Wrinkle in Time. Some of the concepts from that work are discussed in this story, but things are explained in a way that even those unfamiliar with the book will understand the references. Allusions to cultural elements of 1970’s city life and pop culture (like the game show Miranda’s mom is a contestant on) are present, but explained so that those who are unfamiliar will not have any comprehension issues. Time travel is not a concept readers will have experienced, but issues of self-identity, friendship, family, bullying, discrimination, etc will be common to most readers.

Content Area: Reading, Literature, Science (Physics)

Content Area Standard: English Language Arts Standards for College and Career Readiness: Anchor Standard for Reading

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2
Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.3
Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.

Curriculum Suggestions: Group discussion of the book’s themes, such as friendship, family, bullying, social classes, self-identity, fear, etc. Have students discuss why the book is called a ‘hybrid’ genre. Which genres could it fit in and why? Knowing that A Wrinkle in Time is Miranda’s favorite book, what can we predict about her character? Make connections between the two novels: how are they similar? Common themes? Characters? Etc.

Supporting Digital Content:

http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/teachers_guides/9780375850868.pdf

http://www.juniorlibraryguild.com/images/9780982350690/StudyguideTeacher/WhenYouReachMe_TE_JLGGuide.pdf

Awards: Newberry Award, Kirkus Editors Choice/Best Book, New York Times Best Books, NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts, Horn Book Fanfare, YALSA Top Ten, Horn Book Award, School Library Journal Best Book, Publishers Weekly Best Book, ALA Notable/Best Books

Character names/descriptions: Miranda: a 12 year old New York City girl, Sal: her neighbor and longtime friend, Colin & Annemarie: her new friends, Marcus: a strange neighborhood boy.

Personal Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in two sittings. The short chapters added to the feeling that I was flying through it. I recommend this book for middle grades and up.

High interest annotation: Miranda must unravel the mystery behind a series of bizarre notes that seem to confirm time travel is possible and her help is necessary to save a life.

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