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I’ll never forget the day I learned the wonders of the Mobiüs strip…mathematics wasn’t my thing – I am a word nerd. So I was caught off guard when I was handed a thin blue strip of paper. “Now put a small twist in it like this,” he explained. “Next, bring the ends together and tape them, like so.” Then, I took my pencil, as instructed, and drew a thin carbon line, starting on the outside. I was stunned when I eventually connected it back and had one continuous strand, looping around on itself. I hung up that paper in my room and would stare at it, trying to figure out how it all worked. Not really understanding the physics behind it all, but loving the impossible rightness of it all.

That’s the way I felt about WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead. It is just SO perfect, so impossible, so right…so perfectly impossibly right. I was stunned when I finished it, too. I propped it on the arm of the chair and just stared at the cover. “What in the world are you doing?” my husband asked. I was taking it in…turning the story over in my mind…reflecting on the perfect circle I had traveled. I could only say, “Wow.” This book is an original, showing me logical ideas that seemed almost enchanted. Oh. My.

Here’s the official summary: “As her mother prepares to be a contestant on the 1970’s television game show, “The $20,000 Pyramid,” a twelve-year-old New York City girl tries to make sense of mysterious notes received from an anonymous source that seems to defy the laws of time and space.”

What the official summary for WHEN YOU REACH ME does not tell you is that this mid-grade novel will make you laugh…and then cry. It doesn’t say this book is like a birthday present scavenger hunt, where you relish the chase of the clues to discover your gift. It doesn’t warn you that you may never look at others the same again. Or explain that maybe what passes for commonsense is just you not opening your mind. That anything is possible.

Stead brings us back to the 1970’s with ease – the fads, fashions, and life’s everyday imagery is woven in seamlessly. I recognized it all, but never felt she was waving nostalgia in my face, shouting, “Look here, I did my research!” It was comfortable and right, just like it was penned in the year of the setting.

Her characters are just the right amount of flawed, not too perfect and not too odd – normal sixth graders, who are beginning to experience that innocent teenage angst. And then there is that mystery! We see it in the first chapter and spend the rest of the novel puzzling over it. I am not going to give you any hints or spoilers, because that would ruin the fun of discovery. Let’s just say the students in my classroom are going to love the premise of those freaky letters mentioned in the official summary and they are going to sit with their mouths hanging open when they figure out who wrote them. Oh. My.

WHEN YOU REACH ME, Stead’s second novel (after FIRST LIGHT) is amazing. I’m actually going to read it again right now. I want to watch closely how she did it…the way I want to catch the magician conjuring a rabbit…the way I used to trace that thin line around the Mobiüs strip. It seems like it just isn’t possible, but she did it: The circle that flips and turns in on itself, forever spiraling.

Just released in July 2009, WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead was published by Wendy Lamb Books/Random House and is perfect for mid-grade readers, girls or boys (and the adults in the house, too). I know my students will love Stead's new offering and I can't wait until school starts so I can introduce them to this work of mind-blowing fiction.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 27th, 2009 04:04 pm (UTC)
Love your review! Can't you already hear the kids discussing this one? They're going to have so much fun!
Jul. 28th, 2009 03:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks to YOU!
Thanks so much for letting me borrow this book - I just loved it so much. You are right, our students are going to really enjoy this one!
Jul. 27th, 2009 04:43 pm (UTC)
I just heard about this one last week and am very curious about it -- thanks for the review!
Jul. 28th, 2009 03:18 pm (UTC)
Try it!
I am so glad Kate loaned me this book to try out - we are hoping to have the author come to our school this year on an author's visit. Please come back here and let me know what you think after you've read it!
Jul. 28th, 2009 05:00 pm (UTC)
Re: Try it!
Also, happy birthday!
Jul. 28th, 2009 06:46 pm (UTC)
My hubby and I share the same birthday so we went to the store and bought a cake that says "happy birthday to us" on it! Haha Thanks for the wishes!
Sep. 16th, 2009 11:43 pm (UTC)
Re: Try it!
Well, I did read it. I'm afraid for me it wasn't as magical an experience. I admired the book, thought it was well-written and interesting, especially the way she crossed genres so much in that it's almost more realistic fiction than sci-fi. But it never grabbed me emotionally. Just goes to show that sometimes the perfect book for one person doesn't click with someone else. But it's well-done and I'm glad it's gotten some attention for that.
Jul. 27th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)
Marjorie, thanks for posting this review! I like to think of you and Kate rocking the school with your new find! You talked me into adding this to my pile.
Jul. 28th, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC)
Kate and I do a pretty good job, I think, of keeping our students interested. So many of them are such avid readers and we love sharing good reads with them. Please let me know when you've read this book and tell me what you think!
Jul. 27th, 2009 07:15 pm (UTC)
Marjorie, this is a great review. I hadn't heard of this before and I'm going to read it on the strength of this one review. Thanks.
Jul. 28th, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)
Appreciate It!
I am glad you liked the review! I'm honored you are going to read it based on my review. Please come back and let me know what you think of it after you've read it!
Oct. 7th, 2009 05:24 am (UTC)
Re: Appreciate It!
I'm back. I just finished it. I just started it yesterday. I loved it. It was amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the characters and their interaction as I followed them through the story and to have the mystery woven throughout and building was too great. Then when things started really coming together I was stunned. Such a great read. I took a philosophy of science course a large part of which was spent examining pretty cutting edge concepts of time. It was interesting, aside from being such a great read, to see that subject in this context.
Oct. 7th, 2009 11:56 am (UTC)
Re: Appreciate It!
A philosophy of science course sounds so interesting - I would like to try to wrap my brain around that! Thank you so much for coming back and letting me know you enjoyed the book as much as I did. My students are reading this soon, in preparation for Rebecca Stead coming to our school for an author visit! (How cool is that?)
Jul. 28th, 2009 12:12 pm (UTC)
First and most importantly, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Second, this book review completely rocks. I'll be sure to pick this one up!
Jul. 28th, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the birthday wishes - you even beat my mom!

I'm glad you liked the review - I was hoping I conveyed how wonderful it is...let me know what you think of it.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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