Monica and I both recall reading Rebecca Stead’s First Light the year we were on the Newbery Committee together. My impression was that it was a highly provocative and promising and flawed first novel. It was the favorite–bar none–of a twelve-year-old reader whose opinion I was "using" that year. It was at Midwinter 2009 that Monica took me, wandering in the exhibits, past the Random House booth, where she’d heard there was an ARC of Stead’s next novel, When You Reach Me. As I recall, Monica was attracted to it for the local angle in particular (correct me if I’m wrong!)….and we each slipped one into our totes.
Sometime in the spring she and I touched base about it, both blown away by how much we’d enjoyed it, how strongly it was lingering and developing in our memories. I made myself the following reminder on this blog:
March 6, 2009
In response to: And in the end…
Nina Lindsay commented:
Note to self and anyone else on the watch for strong eligible titles: WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead, Wendy Lamb Books, July.
As we bring our blog to a close for the season (this is probably the penultimate post), I have to say that while I always assert that "predicting" the winner is secondary for me in my Mock Newbery endeavors, it’s quite a thrill to pull it off. This one, in particular, feels like a broad communal effort: we all pulled it off. This was not a highly promoted book at first. It was a July release for heaven’s sake: that’s for the beach crowd, not the award crowd, right?
…Dipping in and out of Leonard Marcus’s Minders of Make-Believe recently to check in on mentions of the Newbery award… On p.85-87, Marcus discusses Melcher’s launching of the Newbery award idea at an American Library Association conference:
"Melcher told a rapt crowd that the time had come for children’s literature to have its own Pulitzer prize as a vehicle for encouraging–and publicizing–high achievement in writing for the young, and that librarians, having no commerical stake in the fate of any particular book, constituted ‘the jury which could give value’ to it." (p.86)
And we did…and do.