Monday, March 15, 2010

2010 Newbery Award & the beloved A Wrinkle in Time

I love A Wrinkle in Time. Actually, I love all of Madeleine L'Engle's work. And so, any book that can put A Wrinkle in Time back on the NYTimes Bestseller list is obviously a book worth reading- and, in this case, worth a Newbery.

That's right, this year's Newbery Award: When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead. The best description of this book is From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler meets A Wrinkle in Time. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler in that the setting is very similar, NYC 1979. A Wrinkle in Time is constantly referred to by the protsgonist, Miranda, who keeps a copy of it with her at all times. The story is not as otherworldly as Wrinkle, but contains moments hinting at other-worldliness, with the possibility of tesseracts running through the novel (if you don't know what a tesseract is, it's a wrinkle in time. Read the book of the same title to learn more). But a hint of this magical science is all you need. The complex issues of friends, classmates, the hobo at the corner, and realities of being a latch-key kid all feature in the narrative.

Young readers will be smitten with Miranda's NYC latch-key existence. And while Miranda's life isn't perfect, it isn't bad. That's something I admire about Rebecca Stead's narrative, the normal issues of friends and school are enough, there's no horrible family life or abuse to deal with on top of everything.

A fifth-grade boy of my acquaintance, notoriously difficult to find books for, devoured this and loved it to the point of recommending it to others. Also recommended by middle school teachers of discerning taste and now the Newbery committee, this is not to be missed. However, if you haven't yet read A Wrinkle in Time, read it first, as it will only serve to enrich your experience of When You Reach Me.

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