[Editor's Note: Rebecca Stead has won the 2010 Newbery Award for When You Reach Me. We're pleased to reprint her Kids' Q&A from last summer.
Describe your new book.
When You Reach Me tells the story of sixth-grader Miranda, who comes home from school one day to find the door to her apartment unlocked. Nothing seems to be missing or out of place, but a few days later, Miranda finds her first note. It says: "...I am coming to save your friend's life, and my own." As the meaning of a series of mysterious communications comes slowly into focus, Miranda struggles to solve her own personal puzzles, such as who has stolen her spare apartment key and why her lifelong friend Sal has closed the door on their friendship.
Introduce one other author/illustrator you think people should read, and suggest a good book by him/her.
I think everyone should read William Maxwell's books. His words make my brain clang with excitement while my heart inflates with recognition. If you are going to read one William Maxwell book, it should be So Long, See You Tomorrow.
What was your favorite story as a child?
I really loved Fog Magic by Julia Sauer, a quiet and magical book. You don't hear about it much these days, but it won a Newbery Honor in 1944. I'm trying to bring it back.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an actress. Not nearly as interesting as my friend Jennifer, who wanted to be a dentist queen.
Why do you write books for kids?
I like to write about deep stuff, and I think that kids spend a lot of time thinking about life's bigger questions. As we age, our focus narrows until, as adults, our range of thoughts is more limited. I also think that, unlike adults, kids really root for a book to work — they want to do their part to get into it. So imagining kid readers helps to keep me writing.
If you could be someone else, who would that be, and why?
Maybe Malia Obama. I'd have a fabulous perch from which to see the world right now, terrific parents and grandmother, an excellent sister (I've always wanted a sister), and lots of great travel ahead. I'd also get to be smart, poised, and lovely, and to re-read many wonderful books for the "first" time. Downside: I would have to experience junior high school again. And I'd really miss my kids.
If you could pick anyone to illustrate one of your books, who would it be and why?
I have a pretty well-developed fantasy that Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli will someday animate my first book, First Light. I love Miyazaki's artistic sensibility, the way he so obviously loves the world's natural beauty, and his willingness to let child characters show sadness and fear as well as courage.
What's your clean, kid-friendly curse word substitute of choice? (darn? etc.)
I'll have to go with "nickel." My son Jack made it up. I have no idea where he got it from, but when he was younger, he used to say "nickel!" when he got mad. Or sometimes it was "nickel-head!" Now he knows all the "real" words, of course, and life is just a little less shiny.
What book by another author do you wish you had written?
Either Holes or Walk Two Moons. I just love the nickel out of those two