Rebecca Stead

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Rebecca Stead
Stead, a black haired woman in her 40s, sits at a table and signs a book while looking slightly upward. Behind her are wooden shelves filled with colorful toys.
Stead at a book signing in 2010
Born Rebecca Stead
(1968-01-16) January 16, 1968 (age 46)
New York City, New York, USA
Occupation Writer
Nationality American
Period 2007–present
Genre Children's and young-adult fiction, science fiction
Notable works
Notable awards Newbery Medal
Guardian Prize
Spouse Sean O'Brien
Children 2 sons

Rebecca Stead (born January 16, 1968) is an American writer of fiction for children and teens. She won the American Newbery Medal in 2010, the oldest award in children's literature, for her second novel When You Reach Me.[1][2][3] She won the Guardian Prize in 2013 recognizing Liar & Spy as the year's best British children's book by a writer who has not previously won it.[4]


Childhood and education[edit]

Born and raised in New York City, Stead enjoyed her elementary school years and fondly remembers reading books in a windowsill or under a table.[5]

She attended Vassar College and received her bachelor's degree in 1989.[6]

Personal Life[edit]

Rebecca Stead is married to attorney Sean O'Brien and has two sons.[2] She and her family live on the upper west side of Manhattan.

Writing career[edit]

Stead enjoyed writing as a child but later felt that it was "impractical" and became a lawyer instead. After years as a public defender she returned to writing after the birth of her two children.[5] She credits her son with inspiring her to write a children's novel, but not in the way one would expect. For years she had collected story ideas and short stories on a laptop, which the child one day pushed off a table, destroying what she considered her serious writing. As a way to lighten her mood she began again with something light-hearted[1][5]—her debut novel First Light.

First Light[edit]

See main article: First Light (novel)

When You Reach Me[edit]

When You Reach Me takes place in New York City during 1978–1979. The story follows Miranda, a sixth grader, as she recalls the events of the past few months, laying out clues and puzzles as she asks an unseen listener to figure it out. The setting is a tiny slice of Manhattan, filled with abundant details and vivid characters. It has been described as suspense with a bit of the supernatural.[7] Miranda is a great fan of Madeleine L'Engle's classic, A Wrinkle in Time, and references to that book help add to the mystery of the novel.[8] Three plot lines run through this novel, seemingly unrelated as the tale begins: Miranda's mother prepares to be a guest on The $20,000 Pyramid; Miranda's lifelong friend Sal will no longer speak to her; and "the laughing man", a very strange homeless man catches Miranda's attention. Publishers Weekly applauds Stead's ability to "make every detail count" as she creates a plausible conclusion with these divergent and improbable plot lines.[9] A New York Times book review called it a "taut novel, every word, every sentence, has meaning and substance."[7]

Critical response[edit]

The Newbery Medal, awarded annually by American children's librarians, recognizes the year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" (distinguished from young-adult literature since 2000). Stead won the 2010 Newbery for her second book, When You Reach Me. The judges agreed strongly with the NYTimes reviewer. According to the chair, "Every scene, every nuance, every word is vital both to character development and the progression of the mystery that really is going to engage readers and satisfy them."[10]

The once-in-a-lifetime Guardian Children's Fiction Prize is judged by a panel of British children's writers and conferred by The Guardian newspaper, recognizing the year's best British children's book by a writer who has not yet won it. It was opened to non-British writers in 2012 and Stead was the first to win it. Liar & Spy was published in the UK by Andersen Press.[4]


Media adaptations[edit]

  • When You Reach Me: Listening Library (2009) 4 CDs, ISBN

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Rebecca Stead and Jerry Pinkney win Newbery, Caldecott Medals". American Library Association. January 18, 2010. Retrieved 21 January 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Standora, Leo (January 19, 2010). "Native New Yorker Rebecca Stead wins John Newbery Medal for contribution to children's literature". Daily News (New York). Retrieved 21 January 2010. 
  3. ^ "'When You Reach Me' by Rebecca Stead wins 2010 Newbery Medal". The Washington Post. January 20, 2010. Retrieved 21 January 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Guardian children's fiction prize (top page). theguardian. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  5. ^ a b c "About". Rebecca Stead (
  6. ^ "Rebecca Stead." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center. Gale. Hennepin County Library. 20 January 2010.
  7. ^ a b Edinger, Monica (August 16, 2009). "Summer Reading Chronicle". The New York Times Book Review. p12(L). Literature Resource Center.
  8. ^ The Horn Book Magazine 85.4 (July–August 2009): p432. Literature Resource Center.
  9. ^ "When You Reach Me". Publishers Weekly 256.25 (June 22, 2009): p45. Literature Resource Center.
  10. ^ Rich, Motoko (January 19, 2010). "A Very New York Novel Wins Newbery Medal". The New York Times. p. 3. Retrieved 15 November 2013. 

External links[edit]