Planet Earth Is Blue
Planet Earth Is Blue
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Annotation: As nonverbal, twelve-year-old foster child Nova eagerly awaits the launch of the space shuttle Challenger, she waits as well for the return of her sister, Bridget, the one person who truly understands how much Nova has to offer.
Catalog Number: #183251
Format: Publisher's Hardcover
No other formats available
Special Formats: Hot Title Hot Title
Publisher: Random House
Copyright Date: 2019
Edition Date: 2019
Pages: 232 pages
Availability: Available
New Title: Yes
ISBN: 0-525-64657-4
ISBN 13: 978-0-525-64657-0
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2018022142
Dimensions: 22 cm.
Subject Heading:
Language: English
Publishers Weekly
Autistic astronomy lover Nova Vezina is 12 years old in January 1986, and although she rarely speaks, she understands much more than people give her credit for. Her older sister, Bridget, is the only person who really sees her, but when Bridget runs away, Nova is placed in yet another foster home, this time alone. To cope, she counts down the 10 days to the Challenger shuttle launch, which Bridget promised to watch with her. In the meantime, her new foster family works hard not only to understand and support Nova, but also to encourage her teachers and social worker to see her in a new light. Readers familiar with the Challenger-s fate will recognize the approaching tragedy, but the love of Nova-s new family envelops her when its harsh reality hits. Debut author Panteleakos develops a believable, authentic point of view through Nova-s letters to her sister (called -scribbles- by her teacher), which distill her own memories, sensitivities (-pencils scratch papers, which bothers my ears-), and interests alongside 1980s attitudes about autism. A sensitively told story that may help young readers stretch their compassion and empathy. Ages 8-12. (May)
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
In Panteleakos' debut, a nonverbal, autistic astronomy enthusiast counts down to the space shuttle Challenger's launch—and her runaway sister's return—in January 1986.Twelve-year-old Nova Vezina hates deviating from routine, which makes moving from 11 foster homes in seven years challenging. But each new school's verdict is the same: "Cannot read. Cannot speak. Severely mentally retarded." A "thinker, not a talker," Nova can't explain that her big sister, Bridget, taught her the alphabet and read her novels, such as Peter Pan. Bridget disappeared after they ran from their last home, but she'd promised they'd watch the Challenger's launch together. As Nova counts down the remaining 10 days, third-person chapters alternate with Nova's printed letters to Bridget ("scribbles" to everyone else), which grow uneasy as Bridget doesn't appear. Interspersed flashbacks reveal the sisters' turbulent past and sensitively illustrate the uncertainty of foster care. The author poetically immerses readers in Nova's mind as Nova endures "the constant scratching of sounds that [invade] her brain," befriends fellow special education classmates, and struggles to be understood by both well-meaning and patronizing adults. Bursting with worry, joy, empathy, humor, and even mischief, Nova is endearingly nuanced. The countdown's multiple conclusions dovetail in an ending Nova might call "Crayola Pine Green": a mixture of conflicting emotions that will linger long after the last page. An author's note provides background on autism and the Challenger disaster. Nova and Bridget are ethnically ambiguous; Nova's foster mother is light-skinned, her foster father dark-skinned, and her foster sister biracial.Stellar. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 8-12)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*Starred Review* Panteleakos' debut novel is an intricate and poignant portrait of love, loss, and courage. Nova, 12, is autistic and nonverbal, and she and her devoted older sister, Bridget, have been bounced from foster home to foster home since Nova was five. The story's set in the mid-1980s, so the resources available to Nova are paltry, and the language about her diagnosis is hurtful, though Bridget and Nova's new foster parents, Francine and Billy, are wonderfully supportive. Bridget spent years teaching Nova about astronomy and space travel, reading to her, and defending her. But now Bridget is gone, and Nova is holding out hope that she'll return to watch the Challenger launch with her. Nova writes letters to Bridget, which countdown to the launch, and though the letters are incomprehensible to other characters in the novel, Panteleakos uses the insightful, beautifully written letters to reveal the richness of Nova's inner life as she gradually remembers what happened to her sister. The Challenger disaster coincides with that realization, and Nova's meltdown and heartbreak are piercing. Yet she finds that she doesn't have to reject her past to step into a happy future. Panteleakos masterfully blends character and plot in this gorgeous, hopeful story. An author's note adds helpful context, particularly about the hurtful language social workers use to diagnose Nova and the author's own experiences with sensory processing disorder.
Reviewing Agencies: - Find Other Reviewed Titles
Starred Review ALA Booklist (4/1/19)
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
Reading Level: 4.0
Interest Level: 3-6
Lexile: 740L
Bridget was gone.
And Nova was broken.
