Do you feel the pinch this December? Not only did I start a new job last week, we also have home repairs going on. Christmas shopping is an afterthought. I don't think I've ever felt so discombobulated at Christmas time!
But I have had time to squeeze in a great book: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. My husband, God bless him, has started the tradition of buying me the Newberry Award winner every year since I have started writing, and When You Reach Me is this year's winner.
I love fantasy, but I had no idea as I started reading that the book would take a science-fiction turn. The repeated illusion to Madeline L'Engle's Wrinkle in Time should have clued me in, but I'm a little slow! The book follows Miranda, a 12 year-old New Yorker, as she starts to receive strange letters from an unknown person. The letter alludes to an impending crisis, and Miranda has to figure it out before its too late. I won't spoil it for you, but the book has some great twists and unexpected turns. It's a well-plotted piece (that's probably an understatement).
What is great about this book is its ability to question really deep matters of the human condition, while at the same time exploring the kids' feelings about friendship and their day-to-day coping as preteens in a not-always sympathetic environment.
To me, the best writing for kids does just that. It acknowledges the daily grind of being a kid while also exploring the bigger questions of life that kids are only beginning to grapple with as pre-adults.