Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos

9780525646570

by Nicole Panteleakos
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

12-year-old Nova is missing her sister, who promised to return before the space shuttle Challenger launches with Christa McAuliffe aboard. As Nova and her newest foster family count down the days until the launch, she writes her sister letters, telling her all about her new family, her new school, and how much she’s looking forward to seeing her sister again. The letters are never mailed, and even if they were, they’re illegible – Nova is autistic and nonverbal (though she can talk a little and make herself understood at times) and her writing “looks like chicken scratches.”

Nova’s foster parents are the only ones outside of her sister who ever knew how smart she was, how she can read and has a rich inner life. She’s obsessed with astronomy and could have answered questions from her special astronomy elective teacher if she’d had a way to communicate. One of her special ed classmates speaks sign language, and I found myself wondering why Nova didn’t. But it’s 1986 and it’s enough of a challenge to get the school to realize she can read.

Nova and her sister had previously lived in many different foster homes since being taken away from their mentally ill mother (possibly schizophrenia is hinted at) when Nova was 5. Their grand plan was to run away once Bridget turned 18 and could take care of them. But now Bridget is gone and Nova doesn’t know where. When the launch comes and goes (with disastrous results), Nova finally comes to terms with the truth about where her sister has gone and what it means for her.

Panteleakos has worked in special education with experience in the foster care world, and has Aspberger’s herself (see comments below). She has a list of credentials as long as my arm and also did a ton of research with other experts.

The one caveat for me was that I would have liked the full lyrics to David Bowie’s song “Space Oddity,” which she quotes throughout the story (sometimes creating significant parts of the plot), which I only sort of know, and which was running around in pieces in my head the whole time.

3 thoughts on “Planet Earth is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos

  1. Nicole Panteleakos

    Hi!

    I hope it is okay to clarify a couple of things.

    The author (me) has Aspergers, which is now part of the Autism Spectrum rather than its own diagnosis. Also, I’ve also never been a special education teacher, though I have worked and volunteered in autism schools and taught kids on the Spectrum in other places (community theatre & art classes, for example).

    Thank you for reading!

    Reply
  2. Amelah Post author

    Thank you so much for clarifying that! I did look into your bio and didn’t find that piece of information (though I could have said “It is not clear whether the author is autistic/has autism”). It is of course your choice whether to make that information public, but as librarians are evaluating books, this is helpful to know. Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit | Check Out My Book Rack

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