Nova hadn't wanted to run away from the last foster family. They were nice enough. Sure, it wasn't easy sharing one bedroom with four other girls in three sets of bunk beds. There was no privacy for Bridget, who liked her space, and there was no room for hand flapping or bouncing, which Nova liked to do while pretending she was in space.
Plus there was a rule no shower could last more than eight minutes.
And they weren't allowed to watch TV, listen to records, or drink anything with caffeine.
But there had been hot oatmeal in the mornings. Cold lemonade with lunch. Warm blankets at night. Nobody yelled bad words or spanked them. Nobody made Bridget scrub floors like Cinderella. Nobody called Nova Dumbo because she couldn't speak. Most importantly, they were together.
Bridget hated it anyway.
"I'm out of here," she kept saying. "I can't stand it another day. I'm losing my mind."
Nova wasn't worried then. She knew they'd end up somewhere else eventually.
When the time came, though, leaving was different. No social worker to transport them. No paperwork for adults to sign. Bridget didn't even glare at the failed foster parents and say goodbye. Nova and Bridget just piled into a car and drove away. This was not their routine, which made Nova's tummy hurt because she hated goodbyes, but she hated deviating from the routine even more.
"Don't worry!" Bridget had kissed Nova's forehead. "I'll take care of you like I've always taken care of you!"
Now Bridget was gone. And Nova was worried.
She rocked back and forth on her knees, hugging NASA Bear to her chest, and glanced around her newest bedroom. The first room she'd ever had all to herself.
Diagonal from the door was a double bed with a fancy carved headboard. The mattress was soft, the pillow was softer, and the blanket was plush and purple, covered in tiny silver stars.
It was too big.
The bedroom was long but narrow. It had two windows, one facing the front yard and the other facing the back. Out back there was an in-ground pool, covered up for the winter. Out front a pathway leading up to the door was guarded by two giant stone lions. At midnight the town switched off the streetlights, which made Nova happy because total darkness meant she could see the Big Dipper lurking along the horizon, where the sun set shortly before dinner each night.
It was too nice.
The upstairs bathroom had a tub long enough to stretch out in. The kitchen always smelled of fresh-baked brownies or banana bread and the color television had a remote control. Most rooms had wall-to-wall carpeting. There were lots of windows through which the sun shone.
It was too much like a home.
Nova didn't want it to start feeling like home. Bridget always warned, "If it feels like home, it's harder to leave." Nova hugged her teddy bear tighter, trying to picture her big sister in the bedroom beside her. What had Bridget been thinking, deciding to run away like that? It was already January 1986, and in August she'd be eighteen. Then Bridget could raise Nova herself, like they'd always planned.
Only Bridget was gone. And Nova was lonely.
"You'll start school on Monday," new foster mother Francine warned during breakfast.
Nova hated new schools more than she hated new foster families. New schools always spent the first week or two testing her and always came to the same conclusions: "Cannot read. Does not speak. Severely mentally retarded."
Bridget hated the word retarded.
"My sister's not dumb," she'd tell anyone who'd listen. "She's a thinker, not a talker."
The truth was, Nova rarely spoke and when she did, she had difficulty controlling her volume, so sometimes she'd be whispering on a crowded playground and other times she'd be shouting in church. Even when she did manage to find the right sound, forming a whole word was its own challenge. She could say "Oh" or "Kay" but not "Okay." She could say "Wah" or "Ter" but not "Water." She could say "Coo" or "Kee" but not "Cookie." And sometimes when she'd try to say a simple word like "Cat" an entirely different word would come out, like "Boo," which didn't make sense to anyone, not even Bridget.
Most of the time Nova didn't bother to speak at all.
Rocking back and forth on top of the fluffy blankets in the bedroom she had all to herself, Nova wondered for the two millionth time where Bridget had gone and whether she would keep her promise to return in time to see the first teacher skyrocket into space.
"No matter where we end up," Bridget had said, "even if we have to be separated for a while, I'll come back to see NASA make history, okay? I wouldn't miss it for the world."
Both sisters had been dying to see Challenger launch ever since President Reagan announced the contest to find the perfect teacher over a year ago. Nova was glad the waiting was almost over. She wondered if Bridget was glad too.
Nova kissed NASA Bear's belly. His plastic bubble astronaut helmet pressed against her forehead. He had been a gift from their mama, who had very strange ideas about how the 1969 moon landing actually happened.
"Government orchestrated!" Mama liked to say. "All on a soundstage, babies, thanks to movie magic! Did you see the way the astronaut's boots kicked up dirt? The way the flag waved? There's no wind on the moon, girls! How was it waving? It was government orchestrated, that's how! That means the government made it up, to trick us!"
Their mama thought a lot of things were government orchestrated.

Excerpted from Planet Earth Is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

"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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