Cover image for When you reach me
When you reach me
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Yearling, 2009
Physical Description:
10 books in 1 cloth bag (199 pages ; 20 cm) ; 37 x 46 cm. + 1 reading group guide folder.
General Note:
A cloth bag containing ten copies of the title and a folder with miscellaneous notes, discussion questions, biographical information, and reading lists to assist book group discussion leaders.
New York City, 1979. Twelve-year-old Miranda helps her mother prepare to be on a television game show. Meanwhile Miranda tries to understand why her best friend Sal doesn't want to hang out anymore--and why someone is sending Miranda tiny notes from the future.


Material Type
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Book club kit KT J FICTION STE 1 1

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"Like A Wrinkle in Time (Miranda's favorite book), When You Reach Me far surpasses the usual whodunit or sci-fi adventure to become an incandescent exploration of 'life, death, and the beauty of it all.'" -- The Washington Post

This Newbery Medal winner that has been called "smart and mesmerizing," ( The New York Times ) and "superb" ( The Wall Street Journal ) will appeal to readers of all types, especially those who are looking for a thought-provoking mystery with a mind-blowing twist.

Shortly after a fall-out with her best friend, sixth grader Miranda starts receiving mysterious notes, and she doesn't know what to do. The notes tell her that she must write a letter--a true story, and that she can't share her mission with anyone.

It would be easy to ignore the strange messages, except that whoever is leaving them has an uncanny ability to predict the future. If that is the case, then Miranda has a big problem--because the notes tell her that someone is going to die, and she might be too late to stop it.

Winner of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction
A New York Times Bestseller and Notable Book
Five Starred Reviews
A Junior Library Guild Selection

"Absorbing." -- People

"Readers ... are likely to find themselves chewing over the details of this superb and intricate tale long afterward." -- The Wall Street Journal

"Lovely and almost impossibly clever." -- The Philadelphia Inquirer

"It's easy to imagine readers studying Miranda's story as many times as she's read L'Engle's, and spending hours pondering the provocative questions it raises." -- Publishers Weekly , Starred review

Author Notes

Rebecca Stead won the Newbery Medal for her second novel When You Reach Me in 2010. Her first novel is First Light. Rebecca's third novel, Liar & Spy, won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize in 2013. She is the first US author to win the Prize.

All of Rebecca's novels have received critical and popular acclaim with When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy, and Goodbye Stranger all appearing on the New York Times bestseller list. Ms. Stead's books are published under the Random House Children's book imprint Wendy Lamb.

Before committing to a career as a writer, Rebecca was a lawyer working as a public defender.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 6

