My Newbery Challenge continues. I got my wish, and there were no talking animals in these two additions to my “Read” list.
Book: When You Reach Me
Author: Rebecca Stead
Something about the author: Rebecca grew up in and loving New York City. I have read and watched several interviews with Rebecca and each one reveals an element of her own history that shows up in When You Reach Me. In a Today Show interview, she tells a group of kid readers that when she was in elementary school she used to make sandwiches at a deli during her school lunch hour – just like Miranda does. The best one for me was that her mother really was a contestant on the $20,000 Pyramid with Dick Clark, but (spoiler) her mother did not win the money. Her consolation prizes were a case of Dentyne gum and wood panel polish.
What it’s about: Miranda is a sixth grader living with her single mom on the Upper West Side of New York in 1979. The book brings several plot lines together including an encounter on the street that changes the relationship between Miranda and her best friend, her mother’s practicing to appear on the $20,000 pyramid, her love for A Wrinkle In Time, and an accident. This is not an easy book, but it is fantastic. The central premise of the book that brings everything together centers on time travel. In an interview, Rebecca said that she was having a hard time with getting it right. She sat down with her Dad – who is a puzzle lover – and talked it through. After that, she knew she had it right.
Year it won: 2010
Somethings about that year: It was in 2010 that President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act – and we are still talking about it. It was also the year that J.D. Salinger died.
Favorite part: It is hard to pick one, but I think Miranda’s conversations with another character about the logistics of time travel are wonderful.
Favorite character: Miranda is right up there with my all time favorite childhood character, Harriet the Spy. She is smart, loves books, brave and she tells a great story.
Book: The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Author: Elizabeth George Speare
Something about the author: During her lifetime, Elizabeth wrote five books. Two won Newbery Medals and one was a Newbery honoree. That is quite an accomplishment for a woman who did not start writing until her children were in middle school. The subject of The Witch of Blackbird Pond recalls the persecution of alleged witches in Puritanical New England. Speare wrote and published this during the McCarthy era, mening almost certainly, to make a statement.
What it’s about: Kit is a sixteen year old orphan who lives with her grandfather in Barbados. Her life is ideal until her grandfather dies and she realizes that he left many debts to be repaid. After repaying all of them, she has little left, but she does have an offer of marriage from an old man. The only solution she sees to escape that fate is to sail to New England where her only living relative, an aunt, lives. Wetherfield, Connecticut turns out to be a staunchly puritanical community. Kit’s arrival brings controversy from the start because of her fancy clothes and the fact that she jumped into the water to save a doll and she could swim – very witch-like. The novel traces Kit’s life in Connecticut and her refusal to conform.
Year it won: 1959
Somethings about that year: This was the year that the wheatback penny was replaced by the Lincoln Memorial version. 1959 also saw the introduction of Barbie and Playboy Magazine.
Favorite part: The initial sea voyage when Kit is sailing to New England on her own is fun and interesting. You get to see what kind of girl Kit is, and you get to know what life on a ship would have been like.
Favorite character: Kit’s uncle, although unbending to his family, showed courage and compassion when it came to standing up for Kit. I think Speare did a great job or writing his character.