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Reaching for Sun Hardcover – March 6, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 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.

From Booklist

As if seventh grade weren't enough of a challenge for anyone, Josie also struggles with cerebral palsy, social isolation, a mom she needs more time and support from, and monster bulldozers that are carving up the countryside to build huge homes around her family's old farmhouse. Enter new neighbor Jordan, a sensitive kid whose geeky, science-loving ways bring a fun spirit of discovery into Josie's days. He melds with her and her family, especially the warm and wise Gram, and the friends create a kind of magic as they conduct all kinds of plant and pond experiments. Further challenges face Josie when Gram becomes ill and Jordan goes off to camp. Then, risking her mom's wrath, Josie secretly ditches her hated therapy sessions; when mother and daughter eventually reconcile, Josie emerges from her rough patch in a believable and transforming way. Written in verse, this quick-reading, appealing story will capture readers' hearts with its winsome heroine and affecting situations. Anne O'Malley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 and up
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens; 1st edition (March 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599900378
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599900377
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,096,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tracie Vaughn Zimmer is an award-winning children's author who graduated from The Ohio State University and attained her master's degree at Miami. Currently, she teaches at her alma mater in the Lakota Local School District near Cincinnati, Ohio. Writing in a variety of genres from historical fiction and poetry to novels-in-verse, Tracie's six books have received critical acclaim including starred reviews as well as the Schneider Family Book Award. In addition, Tracie has created hundreds of guides for children's and young adult literature that are available for free on her blog. She has presented at NCTE, IRA and ALA as well as schools and conferences across the country inspiring teachers, librarians and students with her infectious passion for literacy.

Oddball facts/favorite things:

Someday I'll move to Brooklyn, NY or a remote Caribbean island.
Individually wrapped Ghiradelli milk chocolate caramels.
Revision over the blank page.
My first journal entry: December 24, 1978.
Buckeye football Saturdays
Movies with puffy dresses and men on moors
Louie, the world's largest collie and Mickey, the six-fingered cat
Poet: Mary Oliver
I wish I could sing, draw, or play the cello
Snow days

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Little Willow on March 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Reaching for Sun celebrates the growth of a young girl who flourishes over the course of a year, just like the flowers in her family's garden. As things change with the seasons, so does she, thanks in part to an unexpected new friend, her motivated mother, and her inspirational grandmother.

Josie was born with cerebral palsy, a condition which has affected one side of her body more than the other. She is a little shy and a little embarrassed to be in the special education class. She is very close to her mother and her grandmother, but hasn't any close friends at school.

Reaching for Sun is a verse novel told from Josie's point of view. Though Josie sometimes has difficulties expressing herself and speaking her thoughts, her voice on the page is full of strength. The book is split into four portions, marking each season and accentuating it with a famous quote. The floral motif is punctuated with illustrations of a flower slowly sprouting, budding, and opening on the bottom of the right-hand pages, creating a sort of flipbook, akin to that in What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones.

A beautiful book simply told, I recommend Reaching for Sun alongside Rules by Cynthia Lord, Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown, and So B. It by Sarah Weeks, all well-written stories in which young characters and/or their family members overcome physical limitations and discover their inner strengths.

Take note of this book. Reaching for Sun has already been placed on my Best Books of 2007 list. I highly recommend it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Durango on March 6, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This novel in verse tells the story of Josie, a girl with cerebral palsy who'll win your heart on every page as she navigates the various relationships in her life, including her first real friendship.

This is a quick read with lots of white space, which should make it appealing and accessible for reluctant readers. At the same time, Josie's wry observations will provide plenty of food for thought for more sophisticated readers who will savor the garden imagery and Vaughn Zimmer's gorgeous writing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on June 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Try this sometime. Read a book, put it down, and then wait a couple months. Let the distinct memories of the title ebb away. Your first impressions are tamed. Your fervor (of either the positive or negative variety) softens a bit. This method of reviewing is a way of separating the wheat from the chaff. If a book sticks with you for a certain period of time, it must be worth remembering. "Reaching for Sun" is worth remembering. A very gentle, warm, and welcoming book it feels like nothing so much as a gently scented bath. First time novelist Tracie Vaughn Zimmer tries her hand on a preliminary verse novel technique and, for the most part, pulls it off with aplomb. A title of the sweeter variety.

Josie loves so much. The woods behind her home. Her Gran and her mother. Nature itself. What she doesn't love is having to attend special education classes for her cerebral palsy. She's also not too fond of the fact that she doesn't have a real friend to hang out with. That is, before she meets Jordan. The only son of a busy businessman, Jordan sees the extraordinary that resides within Josie. Yet before too long Josie's life gets extremely difficult. Her mother's making her attend classes at the clinic that she simply does not want to attend. She fights with Jordan and she starts skipping clinic only to have her Gran collapse ill at home. Life can be cruel and life can be beautiful and Josie sees equal parts of either side.

The verse novel still has to justify its own existence with every book that uses its style. When you pick up a work of fiction written in verse you have to ask yourself, "Would this title be stronger or weaker if it were just straight prose?" Zimmer's advantage is that Josie lives a life that's best suited for poetry.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Carol V. Jacobson on March 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"Reaching for Sun" by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer was the first book I read, cover to cover, in one day. Zimmer kept me turning the pages with her inspirational characters and free style poetry. She reminded me of the longing that a child has for friendship, especially if the child is different.

Josie Wyatt is a 13 year old girl with cerebral palsy who has never had a close friend. She lives with her mother and her Gran, but has never known her father. Josie's mom is overly ambitious; her Gran is a little idealistic, but she is close to both. With all the exercises and treatments Josie's mother reminds her to do daily, Josie can never forget how different she is from everyone else.

Jordan, the new boy in the neighborhood, doesn't seem to notice Josie's uniqueness. He becomes Josie's first and only best friend. Before Jordan came along, Josie, having no friends, spent her time crocheting, gardening with Gran, or watching the workers build mansions behind her farm house, but when Jordan befriends her she experiences a whole new side of her life.

She and Jordan spend time making traps for insects, experimenting on the marigolds and catching tadpoles. Jordan even teaches her Morse code before they go on a family camping trip, so they can to tap out messages to each other through the bunk bed. Jordan accepts Josie just the way she is and is not bothered by her disability.

During this summer, Josie matures into a young woman and learns the importance of family through struggles with her mother and the complications of Gran's stroke. Zimmer suggests that Josie may even discover some new feelings for Jordan when they start school in the fall.

Zimmer's words paint detailed pictures through free verse poetry.
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