Abby Carson is in endanger of failing the sixth grade and she will be held back to repeat the sixth grade if she does not shape up. She meets with her teachers and they decide that if she gets “B’s” on all of her quizzes and tests plus creates an “Extra Credit” assignment then she will be promoted to the seventh grade. Abby decides to become a pen-pal to another student in a foreign country.
Abby chooses a student in Afghanistan because she loves mountains and the country is very mountainous. Abby’s first letter arrives in a small village near the Hindu Kush mountains. The boy’s name is Sadeed. Sadeed was chosen by his village because he is the best writer in the village and he hungers to read any English language book. But in Sadeed’s culture a young man is not allowed to have contact with a young girl especially not an American. The village elders decide that Sadeed will help write the letters and his sister, Amira will sign her name, so it is proper. Every week, Abby and Sadeed exchange letters telling each other about their different cultures and they become fast friends.
One day, Sadeed is walking home from school and he is confronted by a man who threatens him after he sees Abby’s latest letter with the American stamps on the letter. He starts to chase Sadeed, so he runs and tells his father and all of the village elders about this “rebel” force in the outskirts of town. Violence breaks out and the town is put on high alert and as a result, Sadeed is told to stop writing letters to Abby in America.
Abby learns of this and she is disappointed because she was really getting excited about reading Amira and Sadeed’s letters. Abby understands why Sadeed had to stop sending letters so she sends one more letter telling him goodbye and that she would like to visit his country. When he gets the chance he should come to her country one day to visit.
224 pages 978-1416949312 Ages 8-12
Contributed by A. Phillips
It isn’t that Abby Carson can’t do her schoolwork. She just doesn’t like doing it. And consequently, Abby will have to repeat sixth grade—unless she meets some specific conditions, including taking on an extra credit project: find a pen pal in a distant country. But when Abby’s first letter arrives at a small school in Afghanistan, complications arise. The elders agree that any letters going back to America must be written well, but the only qualified English-speaking student is a boy. And in this village, it’s not proper for a boy to correspond with a girl. So, Sadeed’s sister will dictate and sign the letters for him. But what about the villagers who believe that girls should not be anywhere near a school? And what about those who believe that any contact with Americans is...unhealthy?
As letters flow back and forth—between the prairies of Illinois and the mountains of central Asia, across cultural and religious divides, through the minefields of different lifestyles and traditions—a small group of children begin to speak and listen to each other. And in just a few short weeks, they make important discoveries about their communities, about their world, and most of all, about themselves.--from the publisher