Zimmer, Tracie Vaughn. 2007. Reaching for Sun. New York: Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children’s Books. ISBN: 9781599900377
Josie is tired of people noticing her disability before they notice her. She’s a smart, sassy, caring, loving and giving young adult who is just searching for someone else to understand her. She feels like her mother constantly nags her, that her gran is sometimes too critical and she never knew her father. One day a new kid named Jordan moves into her neighborhood and that’s when things start to change!
Reaching for Sun is a verse novel told from the perspective of the main character Josie Wyatt. Josie was born with cerebral palsy which has caused her to have a disability on one side of her body as well as having a difficulty pronouncing certain words and speaking in general. Because of this disability she is slightly self conscious at school due to the constant taunts and snide remarks from her fellow classmates. At home she is able to be herself and we actually see a different side of her when the poems are set at home with her gran and mom or at Lazy Acres which Josie states “ It’s the only place where I don’t stick out like a dandelion in purple petunia patch…”.
The book is set by the seasons of the year and before each section there is a quote about that season. There is also the bud of a flower drawn on page 3 that eventually turns into a beautiful, fully bloomed flower by the end of the book on page 181. If one were to thumb the pages like that of a flip book, they would see this bud evolve into the flower much like we saw Josie grow throughout the story. I like how it discussed how her disability didn’t make her retarded like all the kids at school thought she was and her new friend Jordan even exclaims that that’s ridiculous that people think that way because she knows lots of stuff! It’s important that we educate our children about other people’s challenges so that they are aware and don’t react in fear or stupidity as many people do when faced with things they know nothing about.
I really enjoyed this book and think that it would be an enjoyable and educational book for young adults to read. The verse poetry makes it fun and the style in which the character tells “her story” makes it realistic to those reading it. I actually like this style of writing very much and was first introduced to it through Sonya Sones books! I would love to add this type of literature to my collection.
School Library Journal ReviewGrade 7 Up—Josie, a girl with cerebral palsy, lives on the shrinking farmland owned by her family for generations and now being sold to developers. Her mother works and attends college and her grandmother tends her diminished patch of land. The story is told in the seventh-grader's voice in a series of free-verse poems. She is a bright and wry narrator, acutely aware of her limitations and her strengths. When Jordan, wealthy but neglected by his widowed father, moves into a mansion behind her farmhouse, they discover a common love of nature and science, and Josie finally has a real friend. She and her grandmother are both passionate about plants and gardening, and Zimmer does a nice job integrating botanical images throughout the novel. Josie feels like a "dandelion in a purple petunia patch" and thinks, "I must be a real disappointment—/stunted foliage,/no yield." Through growing maturity and Granny's wisdom, she gains confidence in herself. Reaching for Sun will have wide appeal for readers of diverse ability. Reluctant readers will be attracted to the seeming simplicity of the text, with short chapters and lots of white space on the page. They may not even realize that they are reading poetry. More sophisticated readers will find added enjoyment as they begin to appreciate the poetic structure and imagery. Readers of all levels will enjoy spending time with Josie and may gain an increased awareness of what it's like to live with a disability.—Nancy Brown, Fox Lane High School, Bedford, NY Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Other books by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
The Floating Circus. ISBN: 1599901854
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Reaching For Sun- Schneider Family Book Award Winner