Horn Book Review

(Intermediate) The first real indication that this book is going to get deeply, seductively weird is when broody classmate Marcus engages the heroine, Miranda, in a discussion about a flaw in the logic of A Wrinkle in Time: "So if they had gotten home five minutes before they left, like those ladies promised they would, then they would have seen themselves get back. Before they left." Miranda's life is an ordinary round of family and school, the first characterized by a pretty strong relationship with her mother and Mom's good-guy boyfriend, the second by ever-shifting (and perceptively limned) alliances in her sixth-grade class. But when her best friend is bizarrely punched by another boy on the street, and when she starts receiving anonymous notes that seem to foretell the future, it's clear that all is not as it seems. The mystery provides a thread that manages, just, to keep the plot's several elements together, and the closely observed relationships among the characters make the mystery matter. Closing revelations are startling and satisfying but quietly made, their reverberations giving plenty of impetus for the reader to go back to the beginning and catch what was missed. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Sixth-grader Miranda lives in 1978 New York City with her mother, and her life compass is Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. When she receives a series of enigmatic notes that claim to want to save her life, she comes to believe that they are from someone who knows the future. Miranda spends considerable time observing a raving vagrant who her mother calls "the laughing man" and trying to find the connection between the notes and her everyday life. Discerning readers will realize the ties between Miranda's mystery and L'Engle's plot, but will enjoy hints of fantasy and descriptions of middle school dynamics. Stead's novel is as much about character as story. Miranda's voice rings true with its faltering attempts at maturity and observation. The story builds slowly, emerging naturally from a sturdy premise. As Miranda reminisces, the time sequencing is somewhat challenging, but in an intriguing way. The setting is consistently strong. The stores and even the streets-in Miranda's neighborhood act as physical entities and impact the plot in tangible ways. This unusual, thought-provoking mystery will appeal to several types of readers.-Caitlin Augusta, The Darien Library, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Twelve-year-old Miranda, a latchkey kid whose single mother is a law school dropout, narrates this complex novel, a work of science fiction grounded in the nitty-gritty of Manhattan life in the late 1970s. Miranda's story is set in motion by the appearance of cryptic notes that suggest that someone is watching her and that they know things about her life that have not yet happened. She's especially freaked out by one that reads: "I'm coming to save your friend's life, and my own." Over the course of her sixth-grade year, Miranda details three distinct plot threads: her mother's upcoming appearance on The $20,000 Pyramid; the sudden rupture of Miranda's lifelong friendship with neighbor Sal; and the unsettling appearance of a deranged homeless person dubbed "the laughing man." Eventually and improbably, these strands converge to form a thought-provoking whole. Stead (First Light) accomplishes this by making every detail count, including Miranda's name, her hobby of knot tying and her favorite book, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. It's easy to imagine readers studying Miranda's story as many times as she's read L'Engle's, and spending hours pondering the provocative questions it raises. Ages 9-14. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* If this book makes your head hurt, you're not alone. Sixth-grader Miranda admits that the events she relates make her head hurt, too. Time travel will do that to you. The story takes place in 1979, though time frames, as readers learn, are relative. Miranda and Sal have been best friends since way before that. They both live in a tired Manhattan apartment building and walk home together from school. One day everything changes. Sal is kicked and punched by a schoolmate and afterward barely acknowledges Miranda. Which leaves her to make new friends, even as she continues to reread her ratty copy of A Wrinkle in Time and tutor her mother for a chance to compete on The $20,000 Pyramid. She also ponders a puzzling, even alarming series of events that begins with a note: I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own . . . you must write me a letter. Miranda's first-person narrative is the letter she is sending to the future. Or is it the past? It's hard to know if the key events ultimately make sense (head hurting!), and it seems the whys, if not the hows, of a pivotal character's actions are not truly explained. Yet everything else is quite wonderful. The '70s New York setting is an honest reverberation of the era; the mental gymnastics required of readers are invigorating; and the characters, children and adults, are honest bits of humanity no matter in what place or time their souls rest. Just as Miranda rereads L'Engle, children will return to this.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2009 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

In this era of supersize children's books, Rebecca Stead's "When You Reach Me" looks positively svelte. But don't be deceived: In this taut novel, every word, every sentence, has meaning and substance. A hybrid of genres, it is a complex mystery, a work of historical fiction, a school story and one of friendship, with a leitmotif of time travel running through it. Most of all the novel is a thrilling puzzle. Stead piles up clues on the way to a moment of intense drama, after which it is pretty much impossible to stop reading until the last page. It is 1979 on the Upper West Side of New York City, and Miranda, a sixth grader, is telling us, or rather someone in particular, about the events of the previous few months - "trying to map out the story you asked me to tell." How the spare apartment key suddenly disappeared. How her best friend, Sal, stopped talking to her after being hit by a strange boy on their way home from school. And how anonymous notes started appearing, referring to things no one else but she could know about and begging her to do things as well. It all happens within a few blocks, an urban neighborhood as intimate and familiar as any small town. There's Miranda's aging apartment building; her school; Jimmy's deli, where she and two friends snag lunchtime jobs; and the corner with the crazy man who shouts weird things. Others in this small slice of Manhattan include Miranda's single mother, a law school dropout who likes to wear striped tights and electric blue nail polish and is preparing to go on the "$20,000 Pyramid" game show; her mother's boyfriend Richard, Mr. Perfect (except for having one leg slightly shorter than the other); some new friends, Annemarie and Colin; and Marcus, an enigmatic boy who talks of Einstein and time travel. My fourth-grade students became obsessed detectives when I read this book to them - examining the map-like cover for clues, studying the clever chapter titles and constantly recalibrating their ideas as more pieces of the puzzle were revealed. When I reached the end, when they saw just how everything fitted together, they were completely and utterly delighted. I anticipate many others will be too after reading this smart and mesmerizing book. MONICA EDINGER

