Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, which just won a fancy prize called the John Newberry Medal for “the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature,” centers on Miranda, a precocious 12-year-old whose mom is going to be on The $20,000 Pyramid (yes, the Dick Clark-hosted game-show staple) and whose best friend is a New York City neighborhood boy named Sal.
Set in 1979 and informed by Stead’s own Manhattan childhood, the narrative turns on an incident — Sal get punched by a classmate for no apparent reason, which leads him to shut out Miranda — and the arrival of mysterious notes that lead Miranda to believe that she can prevent a tragic death. That might sound a tad complex for a book aimed at middle schoolers, but Stead tempers the narrative hijinks with an accessible prose style and a vivid imagination that older, more cynical readers might resist.
“I think they are open in a way that older people are not,” Stead recently told The New York Times of her younger readership. “And so it gives me the feeling of freedom and it really sort of helps me on a creative level to think and to imagine a child audience.”
Stead discusses her book at 7 p.m. Monday at Joseph-Beth Booksellers.
Get event and book store details here.