Category Archives: Classic/Contemporary Novel Pairing

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

Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

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

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:

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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A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Bibliographic Information:
L’Engle, Madeleine (2005). A wrinkle in time. New York: Laurel-Leaf.

Plot Description: Meg is a Teen girl who doesn’t feel she fits in, the only one who understands her is her young brother Charles Wallace. These two must go on a fantastical journey through time to find their missing father, who may be in danger. They are accompanied on their quest through time and space by Calvin, an older boy from Meg’s school and aided by three strange ‘unearthly’ old women: Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which, all of whom are certainly much more than meets the eye. Their journey takes them to several planets, one of which is ruled by ‘IT’ an evil disembodied brain that bends the population to its will and forces everyone into conformity. The children try to resist being hypnotized and taken over by ‘IT’. In order to save them from evil Meg must discover on her own, the one thing she has that ‘IT’ does not.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile Measure: 740L Interest Level: Middle Grades ATOS Book Level: 4.7 Common Core State Standards Appendix B Titles-CCSS Grade Band 6-8

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The book contains figurative language such as symbolism, metaphors, allusions and imagery. There is also some science vocabulary relating to physics concepts and time travel. Multiple themes such as struggle to fit in, conformity, good vs. evil, fate and free will are familiar to many readers, however the experiences in the book are not. First person narration provides accurate but limited perspectives or viewpoints. The text structure includes shifts in time and more complex characters, such as a 5 year old with special gifts that make him wise far beyond his years with an ability to read people, in addition to other worldly creatures that can change their appearance. The book contains elements of both moderately and very complex texts according to the SCASS Rubric, thus I would simply call it complex. However, the CCSS call it somewhat complex.

Content Area: Reading, Literature, Science (Physics & Astronomy)

Content Area Standard: English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Literature

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.8.3 Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: Writing

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

Curriculum Suggestions: Examine literary devices, plot, theme, figurative language, character development, etc used in the novel. Discuss themes of self-perception, courage and place in family & school. Write a continuation to a chapter or end of novel. Create your own fictional planet and its inhabitants. Use the special edition of the book and read the essay on science in the novel as an opener for further learning and discussion of scientific theories related to the story.

Supporting Digital Content:

Awards: Newberry Medal, NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts, School Library Journal Best Book, Lewis Carroll Shelf Award

Series information: Time Quartet

Character names/descriptions: Meg an awkward high school girl who travels through time to rescue her father , Charles Wallace Meg’s highly intelligent 5 year old brother who has a gift for reading people, Calvin a popular neighbor boy who accompanies Meg and Charles Wallace on their journey.

Additional Information: This Special Edition includes an essay about the real-life science that inspired the book.

Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to middle and high school students, especially those who enjoy fantasy or adventure.

High interest annotation: Three young people travel through space and time to fight evil.

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