Guardian Review

I don't read the blurb on the back of books until after I've read the actual book because it's rare for them not to give the game away to some extent, but Andersen Press has resisted blurting out what lies at the heart of this story. My job of reviewing When You Reach Me would be almost impossible without giving certain aspects away, though. So if you don't want to know more - for fear of spoiling it - other than that it's a well-written and engaging read (for which the author, Rebecca Stead, has been garlanded with numerous awards in her native US, including the coveted Newbery Medal), then stop HERE. The rest of you, come with me. Where to start? One day, 12-year-old Miranda comes home to find a message in her apartment. It contains a strange request that she write a letter saying where she has hidden the apartment's spare key. What's puzzling, of course, is that whoever left the message must have used a key to get into the apartment in the first place. This is Miranda's first clue. As time goes on, it becomes apparent that we are in the midst of a time-travel story. The person leaving the notes is from Miranda's future. If she writes him a letter explaining where the key is, then when he travels back into his past/Miranda's present, he can use the key to get into the apartment to leave a letter to ask her where the key is to get into the apartment . . . You get the picture. Once the truth has dawned, there's the whole matter of who this person from the future might be, and exactly why they're travelling back in time. The writer of the notes proves that he's for real by leaving tantalising clues about Miranda's immediate future, but in a most cryptic and low-key manner. And this is a big part of the book's charm: though time travel is the frame around which the story is constructed, it's really a beautifully observed story about family and friendship: her mother mugging up for her appearance on a quiz show; her mum's boyfriend being near perfect but for one leg being shorter than the other; the laughing man (the local crazy guy); and, of course, her school friends and best friend Sal. It is also very American. It's useful to know, for example, that - unlike British post boxes - American mail boxes are squat and stand on four feet; that "barrettes" are hair-slides; and that two-dollar bills are much rarer than one-dollar ones. Vital? No, but it does help to show that this book will have a very different feel for a UK reader. It's not just the past which is a foreign country. One element that jars slightly is Miranda's favourite book, with its time travel element. This works fine as a plot device - giving the characters an opening to discuss such matters - but, despite the book's heroine being named, we're never told its title. From the acknowledgment to Madeleine L'Engle at the end, I take it to be A Wrinkle in Time, but I wish Stead had said so. The book is a favourite with Stead in real life; she somehow treats it differently from the rest of her wonderfully believable world. But this is a minor niggle about a story in which characters really come alive during those few months we spend with them, when their lives are shaped for ever. Philip Ardagh's Grubtown Tales is published by Faber. To order When You Reach Me for pounds 4.79 with free UK p&p call Guardian book service on 0330 333 6846 or go to - Philip Ardagh Once the truth has dawned, there's the whole matter of who this person from the future might be, and exactly why they're travelling back in time. The writer of the notes proves that he's for real by leaving tantalising clues about [Miranda]'s immediate future, but in a most cryptic and low-key manner. And this is a big part of the book's charm: though time travel is the frame around which the story is constructed, it's really a beautifully observed story about family and friendship: her mother mugging up for her appearance on a quiz show; her mum's boyfriend being near perfect but for one leg being shorter than the other; the laughing man (the local crazy guy); and, of course, her school friends and best friend Sal. - Philip Ardagh.



