Things that lift my spirits

I have a new favorite book: “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead.  It’s about friendship, science, love, family, loneliness, the search for meaning, prejudice, beauty, discovery, and time travel.  It also happens to be written for 8-to-12-year-olds.  Children’s books are a great antidote to cynicism and chaos.

The main character, twelve-year-old Miranda, has a favorite book: “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle.  She reads it over and over again and refers to it as “my book”, committing it to memory and contemplating its time travel paradoxes.  Then one day she’s contacted by a time traveler.

“When You Reach Me” is my book.  It’s one of those books that make me feel like I’m not alone in the universe, one of those rare works of art that really connect with me.  There are so many poignant threads that dangle from the main plot, that are not central to the story but spin out oh-so-beautifully and make me love this book.  Every character in the story is me.

I love this book so much that I read it three times in three days.  Here’s an excerpt:

I pictured the world millions of years ago, with crazy clouds of gas everywhere, and volcanoes, and the continents bumping into each other and then drifting apart.  Okay.  Now life begins.  It starts in the water, with tiny things, microscopic, and then some get bigger.  And one day something crawls out of the water onto land.  There are animals, then humans, looking almost all alike.  There are tiny differences in color, the shape of the face, the tone of the skin.  But basically they are all the same.  They create shelters, grow food, experiment.  They talk; they write things down.

Now fast-forward.  The earth is still making loops around the sun.  There are humans all over the place, driving in cars and flying in airplanes.  And then one day one human tells another human that he doesn’t want to walk to school with her anymore.

“Does it really matter?” I asked myself.

It did.

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