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I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives
     

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives

4.8 11
by Caitlin Alifirenka, Martin Ganda, Liz Welch (With)
 

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The true story of an all-American girl and a boy from Zimbabwe and the letter that changed both of their lives forever.

It started as an assignment. Everyone in Caitlin's class wrote to an unknown student somewhere in a distant place.

Martin was lucky to even receive a pen-pal letter. There were only ten letters, and fifty kids in his class. But

Overview

The true story of an all-American girl and a boy from Zimbabwe and the letter that changed both of their lives forever.

It started as an assignment. Everyone in Caitlin's class wrote to an unknown student somewhere in a distant place.

Martin was lucky to even receive a pen-pal letter. There were only ten letters, and fifty kids in his class. But he was the top student, so he got the first one.

That letter was the beginning of a correspondence that spanned six years and changed two lives.

In this compelling dual memoir, Caitlin and Martin recount how they became best friends —and better people—through their long-distance exchange. Their story will inspire you to look beyond your own life and wonder about the world at large and your place in it.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for I Will Always Write Back:
An Indiebound Bestseller
An Amazon Big Spring Book Selection 2015
* "Sensitively and candidly demonstrating how small actions can result in enormous change, this memoir of two families' transformation through the commitment and affection of long-distance friends will humble and inspire."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)"

The remarkable tenacity of these two souls pulled like magnets across the world by their opposite polarities - one committed to helping, the other to surviving - is deeply affecting...It's quite a little miracle of unexpected genuineness."—New York Times Book Review"

A well-written, accessible story that will open Western adolescents' eyes to life in developing countries. Told in the first person, with chapters alternating between Caitlin's and Martin's points of view, this title effectively conveys both of these young people's perspectives...a strong and inspiring story...and an eye-opening look at life in another culture."—SLJ"

An inspirational story...eye-opening."—The Bulletin"

This heart-warming memoir will inspire readers to open their eyes to other cultures and realize that even the smallest of gestures can be important."—School Library Connection"

This compelling story of an unlikely friendship across continents will quiet your inner skeptic and inspire you to take a chance. Moving and uplifting."—Award-winning author and journalist Peter Godwin
"

Caitlin and Martin seemed to have nothing in common—except a curiosity about the world outside their own and a willingness to reach out to each other. With a lot of postage and a lot more hope, these two pen pals changed each other's lives and the lives of everyone who knew them. An inspiring story that will change your life, too."—Patricia McCormick, author of the National Book Award finalist Sold

The New York Times Book Review - Priscilla Gilman
…the remarkable tenacity of these two souls pulled like magnets across the world by their opposite polarities—one committed to helping, the other to surviving—is deeply affecting. There is no way to read their account without feeling vulnerable to just that stab at sympathy that started their story. It is quite a little miracle of unexpected genuineness.
Publishers Weekly
★ 03/16/2015
In 1997, a 12-year old girl from Hatfield, Pa., and a 14-year-old boy from Mutare, Zimbabwe, began a pen-pal relationship. In alternating chapters, Alifirenka and Ganda recount how their mutual curiosity led to an increasingly honest, generous correspondence. Martin loves receiving Caitlin's photo, but when she requests one in return, "My heart went from sprinting to a standstill." He sends her the only photo his family owns. Hearing BBC accounts of Zimbabwe's political and economic turmoil alarms Caitlin, but a letter written on a popsicle wrapper shocks her: "I gasped. My friend was writing me on trash." She begins to send him her babysitting money—which Martin's family uses to buy food and to pay school fees and rent—and Caitlin's family eventually decides to sponsor Martin's education. Sensitively and candidly demonstrating how small actions can result in enormous change, this memoir of two families' transformation through the commitment and affection of long-distance friends will humble and inspire. Ages 12–up. Agent: (for Alifirenka and Ganda) Sarah Burnes, Gernert Company; (for Welch) Brettne Bloom, Kneerim, Williams & Bloom. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Annie Laura Smith
This is a true story of a twelve-year-old girl, Caitlin, in America and a fourteen-year-old boy, Martin, from Zimbabwe in Africa who correspond across continents. An assignment in a seventh grade English class in 1997 started this correspondence that spanned six years and resulted in an enduring friendship. The title itself ensures the correspondence will continue. The alternate points of views express their perspectives well. She wrote from her life in middle-class America while he responded from his life in a Zimbabwe slum. The story shows life in developing nations and is an inspiring look at how getting to know others in a world outside ours can change our lives. Her family helped Martin to finish school and attend an American university. Color photographs supplement the text. An epilogue allows the correspondents to express their feelings while acknowledgments recognize those involved with this story. This book is recommended for school libraries as a multi-national cultural reference. Reviewer: Annie Laura Smith; Ages 8 to 12.
School Library Journal
02/01/2015
Gr 6 Up—The true story of two young pen pals who forge a life-altering connection. In 1997, Caitlin, a typical 12-year-old girl from a middle class American family, began writing to Martin, a studious 14-year-old from a Zimbabwe slum. In her letters, Caitlin described her life, which consisted of shopping trips, quarrels with friends, and problems at school. Martin was initially far more circumspect in his responses. Inflation had rocketed in Zimbabwe, and even finding money for postage was a struggle for the boy. Staying in school, which required paying costly fees, became merely a dream. Eventually, Martin revealed the harsh realities of his life to Caitlin, who began sending money and gifts. What started as chatty letters turned into a lifeline for Martin and his family, as Caitlin and her parents helped the boy stay in school and achieve his goal of studying at an American university. This is a well-written, accessible story that will open Western adolescents' eyes to life in developing countries. Told in the first person, with chapters alternating between Caitlin's and Martin's points of view, this title effectively conveys both of these young people's perspectives. Caitlin's early chapters, however, in which she discusses friendship and boyfriend woes, feel somewhat superficial compared with Martin's genuinely troubled life. While these chapters provide an effective contrast between the two teens' lives, they may discourage some readers from continuing with what becomes a strong and inspiring story. VERDICT A useful addition to most collections and an eye-opening look at life in another culture.—Michelle Anderson, Tauranga City Libraries, New Zealand
Kirkus Review
2015-01-20
A pen-pal correspondence between an American girl and a Zimbabwean boy blossoms into a lifelong friendship. In alternating chapters, the authors relate their story, which begins in 1997 when 12-year-old Caitlin chooses a boy in Zimbabwe for a pen-pal assignment. Caitlin's privileged life in Pennsylvania differs tremendously from Martin's hardscrabble life in millworkers' housing, where his family shares one room with another one. The top student in his class, Martin dreams of studying at an American university, but even just continuing high school in Zimbabwe seems like a long shot. Caitlin, not recognizing the extent of Martin's poverty, sends some of her babysitting money with her letters, and Martin's family uses it for food. Eventually, Caitlin and her parents become Martin's sponsors for his studies and help him obtain a scholarship to Villanova University in 2003. Written with journalist Welch, the heartfelt recollections read like an overlong magazine article. The early chapters in particular have the inauthentic feel of sentimentalized adult reminiscence, and they accentuate the difference between an American whose eyes are open to the value of international friendship and her less-enlightened classmates. The action builds toward the happy climax of Martin's arrival in the United States, but at the same time, it conveys a sense of the power of do-gooder, take-charge Americans to effect change. A feel-good, message-driven book that may appeal to adults more than teens. (photographs) (Memoir. 12 & up)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316241335
Publisher:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
05/03/2016
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
16,702
Product dimensions:
5.56(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)
Lexile:
790L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda met as pen pals in 1997 and are still best friends today. Caitlin, an ER nurse, lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and young daughters. Martin currently lives in New York. He has dual degrees in mathematics and economics from Villanova University and an MBA in finance from Duke University.

