A novel set in New York, and written by an author who was born in the city and resides on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, has won the Newbery Award, the most prestigious award given for children’s literature.
The announcement was made Monday that the John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature was given to Rebecca Stead for “When You Reach Me.” The novel takes place in 1979, on the Upper West Side, and focuses on the story of Miranda, a sixth-grade girl whose best friend stops taking to her; she also starts receiving notes telling her that it’s up to her to figure out how to prevent a tragic event from happening in the future.
The novel deals with issues of time travel, class, and friendship; has a rich, complicated structure; and has spent eight weeks on “The New York Times” best-seller list for children’s chapter books. The classic children’s book “A Wrinkle in Time,” which itself won the Newbery Award in 1963, also plays a vital part in the novel.
The neighborhood in the book resembles the one in which Ms. Stead grew up, she has said, and the lives of the characters are modeled on her own experience growing up in the city. The apartment in the story was inspired by her mother’s apartment; the school was patterned after the one she attended on New York’s west side.
In fact, Manhattan becomes as much a character in the novel as any of the characters themselves.
So congratulations to Rebecca Stead–and to New York for being such a great role model.
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