Planet Earth Is Blue

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Sometimes you feel like nobody else is like you.  Sometimes you feel like nobody else can understand you.  If you're lucky...really, really lucky ... you find a special friend who really "gets you."

Twelve-year-old Nova has Bridget, her big sister.  Bridget has been taking care of Nova since the day she was born.  Their father was KIA, Killed in Action, in Vietnam and their mother heard secret messages in the static that came on the television set when the stations signed off after the Late Shows which meant that Nova and Bridget were taken away to be foster kids.  But Nova always had Bridget and Nova always had The Little Prince and their secrets.

Now it's 1986 and Nova has been brought into a new foster family only it's different this time because there is no Bridget. Nova is having to navigate a new bedroom, a new foster family, teachers and a social worker who can't understand her when she speaks and who instantly label her stupid.

What none of these people know is that Nova is waiting.  She's waiting for Bridget to come back for her and she knows exactly when that day will come.  It's the day the Challenger will launch into space taking Christa McAuliffe, a New Hampshire teacher, into space and space is Nova's very, very special place.

Nova starts the 6th grade at Jefferson Middle School and finds herself in a special class. Nova is non-verbal and is autistic. No one at her school sees what Bridget knew.  Bridget knew that Nova was a thinker, not a talker.

Nova's head is filled with memories, information and hope.  Nova loves space and she remembers everything Bridget taught her about it.  Day by day Nova counts down to the day the Challenger will explode into space.  She waits for her sister to come back and be her window to the world.

This is a story about what it is like to be an autistic twelve-year-old girl who cannot tell the world what she needs, what she feels or even all the knowledge she has in her head.  This is a story about walls.  It's a story about people who want everyone to be just like them.  It's a story about learning to see and appreciate who each and everyone of us is on the inside, not just on the outside.  Nova is autistic.  She's different.  But there are plenty of kids who feel they are different for so, so many reasons and they are waiting for someone to see beyond their outside, too.

The foster parents in this story believe what they are told by the social worker when they first meet Nova.  it takes some time and it takes some awareness, but eventually they begin to see Nova and to understand that she has so much going on inside her head that she is not sharing.

Just like Melody in Sharon Draper's OUT OF MY MIND and just like Augie in R.J. Palaccio's WONDER, Nova is a character who will challenge you to discover your own walls.   Who are you keeping out?  Who are you afraid to get to know?  What is your fear?

Nova's voice stays strong and honest and filled with familiar feelings.  We get an authentic journey from her point of view.  What is it like to be her?  At some point you will start to squirm in your chair and want to yell at the people in her world to pay attention and give her a chance.

Her life has given her challenges that go well past the flight of the Challenger spacecraft.  How does she handle them?   Where does that strength come from?  How much courage can one girl hold?  How is it that in the midst of all her unseen struggles, she holds fast?

This is a brilliant story about a girl with autism but it's also a story about people who are waiting to be seen and even to be loved.  An inspiration and an awakening to empathy, compassion and respect for others.

240 pages                978-0525646570                    Ages 8-12

Recommended by:  Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com

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"Tender and illuminating. A beautiful debut." --Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Reach Me

A heartrending and hopeful debut novel about a nonverbal girl and her passion for space exploration, for fans of See You in the Cosmos, Mockingbird, and The Thing About Jellyfish.

Twelve-year-old Nova is eagerly awaiting the launch of the space shuttle Challenger--it's the first time a teacher is going into space, and kids across America will watch the event on live TV in their classrooms. Nova and her big sister, Bridget, share a love of astronomy and the space program. They planned to watch the launch together. But Bridget has disappeared, and Nova is in a new foster home.

While foster families and teachers dismiss Nova as severely autistic and nonverbal, Bridget understands how intelligent and special Nova is, and all that she can't express. As the liftoff draws closer, Nova's new foster family and teachers begin to see her potential, and for the first time, she is making friends without Bridget. But every day, she's counting down to the launch, and to the moment when she'll see Bridget again. Because Bridget said, "No matter what, I'll be there. I promise."

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