When You Reach Me

Written by: Rebecca Stead
Winner of the Newbery Medal

Jacket copy from Yearling Publishing House

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, and who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.
But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a kid on the street for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then a mysterious note arrives, scrawled on a tiny slip of paper.

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.
This remarkable novel takes place in the real world but holds a fantastic puzzle at its heart.

While trying to solve the mystery of the messages, and trying to figure out what’s going on with Sal, Miranda finds herself making new friends and trying new things. In the process, she discovers what we all eventually learn…things, and people, are not always what they seem. This is a great read and is even more powerful when read after A Wrinkle In Time.

Discussion/Project Ideas:

1. Miranda and Sal are experts at navigating their neighborhood. How do you navigate yours? You can extend this to the areas that are close to home that you frequently go on your own – like a convenience store or park. What are you allowed to do? What are you not allowed to do? What do you look out for? Where are safe places/people you can go to for help and what areas/people do you have to look out for?
*Did this exercise make you feel better about how you navigate your neighborhood, or did it make you think about some things you could do differently?

2. The kids in the story get an informal job working in a sandwich shop. Whether you have ever had a job or not (babysitting, mowing lawns, raking leaves), what is important to know about getting a job? What is important about having and keeping a job? What is important after the job is over or when you leave a job?  After you answer these questions, write a letter to a possible employer explaining why you are the perfect person for a job of your choosing.

3. At the end of the book, Miranda and Sal finally talk about what has been going on between them. Take what you learned through their conversation and choose one of the following: rewrite the scene and conversation in your own words, or choose a different reason for Sal’s behavior and write that scene.

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