Things You Keep in a Box So Mom got the postcard today. It says Congratulations in big curly letters, and at the very top is the address of Studio TV-15 on West 58th Street. After three years of trying, she has actually made it. She's going to be a contestant on The $20,000 Pyramid, which is hosted by Dick Clark. On the postcard there's a list of things to bring. She needs some extra clothes in case she wins and makes it to another show, where they pretend it's the next day even though they really tape five in one afternoon. Barrettes are optional, but she should definitely bring some with her. Unlike me, Mom has glossy red hair that bounces around and might obstruct America's view of her small freckled face. And then there's the date she's supposed to show up, scrawled in blue pen on a line at the bottom of the card: April 27, 1979. Just like you said. I check the box under my bed, which is where I've kept your notes these past few months. There it is, in your tiny handwriting: April 27th: Studio TV-15, the words all jerky-looking, like you wrote them on the subway. Your last "proof." I still think about the letter you asked me to write. It nags at me, even though you're gone and there's no one to give it to anymore. Sometimes I work on it in my head, trying to map out the story you asked me to tell, about everything that happened this past fall and winter. It's all still there, like a movie I can watch when I want to. Which is never. Things That Go Missing Mom has swiped a big paper calendar from work and Scotch-taped the month of April to the kitchen wall. She used a fat green marker, also swiped from work, to draw a pyramid on April 27, with dollar signs and exclamation points all around it. She went out and bought a fancy egg timer that can accurately measure a half minute. They don't have fancy egg timers in the supply closet at her office. April twenty-seventh is also Richard's birthday. Mom wonders if that's a good omen. Richard is Mom's boyfriend. He and I are going to help Mom practice every single night, which is why I'm sitting at my desk instead of watching after-school TV, which is a birthright of every latchkey child. "Latchkey child" is a name for a kid with keys who hangs out alone after school until a grown-up gets home to make dinner. Mom hates that expression. She says it reminds her of dungeons, and must have been invented by someone strict and awful with an unlimited child-care budget. "Probably someone German," she says, glaring at Richard, who is German but not strict or awful. It's possible. In Germany, Richard says, I would be one of the Schlusselkinder, which means "key children." "You're lucky," he tells me. "Keys are power. Some of us have to come knocking." It's true that he doesn't have a key. Well, he has a key to his apartment, but not to ours. Richard looks the way I picture guys on sailboats--tall, blond, and very tucked-in, even on weekends. Or maybe I picture guys on sailboats that way because Richard loves to sail. His legs are very long, and they don't really fit under our kitchen table, so he has to sit kind of sideways, with his knees pointing out toward the hall. He looks especially big next to Mom, who's short and so tiny she has to buy her belts in the kids' department and make an extra hole in her watchband so it won't fall off her arm. Mom calls Richard Mr. Perfect because of how he looks and how he knows everything. And every time she calls him Mr. Perfect, Richard taps his right knee. He does that because his right leg is shorter than his left one. All his right-foot shoes have little platforms nailed to the bottom so that his legs match. In bare feet, he limps a little. "You should be grateful for that leg," Mom tells him. "It's the only reason we let you come around." Richard has been "coming around" for almost two years now. We have exactly twenty-one days to get Mom ready for the game show. So instead of watching television, I'm copying words for her practice session tonight. I write each word on one of the white index cards Mom swiped from work. When I have seven words, I bind the cards together with a rubber band she also swiped from work. I hear Mom's key in the door and flip over my word piles so she can't peek. "Miranda?" She clomps down the hall--she's on a clog kick lately--and sticks her head in my room. "Are you starving? I thought we'd hold dinner for Richard." "I can wait." The truth is I've just eaten an entire bag of Cheez Doodles. After-school junk food is another fundamental right of the latchkey child. I'm sure this is true in Germany, too. "You're sure you're not hungry? Want me to cut up an apple for you?" "What's a kind of German junk food?" I ask her. "Wiener crispies?" She stares at me. "I have no idea. Why do you ask?" "No reason." "Do you want the apple or not?" "No, and get out of here--I'm doing the words for later." "Great." She smiles and reaches into her coat pocket. "Catch." She lobs something toward me, and I grab what turns out to be a bundle of brand-new markers in rainbow colors, held together with a fat rubber band. She clomps back toward the kitchen. Richard and I figured out a while ago that the more stuff Mom swipes from the office supply closet, the more she's hating work. I look at the markers for a second and then get back to my word piles. Mom has to win this money. From the Hardcover edition. Excerpted from When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.