This week at my Waterstones teen book club we discussed When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. It’s a brilliant mystery story, the kind you want to start reading again as soon as you turn the last page. You can find out more about the book here or here, but for the purposes of this post you only need to know this bit: the mother in the story is taking part in a television gameshow called “$20,000 Pyramid”. In this game, you’re given a category and you have to name things that fit within it, while someone else guesses your category heading. For example, you might say, “a book, a magazine, a manual, a map, tea leaves…” and the person guessing might shout, “Things you read!”
A lot of the chapter headings in When You Reach Me are categories from the gameshow, and some are truly tricky! We played the game with the book’s categories at our club meeting and we really struggled, in a fun way, with some of these:
Things that turn pink; Things that get tangled; Salty things; Things you hide; Things you line up; Things that heal; Things you push away; Things that get stuck
At the end of the session, we wrote random poetry together using the chapter headings. We picked out a category in turn, quickly wrote down something inspired by it, then folded our paper and passed it to the person on our left. And so on, until we had about six lines each. Have you ever played the game “Consequences”? It was like that, only even more random! When I do this kind of activity with reading and writing groups, I’m usually struck by one piece that seems to fit magically together. It didn’t quite happen this time, but here’s one of the pieces that worked best:
I left my diary on the bed. What happened next sneaked up on me.
My brush got stuck in my hair again – it hurt like
The world when you faint
And a box sprung open, and I was dazzled by the magnificent items – glittering jewels, money, postcards, photos.
The sea spray stuck in my mouth forever.
(With thanks to the book club members for writing this!)
Can you guess any of the categories that inspired the lines above? (Don’t worry if you can’t – I was there and I’m not completely sure anymore!)
Oh, and please feel free to set me a category-guessing challenge in the comments…
Happy reading and writing!
P.S. I keep meaning to mention here that I’ll be at the Hay Festival, together with Girls Heart Books friends Sophia Bennett and Sarah Webb, on 28th May. Please do come and see us! You can get more details at The Hay Festival website.
Also, I’ll be visiting libraries all over the country soon. Please check my website to see where I’ll be. I hope I can meet some of you soon!