Liz Welch is an award-winning journalist and memoirist whose critically acclaimed first book, The Kids Are All Right, co-authored with her sister Diana Welch, won an ALA Alex Award. Her stories have appeared in the New York Times, Parade, Life, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Glamour, Real Simple, Self, Marie Claire, and other publications.

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I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best books I have ever read! Definite read for anyone who likes a true, heartwarming story. :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Amazing story! I loved this book, i finished it within one day, I just could not put it down. The bond between Caitlin and Martin was simply amazing and unbreakable. Everyone will enjoy this book, A great read.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Loved this. Made me cry at parts and I am not a crier. The book is extremely heartwarming and engaging and I love how they both were hard workers and wanted to make it on their own but needed support as well. There are a few curse words that Caitlin's friends say, like two or three in the whole book. Caitlin says one when she gets frustrated with everyone else's made-up problems (compared to Martin's and hers). Both kids (adults now) are very likeable because of how simple they see the world around them. It's around 400 pages but I read it in two days because the writing is very basic so everyone can read it. The writing flows so well that you never get bored. I pretty much think every middle schooler/high schooler should read it in America. It will help them see how much we have and how much we take for granted. And how we can help with what little we have to others who have nothing.
Anonymous 12 months ago
EGStringerzoo More than 1 year ago
I was very pleasantly surprised by this book. It was an extremely good read; I rarely speed through books like I did with this one. It was truly adorable and all the more so because it's a true story. I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to give glowing praise for it to any who asked.
KateUnger More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! Even though it's YA, I think this heart-warming story will appeal to audiences of all ages: middle grade through adult. The writing is great: easy to read. At the beginning of 7th grade, Caitlin receives a pen pal from Zimbabwe. She has no idea how much those letters will change her life. Writing to Martin opens her eyes to the problems of the world. The small gifts Caitlin starts sending to Martin literally save his family. They are living in dire poverty in Africa. His father cannot even afford to send him to school at times. The conditions in Martin's city were almost unbelievable. I knew things could be bad in some parts of the world, but it was a little hard to fathom at times, especially when the bigger cities in Zimbabwe have wealth, the same as we have in America. This book is written in alternating chapters in Caitlin's and Martin's voices. Even though it's told from the present, they've written the chapters with their emotions and feelings from that time. It's technically a memoir, but it's written as a cohesive story. Snippets of their letters are included, but it's definitely more narrative than epistolary. Additional details of their lives are filled in beyond their letters too, which helps to flesh out the story. I was blown away by this story. Caitlin and her family (her mother especially) were such wonderful people. Martin was so determined and hard working. I really enjoyed reading about how the relationship between Caitlin and Martin developed over time. And it was interesting how Caitlin was impacted by their exchanges as well as Martin. I could not put this book down. I flew through it in two days, staying up 2 hours past my bedtime on the second night to finish it. I read this book for my family book club, with my niece and sister-in-law and some of their friends. I can't wait to discuss it and hear what other people think. http://www.momsradius.com/2016/05/book-review-i-will-always-write-back-ya.html
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really inspiring
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BEST BOOK EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!
6131690 More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Beautiful
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How many pages are in this book so i know if i should read it or not to read and will i understand what i am readimg about and should little kids be reading and will the little kids understand and i need to know if there is any bad words in this book